Post submitted by Diane Martin, HRC Religion and Faith program
In December, just before the holidays, the Archdiocese of Seattle gave Eastside Catholic High School teacher and assistant principal Mark Zmuda the following choice: stay married to your husband and lose your job, or seek a divorce and keep your job.
In response to the administration’s discriminatory actions, 400 students from Eastside Catholic walked out of their classrooms in protest, sparking an outpouring of support for Zmuda across the area and across the country as they took to Facebook and Twitter spreading the hashtag, "#KeepMrZ2013." Eastside students were also joined by students at another local Catholic high school, Seattle Preparatory School, who staged a similar protest in solidarity.
But the students involved in the protests and #KeepMrZ2013 campaign are not simply looking for the archdiocese to reinstate Zmuda’s job, they are looking to create a new attitude regarding homosexuality in the Catholic Church.
“When it comes to the new generation’s understanding of same-sex relationships, treating same-sex couples with mercy will not be enough to constitute what they see as true justice,” writes Jamie Manson in the National Catholic Reporter of the generational gap evident in the Eastside Catholic protests.
Instead, Eastside students have their eyes set on true equality.
As the story at Eastside Catholic High School continues, the students and community members who boldly step out in support of Zmuda highlight for us the widespread shift taking place in the American Catholic Church. As the hierarchy and local dioceses continue to enforce harmful Church teachings, young people and laity are pushing back, asking questions and calling for reform.
In an op-ed for the Seattle Times, Barbara Guzzo and Kirby Brown, organizers with Catholics for Marriage Equality, call on the diocesan authorities to rehire Mark Zmuda. Like the Eastside students, they further encourage critical reflection on Church teaching, asking, “Can our church leaders put fairness, inclusiveness, and love above rules — especially man-made rules that no longer make sense in light of modern science, psychology culture and the working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics worldwide?”
We at HRC stand with all who choose not turn away from their faith, but instead turn inward, working to create a more inclusive and loving Catholic Church.