Whether it's the Affordable Care Act or dealing with gay teachers, Catholic institutions have trouble going against the Pope. The latest one to claim, "It's not us; it's that big guy up there" is Mount St. Mary Academy in Little Rock, Arkansas. The principal there, Diane Wolfe, did a cool thing this week and fired a teacher who had worked at the high school for 15 years for daring to get gay married her longtime partner.
As the Human Rights Campaign reported, Tippi McCullough, a teacher at Mount St. Mary’s, went to New Mexico to marry Barb Mariani earlier this week. The couple has been together for 14 years:
According to Mariani, shortly after their wedding ceremony, a secretary at the school called Tippi and said that if she got married she would be fired—telling her that she was calling her for her own protection. Later, a second call came from the school principal, who, upon confirming Tippi had married her partner, purportedly told her, “I never thought this day would come, but I have to terminate you,” and that Tippi could resign to avoid being publicly fired.
McCullough's partner Barb was incredibly saddened and frustrated. “It is impossible to believe that the first call we received after the most joyous occasion of our lives was a vocal pink slip,” said Mariani. “Tippi has been a beloved teacher at Mount St. Mary’s for 15 years and it’s a sad day when she is fired for doing nothing more than committing to the person she loves – me.”
When Amber Hood, a third-generation alum of Mt. St. Mary's who is now a teacher herself, heard about Principal Wolfe's decision, she emailed her frustrations to the principal, asking her to reconsider her decision. "The choice you made is baffling and antiquated," she wrote, in an email exchange she made available to Jezebel. "I hope that you change your mind for the sake of a respected teacher and all of the girls who will see this message as one of ignorance and hate (especially any of your LGBTQ girls who will likely be even more damaged by this intolerance)." The letter she got back was...well [emphasis ours]:
While I respect your thoughts and concerns, you really have no clue. This was not just my decision. I am only the messenger. Perhaps you would be more informed to direct your opinions to the Catholic church. Do you honestly think a lowly high school principal of 531 girls would take this kind of monumental action on a whim or based on my "conservative views?" You and many others are making grandiose assumptions and if you think this decision conflicts with the spirit of the Vatican II perhaps you need to take this up with the Catholic church which made the decision. I am contractually bound by the parameters set forth by the church teachings. It was brought to my attention that by entering into a same sex civil union, whereby a public document was generated, one would be in direct violation of the morals clause of the employee contract. I would be instructed and bound to do the same action were documentation provided to me that an employee of a Catholic school divorced and remarried without an annulment or if an employee had a side line business of performing abortions. It is not for me to decide, judge or disobey the tenets of the church. I was hired to uphold my contractual obligations as a Catholic school administrator and to carry out those functions, as unpleasant as they may be. It seems many are quick to judge my actions as my decision and accuse me of cowardice in the performance of what I was hired to do. Do you not think it took moral courage to carry out and uphold the tenets of the church and the directives of those responsible for giving oversight to those tenets? I urge you to quit being so naive to think this was solely my decision and solely my action.
Diane Wolfe, Principal
Mount St. Mary Academy
The main takeaways from this condescending letter are:
1. Principal Wolfe is "only the messenger."
2. Someone brought it to her attention that she'd need to get rid of McCullough. Someone cool.
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3. The Vatican is the one laying down this law. It's their world; we just live in it.
4. Principal Wolfe's job description requires doing whatever the Catholic Church tells her to do, even if it's "unpleasant." That requires true "moral courage."
5. If one of her employees got divorced and didn't get that divorce annulled, or had a "side line business of performing abortions," [Ed. Note: Yes, a common way to make a little extra bank] she would just as easily have had to fire them.
6. According to Principal Wolfe, "It is not for me to decide, judge or disobey the tenets of the church." It is for her to decide and judge the lives of her employees.
FYI, Principal Wolfe, as a recap: your guy out there in Rome probably wouldn't actually be down with your current decisions. There's also another thing happening at your school this week that might be more worthy of your attention than these two women getting hitched: A fundraiser being held to raise money for your school's former athletic director who was fired for failing to report a sexual relationship between her partner and fellow teacher and a student, that, according to KATV, has both the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests and the National Survivors Action Coalition concerned. Maybe start there, then circle back to these nice women engaging in consensual and legal actions.
Little Rock Catholic High School Disregards Pope Francis, Threatens Gay Teacher with Dismissal [HRC]
Image via Diocese of Little Rock