When should an organization take a stand as to the morals and character of its leaders?
This question has been the stuff of lawsuits taken all the way to the US Supreme Court and debates in churches as to whether their clergy should be divorced, gay or have been convicted of drunk driving. It’s been the informal chatter for years that a good percentage of Catholic clergy are gay, but as long as they didn’t broadcast the fact it was a live-and-let-live situation between the priest and his bishop.
Now things are changing because the legal climate is changing. The U.S. Justice Department is stressing that religious liberties -- think the Health and Human Services mandate wars -- are linked to strong denominational ties linked to clear statements of doctrines. In Christian schools and non-profit groups, that means clear doctrinal covenants and, thus, bishops are starting to let dissenters go.
In reaction, one RNS news story openly bemoans this fact. A July 20 piece starts thus:
(RNS) In May, the Rev. Warren Hall was abruptly dismissed from his position as the popular campus chaplain at Seton Hall University in New Jersey because the Catholic archbishop of Newark said his advocacy against anti-gay bullying, and his identity as a gay man, undermined church teaching.
Now Hall has written to Pope Francis asking that when the pontiff visits the U.S. in September, he speak out against such actions because they are “alienating” gay Catholics and the many others who support them.