Catherine Briggs

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Gay vice principal sues Seattle archdiocese, Catholic school over alleged forced resignation

Catherine Briggs
By Catherine Briggs

SEATTLE, WA, March 12, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The former vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, is suing the Archdiocese of Seattle and the school for wrongful termination and discrimination after he was reportedly forced to resign as a result of his same-sex “marriage.”

Mark Zmuda, who had been at the school for 18 months, “married” his boyfriend, Dana Jergens, in July 2013, following the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in Washington State

Representatives for the school have filed a motion to dismiss the case, stating that “[the] Plaintiff’s action should be dismissed because the Court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff’s claims without violating the First Amendment.”

“This is another example of people using the media to try and drum up public sentiments that the Catholic Church is anti-gay,” said John Mulvey, a policy analyst for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a comment given to LifeSiteNews.

“The rights of religious institutions over employment decisions have been sustained by the Supreme Court,” Mulvey added. “The Church has the right and responsibility to ensure that all of its employees practice the values that it teaches.”

Zmuda claims that he was “terminated” because of his union. However, in a statement issued on December 20, 2013, Sr. Mary Tracy, president of Eastside Catholic, claimed that the decision was made in mutual understanding and agreement.

“In meetings with Mark,” Sr. Tracy said, “he and I discussed the situation and, although he was disappointed, we reached an understanding that the correct action was for him to submit his resignation. I then met with Archbishop Peter Sartain to inform him of the situation and of my decision and he agreed with the decision.”  Archbishop Sartain vocally opposed Referendum 74, the measure that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State in 2012.

According to Zmuda, one solution offered by Sr. Tracy was for him and his “husband” to get a divorce in order for him to keep his job.  “It was a piece of paper, they said, that was the reason I was being let go.”  Because same-sex “marriage” is not recognized by the Catholic Church, the union is not valid under any circumstances.

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"I was asked by the school to break my wedding vows to keep my job," he said last week, according to the Associated Press. "I was told I could either divorce or be fired. How could anyone ask anyone else to make that choice?"

Eastside Catholic requires faculty to sign a contract agreeing to publicly abide by the Catholic Church’s teaching.  Zmuda claims, however, that his actions are not out of line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

"I am a lifelong Catholic," Zmuda said. "I am a gay man. I did not choose to be gay. I do not see any inconsistency in the teachings of Jesus and being gay."  In an interview with a former student, he claims that he “disagree[s] with the way the church feels about this particular issue.”

The resignation has sparked a flood of support for Zmuda and protest against the Archdiocese of Seattle.  The students at Eastside Catholic have been especially vocal in their outrage over the resignation. Caelan Colburn, a student at the school, expressed his disappointment at the administration’s decision.

"We feel the administrators haven't done enough to protect him. Only the students have come to his defense," he said. "I strongly believe that gay people are equal human beings and deserve the same rights we have. The administration made it very clear that they care more about following the Archdiocese than doing the right thing."

Petitions have been started online, asking that Eastside Catholic rethink their policy as concerns gay “marriage,” and that the Church change Her doctrine. “The churches [sic] stance on homosexuality is medieval, and it's [sic] policies are not following in the teachings of Christ, Pope Francis or our basic human rights to chose [sic] who we love,” reads one.

Zmuda says he is “humbled” by the outpouring of support from the students.  “It’s very overwhelming.  I’m very humbled for the fact that I feel this overwhelming, what they call agape, love.” 

“They were taught in our school Catholic values to love and respect, and to challenge the Catholic teachings. They were asked to formulate their own opinions, and they were taught about love and respect. And I think that the students should definitely be able to stand up for what they believe.”

According to Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, these protests are hardly commendable.

“A contract is a contract, and Catholic is Catholic.” Reilly told LifeSiteNews.  “It seems that Eastside has been most respectful and generous to Mr. Zmuda in how they handled the situation, but it would be ridiculous for a Catholic school to compromise clear Catholic teachings—especially for a vice principal.”

“A Catholic school cannot be Catholic if it doesn’t regard Catholic teaching to be true,” Reilly added.  So there’s nothing admirable in encouraging students to challenge Catholic teaching.  That’s encouraging them to deny truth—the very basis of our Catholic faith.”

Local TV station KIRO obtained a recording of Zmuda at an assembly of students soon after his resignation.  “I just want to make one brief statement,” Zmuda said, “and that is to tell you that yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer and I know it is against the Catholic teaching. I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and acceptable to things that are legal now in the State of Washington.”

Zmuda also stated that much of the school’s faculty backed him up as well.  “The faculty stood behind me. ... They talked about different options to try to keep me. They talked about possibly reaching out to the Pope. 'Has the Pope heard about this?'” Zmuda is referring to Pope Francis’s remarks in July 2013 on homosexuality.

Then-Mayor elect, Ed Murray, who is Catholic and gay, made an appearance at the protests, saying, “I’m not here to challenge the church’s doctrine but to show solidarity with the students.”  Murray “married” his partner at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church last year because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to such unions.

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Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Vatican pressing forward with reform of US feminist nuns: Cardinal Müller

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, says the Vatican is pressing forward with plans to reform the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

In an interview published in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, the cardinal said that the reform of the LCWR, which was undertaken after an assessment of the group found serious doctrinal problems, will be carried out with the goal of helping them "rediscover their identity.”

“Congregations have no more vocations and risk dying out," Müller said. "We have first of all tried to reduce hostility and tensions, partly thanks to Bishop Sartain whom we sent to negotiate with them; he is a very gentle man. We wish to stress that we are not misogynists, we are not women gobblers! Of course we have a different concept of religious life but we hope to help them rediscover their identity.”

Moreover, the cardinal said that problems specific to the LCWR are not a reflection of all the women religious in the US.

"We need to bear in mind that they do not represent all US nuns, but just a group of nuns who form part of an association,” Müller said.

“We have received many distressed letters from other nuns belonging to the same congregations, who are suffering a great deal because of the direction in which the LCWR is steering their mission.”

Cardinal Müller's remarks confirmed the assertion he and the Holy See’s delegate to the LCWR, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, made in an address to LCWR officials in Rome on April 30, that the theological drift the feminist nuns are taking constitutes a radical departure from the foundational theological concepts of Catholicism.

The Holy See “believes that the charismatic vitality of religious life can only flourish within the ecclesial faith of the Church,” Müller said in the address.

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“The LCWR, as a canonical entity dependent on the Holy See, has a profound obligation to the promotion of that faith as the essential foundation of religious life. Canonical status and ecclesial vision go hand-in-hand, and at this phase of the implementation of the Doctrinal Assessment, we are looking for a clearer expression of that ecclesial vision and more substantive signs of collaboration,” he stated.

The LCWR has openly defied the mandate of reform intended to bring their organization into line with basic Catholic doctrine on the nature of God, the Church, and sexual morality.

Among the CDF’s directives, to which LCWR has strenuously objected, is the requirement that “speakers and presenters at major programs” be approved by Archbishop Sartain. This, Müller has explained, was decided in order to “avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church.”

The LCWR has invited speakers to their Annual Assembly such as New Age guru Barbara Marx Hubbard, and Sr. Laurie Brink, who is particularly noted for flagrantly denying the Divinity of Christ and telling the sisters that to maintain their “prophetic” place in society they need to “go beyond” the Church and even “go beyond Jesus.”

In one of the first public statements of his pontificate, Pope Francis affirmed that the investigation and reform of the LCWR must continue.

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Brian Fisher

Birth mothers: real heroes of the pro-life movement

Brian Fisher
By Brian Fisher
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What does it mean to be brave? Is it the doctor who dedicates himself to improving the health of a third-world nation? Is it the woman who faces her third round of chemotherapy to fight the progression of cancer? Is it the teacher who forgoes the comforts of a suburban school to reach minorities in the inner city? All of these are examples of bravery demonstrated in exceedingly challenging circumstances. And our society longs for stories of bravery to inspire us and fill us with hope.

As someone who works day in and day out with those on the front lines of helping rescue babies from abortion, I’m no stranger to stories of bravery. I see courage every day in the eyes of the men and women who sacrifice their time and energy to help women facing unplanned pregnancies. I see it every time a young mom — despite being pressured by her parents or significant other to get an abortion — chooses LIFE. And perhaps more profoundly than in any other situation, I see it when an expectant mom with no relational support, job, or income chooses to place her baby for adoption rather than abort her son or daughter.

This was Nicky’s situation.

When Nicky found herself pregnant with her boyfriend’s child, her life was already in shambles. During her 26 years, Nicky had already given birth to and surrendered sole custody of a little girl, committed several felonies, lived in her car, lost several jobs, and barely subsisted on minimum wage. So when she met up with an old boyfriend, Brandon, Nicky believed she was being given a second chance at happiness. “Our first year together was beautiful. We were getting to know each other and deciding if we would stay together forever.” Unfortunately, a positive pregnancy test result changed everything.

“When I told him I was pregnant, Brandon sat down on the bed, looked me in the eyes, and told me to ‘get an abortion’.” Nicky says those three little words changed everything for her. “I became depressed living with someone who wanted his child ‘dealt with.’”  Like thousands of women every day, Nicky began searching online for information on abortion, hoping her boyfriend would eventually change his mind. Through our strategic marketing methods, Online for Life was able to guide Nicky to a life-affirming pregnancy center where she received grace-filled counsel. “The woman I sat with was beyond wonderful. She helped me to just breathe and ask God what to do….And so I did.”

Nicky left the pregnancy center that day with a new resolve to choose life for her child, even though she still wasn’t sure how she’d financially support a child. “I was alone with just $10 in my pocket…and without any type of plan for what I was going to do.” So Nicky relied on the support of the staff she met at the life-affirming pregnancy center. With their help and through a chain of fortunate events, Nicky was put in contact with the couple who would eventually become her daughter’s adoptive parents.

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After meeting this couple face to face and coming to terms with her own desperate situation, Nicky conceded that the best thing for her unborn child would be to place her in someone else’s loving home. She told Brandon about her plans and he agreed that adoption would give their child the best chance at a happy and secure future. He even returned home to help Nicky prepare for the birth of their child. “The weeks leading up to my delivery were filled with a mixture of laughter, tears, protectiveness and sadness,” Nicky recalls. But one sentiment continued to be shared with her. “Brave…so brave.” That’s what everyone from the life-affirming pregnancy center to the adoption agency to the birthing center kept calling Nicky. “The nurses kept coming up to me and telling me they were honored to care for and treat someone like me.” After several weeks of preparation, Nicky finally gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and she made the dreams of a couple from the other side of the country come true.

Nicky’s adoption story continues to be riddled with a strange combination of pain and joy. “I cry every day, but I know my baby, who came out of a very bad time, ended up being loved by people from across the country.” When asked what message she’d like to share with the world about her decision to give up her child for adoption, Nicky responds, The voice of the mother who gives up a baby for adoption isn’t heard. We need to change that.”

To learn more about Online for Life and how we’re helping to make stories like Nicky and her daughter’s story a possibility, please visit OnlineforLife.org.

Author, speaker, and business leader Brian Fisher is the President and Co-Founder of Online for Life, a transparent, metric-oriented, compassion-driven nonprofit organization dedicated to helping rescue babies and their families from abortion through technology and grace.

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Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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New York farmers stop hosting weddings after $13,000 fine for declining lesbian ceremony

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By Dustin Siggins

New York farmers Robert and Cynthia Gifford, who were ordered last week to pay $13,000 for not hosting a same-sex "wedding," say they are closing that part of their operation.

"Going forward, the Giffords have decided to no longer host any wedding ceremonies on their farm, other than the ones already under contract," said Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) lawyer James Trainor. ADF represented the Giffords in their legal fight against New York's non-discrimination law.

Last week, the Giffords were ordered to pay a $10,000 fine to the state of New York and $3,000 in damages to a lesbian couple, Jennifer McCarthy and Melisa Erwin, who approached them in 2012 about hosting their "wedding." The Giffords, who are Roman Catholic, said their religious convictions would not let them host the ceremony, but that McCarthy and Erwin could hold their reception on their property.

Unbeknownst to the Giffords, the lesbian couple recorded the two-to-three minute conversation. After declining to hold the reception on the Giffords' farm, on which they live and rent property, the lesbian couple decided to make a formal complaint to the state's Division of Human Rights.

Eventually, Judge Migdalia Pares ruled that the Giffords' farm, Liberty Ridge Farm, constitutes a public accommodation because space is rented on the grounds and fees are collected from the public. The Giffords argued that because they live on the property with their children, they should be exempt from the state law, but Pares said that this does not mean their business is private.

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Trainor told TheBlaze that the Giffords' decision to end wedding ceremonies at Liberty Ridge “will hurt their business in the short run," but that was preferable to violating their religious beliefs.

“The Giffords serve all people with respect and care. They have hired homosexual employees and have hosted events for same-sex couples,” he said.

However, "since the state of New York has essentially compelled them to do all ceremonies or none at all, they have chosen the latter in order to stay true to their religious convictions," Trainor explained to LifeSiteNews. "No American should be forced by the government to choose between their livelihood and their faith, but that’s exactly the choice the state of New York has forced upon the Giffords."

"They will continue to host wedding receptions," said Trainor.

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