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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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
The Editors

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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben
By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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