The National Catholic Review
What happens when a Catholic teacher violates church teaching?

Last year a male faculty member at a Catholic high school in Washington State was fired when administrators learned that he was married to a man. An unmarried woman was fired from a Catholic middle school in Montana when the principal discovered that she was pregnant. Two unmarried teachers were fired from a Catholic high school in Massachusetts after they revealed to the principal that they were in a relationship and that the woman was pregnant. They immediately lost their health insurance and were denied letters of recommendation from the principal.

These situations raise difficult questions for the administrators of Catholic schools, who are charged with promoting their institution’s Catholic identity. On the one hand, the four employees mentioned above were reported to be well qualified and good at their respective jobs. On the other, all four were publicly exposed as being in violation of Catholic teaching and in breach of the morality clause in their contracts.

Unlike situations regarding sexual contact with students or the nonperformance of duties, the situations described above are difficult to adjudicate because there are no clear-cut moral principles to guide right action. This is especially true regarding the treatment of married gay and lesbian teachers in Catholic schools. After all, it is only recently that most schools have this population in their ranks.

The modest goal of this essay is to elucidate principles that ought to guide discussion of these challenging issues. These cases are especially difficult because, unlike Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic elementary, middle and high schools teach children who may be encountering these moral questions for the first time. These teachers have a responsibility to create an environment in which students can learn how to live a virtuous life. This article focuses on the moral duties of school administrators. The moral responsibility of individual teachers is also a fertile area for inquiry, but that is a subject for another article.

Asking the Right Questions

Two points should be made at the outset. First, ethics is done well when it asks and answers the right questions. We begin, therefore, by setting aside a question that is often asked but that is irrelevant to this article: “Is the church’s official teaching correct regarding the morally illicit nature of gay marriage?” That is an important question that should be discussed and debated in Catholic households, parishes, colleges and universities. But it is a not a question to be asked by Catholic school administrators in their role as administrators. While individuals within institutions have the right to dissent from church teaching as individuals, they do not have the right to unilaterally alter an institution’s values and conscience. For instance, if a Catholic school principal believes that the church’s social teaching is wrong in its critique of liberal capitalism, this does not empower him or her to alter the curriculum so that students learn the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek instead of reading Paul VI’s encyclical “The Development of Peoples” or the U.S. Catholic bishops’ letter “Economic Justice for All.”

Second, we need to expose an error in logic. It does not necessarily follow that because a teacher has violated church teaching, and his or her contract, that he or she should be terminated. Many teachers violate their contracts without being fired. The question is not simply: Did the teacher violate the contract? Instead it should be: Does the violation of the contract disqualify the teacher from educating students in a Catholic context?

In his words and writings Pope Francis has demonstrated the importance of returning to the foundations of the faith as one engages the moral details of a case. A central theme in Francis’ writings is that the disciples of Christ should see the world as it relates to God (see especially “The Light of Faith”). Francis applied this logic when responding to a question regarding homosexuality, and answered with a rhetorical question of his own.“Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?” Francis rightly noted that Christians first are called to see the gay person or the unmarried pregnant woman as a person who is loved by God. This foundational pillar of the faith has moral implications, as St. Thomas Aquinas helpfully explained using an analogy in the Summa Theologiae: “When a man has friendship for a certain person, for his sake he loves all belonging to him, be they children, servants, or connected with him in any way.” The analogy is then extended to God. If one loves God, one also should love all of God’s friends. Who are God’s friends? Everyone: gays, lesbians, couples who conceive out of wedlock, children, the poor and so on. Therefore, in order to love God one also must love all people. (Of course, we have deeper and more substantial relationships of love with friends and family.)

Forming the Whole Student

In Catholic schools, the moral priority rests with the good of the students. Schools exist for the students, not the faculty. The unique mission of Catholic schools is to educate and form the whole student—academically, spiritually and morally. As a rule, Catholics give special priority to the needs of the vulnerable in a given community. At their meeting in Puebla, Mexico, in 1979, the Latin American bishops wrote that the option for the poor applies to the materially poor, but also to all children. Thus, while justice must be rendered to the faculty and staff, justice is primarily conditioned on what is best for students. The rights of faculty and staff are limited by the rights of students to receive a high quality Catholic education. This is not to claim that the rights of faculty and staff are to be ignored but that these rights must be placed in their proper context.

With the heart of the Catholic tradition in mind, we now can begin to discuss the moral resources that have proven to be helpful in the adjudication of difficult cases.

Counsel. The first and most important step that administrators, or anyone else for that matter, can take when discerning the right course of action in difficult situations is to “take counsel.” I use this word in a moral sense, not a legal one. Aquinas argued that the prudent agent should take “good counsel” in the determination of what ought to be done in cases in which there is reasonable doubt regarding the right course of action. Counsel is especially useful in new cases, where there is no codified moral wisdom upon which to draw.

By sitting together with others one can overcome one’s own limited perspective. Members of the group might attend to realities that may have escaped one’s own notice. Following Aquinas’s practice, when appropriate the principal should gather together a diverse group, made up mainly of other administrators. In cases in which scandal is a threat, one should also seek the counsel of the local diocesan bishop. Because of the newness and complexity of the situations facing Catholic school administrators, it would be wrong to fire a faculty member without first seeking counsel from various constituencies, including the school’s attorney. While the administration of a school is not democratic, the best of Catholic tradition supports decisions that are made in a manner that emphasizes dialogue and participation.

Casuistry. Once a group has been assembled, there are a number of tools they can employ to adjudicate difficult cases. The first is casuistry. While a distorted version of casuistry was lampooned and fell out of favor centuries ago, the essential approach of casuistry—the comparison of cases—remains a very useful method. It enables the agent to discover the moral solution to a quandary by comparing and contrasting the case in question to a paradigm case about which there is wide moral agreement regarding the right action.

How might casuistry aid in the adjudication of the scenarios presented at the outset of this essay? Administrators could, for instance, compare and contrast the case of the unwed pregnant couple to cases that have led to termination of employment, like sexual contact between a faculty member and a student. They could also look to cases in which an offending faculty member was retained, for example after an especially angry outburst. What were the common factors in the cases of termination? Were they incidents in which students, faculty or staff were directly abused somehow? Were they cases involving illegal actions on school grounds? Or were they cases in which the faculty member’s action could scandalize children? What were the common factors that led administrators to retain faculty members who had violated their contracts? Were their actions morally blameworthy but with little or no effect on students? Were faculty members retained if their offense consisted of a momentary lapse of judgment, as opposed to a habitual character trait? Finally, is the case of the unwed pregnant couple closer to cases involving termination or to those in which the faculty member was retained?

Virtue ethics. Perhaps the most useful and important tool is virtue ethics. The cases outlined above are quandaries precisely because administrators are concerned about the effects that the presence of married gay persons and unwed parents will have on the moral character of students. Thus, the overriding question that administrators must ask and answer is: What are the formational effects on students if the school dismisses or retains the faculty person under consideration? This question can be answered only by those who know today’s students well. As Pope Francis acknowledged in January in his remarks to leaders of religious orders of men, it is a challenge to “proclaim Christ to a generation that is changing” in its attitudes toward marriage. He also cautioned that the church should “be careful not to administer a vaccine against faith” to those who live in nonconforming relationships or hold views that conflict with church teaching.

The moral formation of students transpires more through the example set by teachers and administrators than by the students’ abstract knowledge of the moral doctrines of the church. This fact is clearly acknowledged in recent papal writings. Pope John Paul II underscored the importance of that effect in “The Mission of the Redeemer” (No. 42), when he noted that “people today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories.” The primacy of action does not undercut the importance of educators; rather it points to the need for educators to be witnesses as well, as Pope Francis argued in “The Joy of the Gospel”: “We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness” (No. 42). And who among us is a suitable witness for a faith that calls us to universal love, mercy and justice? Recall that even Pope Francis responded, “I am a sinner,” when asked who he was.

Still, administrators must discriminate between those imperfect people who can serve as witnesses for young people and those who should not. The dividing line may be found in the concept of scandal. Genuine scandal involves leading others to believe that immoral actions and ways of life are actually morally licit. Scandal is important because it has the potential to malform the conscience and character of young people. But not every immoral action or mistaken belief is scandalous. Unfortunately, it is notoriously difficult to discern what might “give scandal.” Does an unmarried pregnant teacher undermine the church’s teaching on premarital sex in the eyes of students, or does she provide a quiet witness to the value of bringing all children, even those conceived in less-than-ideal situations, into the world? Does the presence of a married gay man on the faculty undermine the church’s teaching on matters of sexual ethics, or is this outweighed by the man’s practices, for example, of love and mercy toward the suffering, the sick and the unborn? These are some of the difficult but essential questions that administrators must ask and answer.

Justice for Faculty and Staff

While most of this essay has focused on justice toward students, one cannot ignore the legitimate claims of faculty and staff. I highlight two here.

Promulgation. First, if certain offenses are worthy of termination they should be promulgated as such in the teacher’s contract or handbook. The Diocese of Cleveland recently released a revised teacher contract listing prohibited behaviors in detail, like procuring or supporting abortion, having sex outside of marriage and drug use. While one can debate the substance of the morality clause, schools owe teachers this level of disclosure so that they can make informed decisions regarding their employment.

Harm mitigation. While in some instances administrators may find it necessary to terminate a faculty member’s contract, they should attempt to mitigate the harm this causes. Recently, the just war tradition has added the category of jus post bellum or “justice after war” toward those who have been defeated. Administrators ought to exercise jus post terminationem, which normally would include such support as an extension of health insurance benefits, severance pay and a letter of recommendation to future employers regarding the faculty member’s teaching ability and character.

Catholic schools should be institutions of love and mercy, and the temporary support of terminated faculty members and staff is one way the school can witness to its mission. Many of these cases involve innocent third parties who are harmed when the offending faculty or staff person is fired. The expecting couple in Massachusetts were fired and lost health insurance precisely when it was most necessary. In “The Joy of the Gospel” (No. 213), Pope Francis lamented that “it is also true that we [the church] have done little to adequately accompany women in very difficult situations, where abortion appears as a quick solution to their profound anguish.”

The lack of accompaniment of unmarried pregnant women by Catholic schools is scandalous and may create situations in which abortion presents itself as an option. This does not require administrators to retain persons who have violated their contracts. It does require schools to avoid abandoning those who were once a part of the academic community. Because of their Catholic identity, schools have responsibilities not only for their students, but also for the lives and well-being of the children, born and unborn, of their faculty and staff. This concern for innocent third parties clearly extends to the children of gays and lesbians.

How do we teach and model the Gospel to a generation that is changing? And how can Catholic school administrators balance all the competing interests in a just way? Therein lies the quandary for those who administer schools that have been built in the name of Jesus Christ.

Daniel J. Daly is associate professor and chair of the theology department at Saint Anselm College, Manchester, N.H.


Lisa Fullam | 6/13/2014 - 2:10pm

Thank you for a thoughtful essay on a hard topic. I agree wholeheartedly with much you recommend, especially your second point at the outset, that a violation of Catholic teaching does not necessarily constitute a reason for firing a person. Your focus on formation, virtue and justice are a welcome addition to a debate too often framed in terms of legalisms.

But I want to ask about your first point at the outset, that it is not the task of school administrators as administrators to assess magisterial teaching. I disagree. In Catholic tradition, the conscience is bound by a just law, while a law that is unjust may (or must) be violated in the name of the common good. It was Augustine who declared an unjust law to be "no law at all," a stance endorsed by Thomas Aquinas, and which was the foundation of Martin Luther King, Jr's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Indeed, it is only BECAUSE the particular magisterial teachings you cite are in question that people are troubled by firing teachers because of them. No one would seriously question whether a teacher who was convicted of murder or who publicly advocated white supremacy should be fired from a position in a Catholic school. The administrator's task begins with asking which teachings are unequivocally just, and which are amenable to reasonable dissent.

Even here there are two levels of discussion. There are teachings which might be argued to be unjust in application, e.g., firing women pregnant out of wedlock when no such penalty is applied to the men involved. This is an exercise of epikeia, of discerning that enforcing a usually just rule would result in injustice. (This as well as the inducement to abortion is scandalous.)

But the question of married LGBT faculty is different, istm. Here the challenge raised to magisterial teaching is more fundamental--many question whether the teaching itself is just. If civil marriage equality fits under the Church's teaching of non-discrimination against LGB people, (the magisterium says no, while most Catholics say yes on this one,) then it's not just a matter of the administration tolerating bad behavior in light of other good qualities the faculty member may bring, but of calling out a teaching which is unjust from the start.

If administrators believe in their own consciences that the teaching itself is unjust, then they have a responsibility to stand unequivocally with those teachers, against a law which is "no law at all," in the name of all the goods you mention which great teachers bring to Catholic schools. If they agree with magisterial teaching that civil marriage equality is "a multi-faceted threat to the very fabric of society," (as the USCCB has written,) only then can they evaluate whether teachers engaged in such behavior may continue to be on their faculty. Given the harsh rhetoric the bishops have used, though, it's difficult to find a middle ground on this one. Administrators, even qua administrators, are still answerable to conscience.

Paul Ferris | 6/10/2014 - 4:16pm

Question for Tom O ?

How many if any bishops can you name that has ever turned over a pedophile priest to the lawful authorities ? I just read on MSN that Bishop Carlson the former bishop of Minneapolis and now Archbishop of St. Louis did not even know that it was criminal for a priest to molest a minor. Did you happen to read it ?

For Dan Daly, if you think a Catholic School is going to give compensation for a teacher fired because of violation of a moral clause in their contract there might be a bridge for sale cheap in Brooklyn.

Recently I have been thinking about Jesus the Good Shepherd who told the story of leaving the 99 behind to go after the utilitarian He....It seems that the present policy of the Church holds on for dear life to the 99 and will not venture out to save the one lost....

Tim O'Leary | 6/16/2014 - 1:21pm

Paul – your first question for me was more aptly part of a string below and I addressed it there. But, I like the fact that you brought up the Good Shepherd. It is definitely a great example to follow. Jesus shows how a Good Shepherd cares for the 1 who is lost, even while he has the 99 safe and sound. All Catholics (and especially the Bishops) should never be content to just take care of themselves, but we must constantly reach out to those lost in their sin, even when the outreach and evangelization is not welcomed and even rejected. That is the example of the many missionaries in the past, including the great Jesuit martyrs whose teaching was rejected in a most emphatic way. That is why the Church must never give up reaching out to those who prefer a sinful life, or deny their sin and think they are ok without the fullness of the faith. No doubt, the evangelizers will be rejected by many, but some can be reached. In any case, obeying the command to go out and preach the Good News is a good in itself. It does not require even good prospects for success. That is in God’s hands, in His grace.

Michael Barberi | 6/6/2014 - 3:12pm

I am familiar with employment contracts. As such, if any teacher understood that gay marriage for a teacher was grounds for immediate dismissal, I see no legal issue here. Nevertheless, it raises many questions. Should employment contracts for Catholic elementary and high school teachers clearly spell out grounds for dismissal? If so, what should be the criteria for determining what type of so-called immoral behavior should be grounds for dismissal? What about any Catholic teacher who is divorced and remarried or those who admit to practicing contraception? The list goes on.

I do feel strongly that children of gay couples should be permitted to attend Catholic elementary and high schools. Should we deny a Catholic school education of the Gospels to such children? What about children of heterosexual parents who believe that gay marriage is not sinful?

JACK HUNT | 6/6/2014 - 3:08pm

There's seemingly not much wiggle room left in the church or its institutions. Sad! No space, no time, no place to experience life and grow in grace.

Stephen Murray | 6/5/2014 - 4:50pm

Jesus was most certainly merciful to the person caught in adultery, but at the same time he also demanded a change of behavior.

David Mooneyhan | 6/12/2014 - 2:31am


Can you give an example of Jesus telling a gay couple to stop loving each other?

Allan Ramos | 6/4/2014 - 12:44pm

Hi Prof Daly,

Your article sheds light on the Ethics in upholding Catholic School's Identity. Thanks for the recommendations that you have proposed.

Living a life of Love in Christ should manifest both the balance between Justice and Mercy without compromising the two principles that He thought us -- Live a life of virtue and love.

LuAnne Feik | 6/4/2014 - 12:41pm

Thoughtful article. It does raise additional questions about how to handle other situations, such as my granddaughter had in her Catholic middle school, where students know an unwed teacher is living with her boyfriend. Also, what does it say to gay and transgender students, when teachers whose sexual orientations they share are dismissed?

Anne Straitiff | 6/4/2014 - 12:25pm

I applaud the focus on the students that Mr. Daly takes. However, one of the approaches he suggests for making decisions in such cases is casuistry - the comparison of cases. Using this approach, administrators might make very different decisions about two scenarios which seem alike to students who don't know all the details or who don't know how the administrators "compared" them to other situations. How would one explain those different decisions to students?

Tim O'Leary | 6/2/2014 - 6:06pm

This is an excellent article, in my view, as it puts the formation of Christian children first, and emphasizes mercy in dealing with teachers who have failed publicly. I would think that in any individual case, mercy and forgiveness, without abandoning the truth, should always be the guide. The children will be far less scandalized by someone committing a sin than by someone who teaches that a wrong is a right. The new contracts with their doctrinal stipulations seem necessary because 1) courts and lawyers seem to demand them to protect the school from bankrupting litigators, and 2) there is confusion as to what the Church teaching is in moral matters.

Teachers who cannot agree to witness in accordance what the Church teaches should go, for the sake of the Church's mission and the teacher's own integrity. But, any firing should be done delicately, with careful discretion shown regarding references and health insurance.

In general, we have this problem today because Catholic priests and faithful laity have not presented the fullness of the faith in such a way that all know the true parameters of an authentic Christian life. It all starts with more consistent witnessing of the Catholic way of life, and consistent preaching from our clergy and laity. We all have some responsibility for this confused state of affairs.

Paul Ferris | 6/3/2014 - 8:59am


The examples of the porn star, stripper etc...are nothing like the cases in Daly's article. An engaged women gets pregnant...really ? Since I think gay marriage is a commitment to love and honor and is far better than promiscuity I have no problem with the second case although under the present Catholic myopia on the subject I can see why they would get fired. I know Pope Francis said a lot of things when he was Archbishop in Argentina but I think he is more circumspect as Pope. As far as concern for children I applaud the epiphany that has come over the male bishops and priests in regard to the children. It is a long time coming.

I was thinking of the Francis who said, "who am I to judge?"

Tim O'Leary | 6/3/2014 - 10:16am

So, I think we agree that removal of teachers for certain public external activities is the just thing to do. We just might disagree on what those activities are. As to your example of the engaged women, I too would try to handle this without a dismissal. Perhaps, a temporary leave of absence. Catholics should be particularly supportive of pregnant women, given the secular culture's propensity to promote child killing (abortion) for any inconvenience. Still, with epidemics of teen pregnancies and venereal disease, it is important that children be exposed to credible role models who demonstrate the full Christian meaning of sex and marriage.

Here is what Pope Francis said yesterday about the Christian family: "Families are the home Church where Jesus grows. He grows in the spouses' love and in the children's lives. For this reason, the enemy attacks the family so much. The devil does not want it. He tries to destroy it, to prevent love from becoming free. Families are the home church. But married people are sinners like everyone else, they do not want to go in faith, in its fertility, in children and the faith of their children. May the Lord bless the family, and make it strong in the face of the crisis by which the devil wants to destroy it."

Paul - it is a cheap shot to suggest the bishops are only recently concerned for children's welfare. That is beneath you. It suggests a bigotry of sorts, casting a whole group as such. Certainly the opposite of a non-judgmental attitude you think you have.

Paul Ferris | 6/3/2014 - 12:03pm

a cheap shot ???

I know you have heard of the worst crisis the church has faced since the Middle ruined the lives of countless children, and cost the laity billions in lawsuits....Francis has it right....child abuse is a vicious crime and knowingly covering it up is complicity in this vicious crime.

For fifty years the bishops swept this under the it will take some time before credibility on this issue of protecting children will be restored. When I was in Catholic grammar school an abusive priest used the school to troll for child victims.

Sad to say he wasn't the only one.

I regret writing this in a way because I have known many loving and dedicated priests.

Tim O'Leary | 6/3/2014 - 1:16pm

Paul - Bigotry a when one extrapolates from the crimes of some to the whole group. So, if you went from the high rate of crime in the minority community to say blacks are criminals, that would be an example of thoughtless bigotry. That is what you are doing re the bishops. Why is it that so many people who claim to be tolerant and non- judgmental leave their principles at the door when it comes to bishops? It completely undermines their arguments and exposes their true colors.

Paul Ferris | 6/3/2014 - 4:13pm


The cover-up of priest sex abuse by the Bishops has proven to be systemic so it is not extrapolating from some to the whole group as you say. Your analogy to blacks is invalid. Why is it ok for you to generalize about priests and laity who do not listen to the Pope on the slavery issue and the sex issues and I cannot generalize. If you don't know how extensive a policy was in place to protect the "reputation" of the church rather than to seek justice for the victims of sex abuse then we really have no basis for further communication. You and I are living on different planet is earth....what is yours ?

Tim O'Leary | 6/3/2014 - 4:37pm

Paul - if your logic was correct, you would be surprised Pope Francis was suddenly having an epiphany about caring for children, as he falls into the class of bishops. But, even for other bishops, do you really mean to claim that none or few of them cared at all about kids? Do you think they are like nazis or something? I am surprised you have the chutzpah to use the phrase "who am I to judge?"

Paul Ferris | 6/10/2014 - 4:20pm


Do you know of any bishops who turned over priests to police who admitted or was discovered as a pedophile. If so could you name any. Thanks, I just read today on MSN that a Bishop Carlson now Archbishop of St. Louis in 1984 said he did not know that having sex with a minor was a crime. He also was told by his superior if there ever was a conversation on this subject with lawyers he was to respond, "I cannot remember." So much for my bigotry eh....???

Tim O'Leary | 6/11/2014 - 8:12pm

Paul. The Vatican reported to the UN that 848 priests had been defrocked and 2,572 other priests had received lesser punishments, but I cannot tell who first blew the whistle on their crimes. It may well have been mostly the victims going directly to the police, since most accusations only surfaced several years/decades after the event. I agree that, by today's standards & knowledge, several bishops acted way too slowly before the 2002 Dallas meeting that put the zero tolerance directive in place. But, since then, I think Bishop Finn is the only bishop in the US that has been proven/charged with not informing the police in a timely manner, and even he was the person who did call the cops before anyone else. (If you have read the details of Bishop Finn's case, could you really say he cared nothing for kids. He immediately removed the suicidal priest for a psychiatric evaluation after getting counsel from someone in the police force. Bad judgment indeed but he was hardly out to get the kids.). I looked up the MSN article you referred to and I cannot tell if Bishop Carlson cared nothing for kids either.

This case in the Twin Cities is certainly a strange one. Not only is the alleged victim in prison for raping a girl, but he apparently is still in some sort of ongoing relationship (?sexual) with Tom Adamson - the very person who is accused of abusing him. Only, now it is not considered abuse because he is over 18 (still is abuse to me, even if consensual).

As to going from a single case to the whole class, you can track the murders in the black neighborhoods of Chicago online ( There were over 30 in April alone. But, despite the frequency, far greater than the reports of bishops, I think it would be wrong to claim that Chicago blacks didn't respect life or love their families. It is the extrapolation I disagree with, especially since the zero tolerance was put in place. By the way, I am still awaiting the Vatican's report on Archbishop Wesolowski. Pope Francis' commission and his new team's credibility will be judged by how they handle this case.

Paul Ferris | 6/12/2014 - 10:23pm


Comparing the black violence in Chicago to the American Bishops to me is a stretch on many levels. Bishops are reported to be better educated than blacks in inner cities. Also I think we should hold the bishops to a higher standard. I think part of the problem with Bishops not wanting to make a criminal case out of sexual acts (rape would be an exception) is that as males and celibates with no practical experience of sexual intimacy, they do look as sex as a physical act having little or no consequences outside of the act itself except with the obvious case of generation of offspring. In fact to a male celibate there is no reason for the sexual act at all except to have children and to allay that demon concupiscence. (the last a concession to our fallen human nature) Since physical sexual acts were not thought to have lasting consequences it was easy to wipe out this time shortened sin with a good confession. Bless me father for I had sex with a minor. Say three our Fathers and Three Hail Marys and go now in peace.

Again I think until the Magisterium males begin to understand the nature of the sexual person and get off the act centered morality, they will not be a major force in the ethics of sexuality.

Really Bishop Finn is your example of a Bishop who acted. I will say you are a true defender of the home team no matter what. You never can answer my questions beyond Bishop Finn as to who has turned immoral priests to the lawful authorities. I think my generalizations then are completely valid. Fight on Tim.

Tim O'Leary | 6/16/2014 - 1:22pm

I think there are duplicate answers here, Paul. Archbishop Chaput turned 30 priests over to the police in the famous case a few years ago and I think over 1/2 have been cleared of child abuse. In any case, he reported another this year, who is being investigated (I think the accusation stems from a few decades ago). I gave the example of Bishop Finn to show that EVEN he was the first to report to priest to the police (I think most people don't know that). In any case, I am glad you found one Chicagoan to go against a sweeping conclusion about blacks there. But, we have taken this conversation far enough. I think you agree that innocent people should not be judged automatically heartless or guilty just because others in their group/class acted badly.

Paul Ferris | 6/12/2014 - 10:42pm


I can name one black from the south side of Chicago who has managed to stay out of jail. He lives in a big white house in Washington D.C.

Comparing the black violence in Chicago to the American Bishops to me is a stretch on many levels. Bishops are reported to be better educated than blacks in inner cities. Also I think we should hold the bishops to a higher standard. I think part of the problem with Bishops not wanting to make a criminal case out of sexual acts (rape would be an exception) is that as males and celibates with no practical experience of sexual intimacy, they do look as sex as a physical act having little or no consequences outside of the act itself except with the obvious case of generation of offspring. In fact to a male celibate there is no reason for the sexual act at all except to have children and to allay that demon concupiscence. (the last a concession to our fallen human nature) Since physical sexual acts were not thought to have lasting consequences it was easy to wipe out this time shortened sin with a good confession. Bless me father for I had sex with a minor. Say three our Fathers and Three Hail Marys and go now in peace.

Again I think until the Magisterium males begin to understand the nature of the sexual person and get off the act centered morality, they will not be a major force in the ethics of sexuality.

David Mooneyhan | 6/7/2014 - 12:18am

You are a truly despicable human being.

Tim Reidy | 6/9/2014 - 2:47pm

David, this sort of character attack is beyond the pale and will not be tolerated on the blog. We will suspend your account if necessary. 

Tim O'Leary | 6/7/2014 - 6:34pm

David - I do not know you so I cannot be sure of your character or intentions, but I am not impressed with your taunts or personal insults. Perhaps, you are very immature or just new to this blog, but it would be helpful if you kept your comments to ideas or controversies and not persons. Intolerance & insults are easy and so are common on the internet, but this blog is trying to leave those tactics behind, even as it deals with controversial issues within the Catholic faith community. Or, take your own suggestion and try silence.

David Mooneyhan | 6/7/2014 - 9:30pm

I'm sorry I said that, but YOU are the one that's always ready with the cheap shot ("pedophiles" ring a bell?) or the swerve from logic to vindictiveness. I've read page after page of your fact-defying paeans to tradition-at-all-cost, and I'm part of the human cost you don't care about at all.

So forgive me for my passion.

And PLEASE get a hobby.

Tim O'Leary | 6/7/2014 - 10:42pm

David - Passion is no excuse for denigrating intellectual opponents. And your interpretation of my posts suggests you don't hear or listen to contrary arguments very much. I do not equate pedophilia to adult homosexuality. The former is rape of an innocent. I was using the "orientation" analogy to show how supposedly scientific theories about human nature can cross over into political ideologies. I am a doctor and I have been part of the scientific community most of my adult life. I am well acquainted with the benefits and the hubris of science. I don't know your arguments because you haven't to my knowledge posted any, apart from an amen or two to others who recommend departing from orthodox Church teaching.

I love the Church because it is Christ (His mystical body and the source of His Eucharistic body & blood) and I love its teaching because it saves, even faulty and failing people. I want the best for all my debating friends and enemies, including their (and your) salvation. A false teaching does not save, no matter how much one wants it to. I interpret the teaching as best as I can but I do not claim any of the teaching as my own. If and when I am wrong, it is because I haven't understood the Church's teaching to its full extent. I accept there is development of doctrine that doesn't reverse the established teaching. But most development is of my opinions - to get closer to the Church. She is my mother, not my political party. And, I am willing to subordinate and abandon even my cherished theories & interpretations to the Lord, as expressed by His Church. You asked before if I was a convert. Well, I was baptized as a baby and my conversion continues. We can often think we are faithful but our conversion is a life-long process. It takes reflection and some loss of ourselves every day to remove our sinful obstacles to the light, to be accepting of His Grace. God Bless.

David Mooneyhan | 6/8/2014 - 9:55pm

I grew up in South Carolina, where we were about 2% of the population. I grew up defending our faith, day after day, and year after year.
After all that, I woke up to the fact that LGBT people are DESPISED, myself included, in my own beloved Church! And this is all due to a morality that was formulated when people thought that tiny humans swam in a man's semen, women were basically just incubators, and father-daughter INCEST was preferable to masturbation or homosexual acts (because, of course, THAT was "open" to saving those precious beings in the "seed"!)
Oh, and because of Biblical verses about ritual purity, a city where the entire male population turned out to RAPE two ANGELS, and Paul's bizarre notion that the often abusive, class-based same-sex activity he noticed in the Greco-Roman world was the result of heterosexual males turning to idolatry! Nowhere NEAR our current science-and-experience-based understanding of homosexuality as an immutable, psychosexual orientation.
In other words, mindless ignorance.

Tim O'Leary | 6/8/2014 - 9:50am

Mindless ignorance is never good, and I agree no one should be despised, whether LGBT or orthodox Catholic, or Protestant fundamentalist or secular atheist. Taking other people's arguments as worthy of discussion is a great step away from that.

Paul Ferris | 6/3/2014 - 11:48am


Apparently you have not heard of the worse crisis the hierarchy has faced since the Middle Ages. You blame the laity for not following the Vatican on the question of slavery and accuse me of a cheap shot. Are the laity also responsible for the abuse of children by priests and the cover-up by bishops ? Not only were the children of the laity the victims, the laity have shelled out billions in lawsuits because the Magisterium turned a blind eye. Thank God Pope Francis is not shy in calling child abuse what it is.....a vicious crime. So how dare you say my comment was a cheap shot....Why don't you lift your head out of the ground....your see no evil, hear no evil, say no evil is embarrassing for an intelligent man like you are.

Tim O'Leary | 6/4/2014 - 3:00pm

My gosh, Paul. I can't believe you have already forgotten my past posts on this. Do you really think before you write - that I deny the child abuse or the settlements? Please read my 7-point recommendations on the crisis you say I deny ( Why on earth would I be making any recommendations for a problem you think I deny?. There is no doubt that the child abuse crisis involved lay members of the Church at every step - the doctors & psychologists who recommended the pedophiles back into practice, the lawyers who gave bad advice, the teachers and administrators who looked the other way, those who knew and didn't go to the police. There were in addition priests and sisters who didn't step up. Yes, the chief blame for the failures in governance were at the episcopal level in some cases, but certainly not all 5,000+ bishops. And there was no back-room conspiracy meeting where they all decided to "get the kids." Perhaps, you believe in a grand conspiracy that plotted and executed a cover-up, while thinking the laity knew nothing. But, I try to stay within the realms of reality. And I suppose you deny that the vast majority of child abuse in Catholic communities is perpetrated by the laity?

A "cheap shot" was a very kind way of describing the intended bigotry. Can a woman who has an abortion love another child? Or, would you call it an "epiphany" if she claimed she did? And, since over a fifth of women have abortions, would you feel justified in saying "women" do not love kids? You need to understand human nature better, with its capacity for love & reform, despite past failings and imperfections - "judge not, so you not be judged."

To connect it back to this post's topic, the schools need to have strong standards of teaching, of discipline and enforcement to prevent further child abuse.

Paul Ferris | 6/11/2014 - 11:25am

I read your article. You are right. You are not in denial and have worked on this issue a lot. Good job.

Tim O'Leary | 6/11/2014 - 7:11pm

Thanks, Paul.

Paul Ferris | 6/2/2014 - 8:14pm


The Catholic Church should not be a shaming, toxic, environment. Listen to Pope Francis....he is an important part of the Magisterium you claim to support.

Tim O'Leary | 6/3/2014 - 1:33am

Paul - I agree the Church should not be a toxic environment, especially for children. Teachers have a particular obligation since they are caring for other people's children. For example, would you not fire a teacher who 1) became a porn star on the side, or a stripper, 2) made a public defense of sex with minors, 3) became a KKK member, or joined a well-known anti-catholic or anti-jewish group? What do you think Pope Francis would do in these situations?

FYI - here is what Pope Francis said about gay marriage when it was being pushed in Argentina: “[T]he Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family," he wrote to the four monasteries in Argentina. "At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

He went on to describe it as a "‘move’ of the Father of Lies who seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God" and asked for lawmakers to "not act in error."

Colin Donovan | 6/2/2014 - 1:38pm

"Unlike situations regarding sexual contact with students or the nonperformance of duties, the situations described above are difficult to adjudicate because there are no clear-cut moral principles to guide right action. This is especially true regarding the treatment of married gay and lesbian teachers in Catholic schools."

I disagree that this is the case. The situation is comparable to any other in which an employee willingly persists in a situation of grave sin. An employee who divorced his wife to marry another without benefit of an annulment would be an example - an invalid and sinful state of life which willingly provides as contrary a witness to the Gospel and the Faith as a homosexual relationship under any title.

As for the advice on seeking "counsel," what about the counsel needed by the teacher? In that regard I'm reminded not of Aquinas but of Jesus, who told the woman caught in adultery to "go and sin no more." I don't hear that in this article, only "weigh a grave betrayal against positive contributions (that many others in a school might also be making) and other factors, and consider possibly overlooking it.

Paul Ferris | 6/2/2014 - 8:19pm


The Church needs to reformulate its teaching on the sexual person. Until it does, very few people will listen. I completely disagree with the opinion stated above.....let the guilt machine be destroyed.

David Mooneyhan | 6/7/2014 - 12:20am

AMEN, Paul!

Jim McCrea | 6/10/2014 - 5:15pm

I second that.

Colin Donovan | 6/6/2014 - 5:06pm

Let's just agree that you reject the teaching of both the Old and New Testament on marriage and sexuality and move on. Pax.

Robert Lewis | 6/9/2014 - 12:39pm

Well, yes, Mr. Donovan, we DO reject certain "teaching" of "both the Old and New Testament" on marriage and sexuality, because we do not believe that those "teachings" have yet "DEVELOPED" in conformity with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Founder of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. (And please remember that "development of doctrine" is a "teaching" of one of the Doctors of that Church.) We believe that the Holy Spirit will lead the Church to a greater understanding of Christ's mercy regarding sexual identities and human sexual nature itself.

Now, regarding this:

While individuals within institutions have the right to dissent from church teaching as individuals, they do not have the right to unilaterally alter an institution’s values and conscience. For instance, if a Catholic school principal believes that the church’s social teaching is wrong in its critique of liberal capitalism, this does not empower him or her to alter the curriculum so that students learn the economic philosophy of Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek instead of reading Paul VI’s encyclical “The Development of Peoples” or the U.S. Catholic bishops’ letter “Economic Justice for All".

It seems to me that what is being advocated here is brain-washing, rather than bringing children to a clearer understanding of traditional morality through use of reason to discern its efficacy and intrinsic value. Children--particularly young adults--are people possessed of reason and some ethical discernment informed by conscience, and, instead of being "conformed" to norms of behaviour, they have a right to rationally consider the alternatives to that behaviour. If they're not treated with that amount of respect for their dignity as rational creatures, my experience as an educator tells me that they will rebel, and that that "rebellion" is instinctive, normal and healthy.

As for the sacking of teachers who are involved in "same-sex-relationships," I think a great distinction should be made between those who ADVERTISE--especially to Catholic students and their parents--that they are, as opposed to those who respect Catholic mores and values sufficiently to remain discrete regarding those relationships. Those who are "outed," it seems to me, should be treated merely as sinners who have strayed, and once the relationship is betrayed to public view, they should be chastised, and then assumed, by virtue of their previous discretion, to have "reformed" themselves, and the case should be closed, as a matter of charity and ordinary human decency and respect for individuals'--even Catholic school teachers'--privacy. It seems to me that, in these changing times of greater understanding of the etiology of homosexuality and its "normalcy" in history and in nature, that this is the tack that is most in conformity with what Pope Francis has recently declared regarding it.

Tim O'Leary | 6/9/2014 - 5:35pm

Robert - I could agree in part with your pastoral approach regarding someone in a "same-sex" relationship, but a "marriage" would be a public stance that would indicate a more fixed opposition to Catholic teaching. Similarly, a Catholic could have a private abortion and repent, or have a private affair and repent, but someone who took the public stance of a marriage (say through divorce) or joined Planned Parenthood or an abortion clinic would be making a public stance.

But, I find your opening paragraph on the development of doctrine most problematic. If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that a Catholic can reject any teaching of the Church as long as he has a belief that the specific teaching is not "yet" in conformity with the teachings of Jesus, as the individual understands it. That approach would rank the private interpretation of Scripture as more reliable than the Magisterial teaching of the Church. Isn't that what the whole Protestant revolution was about? One is not being faithful to the Church Jesus founded and left for us, but to some idea of a future church. It eviscerates the meaning of faithfulness. There is no teaching that could survive this approach. The multiplicity of Protestant churches and contradicting belief systems are a testament to that.

Jim McCrea | 6/10/2014 - 5:19pm

Why the quotes around "same-sex" and "marriage?"

Marriage is a secular action, recognized by the state, and which imparts secular, civil rights, benefits, authorities and responsibilities on the contracting parties.

31 states plus D.C. allow marriage equality or comparable status (civil unions and domestic partnerships), and recognition of other states’ marriages, and represent 62% of the total US population of 316 million and 63% of the states plus D.C. *

*6 state decisions have been stayed or are pending appeal.

If you notice I have not used, nor do I intend to use, the term "matrimony." That is the purview of churches and not the state.

Robert Lewis | 6/9/2014 - 10:46pm

This is a matter of moral theology, which can be legitimately assumed to be always "developing," and always "led" by the Holy Spirit to greater conformity with the "Truth." In fact, there is much to be said for Protestant theology UNTIL it denies DOGMA--"dogma" such as the Real Presence, "dogma" such as "salvation by Faith AND Works." Those things are not "moral theology" but matters of much more fundamental Catholic theology. Catholic MORAL theology once accepted slavery, the child-marriages of European royals and aristocrats, and capital punishment, before it "developed." I suggest that you read John Henry Newman's "Letter to the Duke of Norfolk" and learn from it the primacy of conscience OVER the "teachings" of the Magisterium as they relate to moral decision-making. My conscience tells me that the love of two homosexuals MAY be as chaste and as self-sacrificial as that of two heterosexuals, and that, because marriage in the United States is more informed, culturally and legally, by Protestant acceptance of divorce--thus secularizing traditional "sacramental" marriage (making it, by definition, NOT "eternal")--that, then, according to the American Constitution, "gay" people have an absolute, fundamental right to what can only be called "civil marriage." And, yes, of course, I would resist forever any demand that that marriage be "sacramentalized" by a Catholic priest. Sorry, but my CONSCIENCE rules my opinions in this matter, and I stay in the Church, whether you like it or not, because I ACCEPT Roman Catholic dogmatic theology.

Tim O'Leary | 6/10/2014 - 12:46am

I have gone over this controversy on this blog many times in the past and hesitate to get into it again, except to say three things. 1) I have read Newman's letter, and I agree one must follow one's conscience in one's personal conduct but there is no doctrine that one's conscience is a sound guide to correct doctrine - which is self-evident wherever two people come to different doctrines using their conscience. Catholicism has a different charism for that, handed down to us from Christ. 2) The teaching of the Church on morals is just as solid or loose as on faith. There is nothing in Scripture, Tradition or the Catechism that justifies a different standard for these two areas. If one goes, both have to go - hence the decision of the Protestants in the 16th century. 3) I have no desire to see you leave the Church, as implied in your last sentence. In fact, I would love to see more enthusiasm in the pews for attracting our separated brethren back into the fold - never by diluting the truth - but by openness via personal relationships and friendly disputation. And I think the moral teaching of the Church, and its steadfast faithfulness to the Scriptures, are attracting more converts today than anything else (as Peter said to Jesus after a particularly hard teaching: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life"). Jesus didn't confine His teachings to doctrine. Most of the Sermon the Mount was moral teaching. And He said "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." and He endorsed the whole Old Testamant ("For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."), contra Marcion.

I think nearly every convert to Catholicism has wrestled with both the faith and moral teachings of the Church. And, as is evident on this blog, the wrestling does not end within the fold. Conversion is a lifelong journey, even for Catholics.

John Sullivan | 6/1/2014 - 10:05am

It is common practice for employers to make the corporate Values known to the employees. Is this any different? If you understand the Values and it doesn't suit you then you really need to work elsewhere so both parties can be happier. I worked for a company that mistreated me, so we parted ways. Now I work for myself. I have a former employee who is a friend but also a thief. I still like the guy and worry for his future but he isn't going to work for our company again.

Paul Ferris | 6/1/2014 - 9:00pm

John, the main value of the Catholic corporation is to mirror the God of mercy....the decisions cited by Daly do no reflect His mercy and therefore are contradictory to the Corporations raison d'etre. Your comment then simply "begs the question."

Paul Ferris | 6/1/2014 - 8:49pm

Loved the quotes from Pope Francis. in this article....also John Paul II. Jesus Christ was mentioned as the last word in Dan Daly's article. Firing someone is akin to stoning in the Gospel. So far there are more people who are scandalized by firing people in the situations cited than those who are not. The church should give as much concern for the "scandal of the strong" as they do for the "scandal of the weak." The issues the author raises cry out for a better understanding of the way people develop and make choices in their lives. The church teachings contained in the Catechism are not the way most of the laity see faith in a loving God. Recently Cardinal Kasper has written a book outlining what the main attribute of the Christian God is ....Mercy....The laity understand in a way the male celibates (who write the catechisms) may not that abstinence before marriage between a loving man and woman is not the way most couples interact before the wedding. So the woman got pregnant....get over it.
Keeping the children of gays out of Catholic Schools????.better to close the school down before Jesus Christ comes back (the Second Coming) and burns it down....Gays as teachers....but estimates as high as 50% of priests are gay. When is the Church going to stop lying to itself ?

Here is another example of the Church lying to itself that has to do with the image of the Catholic School: birth control....very few if any of the parents of the children are practicing Natural Family Planning NFP. Yet the American Bishops have used the Magisterium's teaching on Humanae Vitae to claim that Obama care violated religious freedom by forcing Catholic institutions to fund if 95% of fertile Catholics at some time or other didn't use them. This is an example of the Church lying to itself. The issue of Gays in school, or a couple having intercourse before for marriage is similar. Do I make myself clear ? Probably not.

David Mooneyhan | 6/7/2014 - 12:24am

Perfectly clear!


Very well said.

Robert O'Connell | 5/30/2014 - 11:56pm

Daniel Daly's thoughts remind us both that the wholesomeness of the environment we offer our school children is essential and that teachers, arguably somewhat secondary in importance with regard to their opportunities as school employees, deserve dignified management even when they are either negligent or defiant about their contract obligations. But the children must always come first.