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Italian gvmt investigating Catholic school after it removed lesbian teacher

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In a case that is rapidly gaining national attention, the Italian government’s education ministry has threatened a “severe” response to a Catholic school in northern Italy that sacked a teacher believed to be a lesbian.

Education Minister Stefania Giannini told La Repubblica that her office has started an investigation into the decision of the school’s headmistress not to renew the contract of a female teacher out of a need to protect the “moral ethics” of “the school’s environment.”

Mother Eugenia Libratore, a religious sister of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the headmistress of Sacro Cuore school in Trent, said the teacher, who has not been named in the press, was “adequate and professional.” She added, however, that the school is Catholic and must consider moral conduct in assessing staff.

“I told her that I heard these whispers and that I hoped they were just rumors, because I have to protect the school environment. Having to choose a teacher for a Catholic school, I also do assessments from the point of view of moral ethics,” Sr. Eugenia told the Trentino edition of Corriere della Sera.

“Here we have a thousand students. This is the problem, that the Catholic school has its own characteristic set of educational aspects and guidelines: it seems to us [that we must] defend [these] at all costs.”

The teacher, who has been called “Silvia” in an interview with the far-left newspaper La Repubblica, said Sister Eugenia was guilty of “racism” and had “offended” her “rights as a citizen and as a teacher.”

“Maybe I’m a lesbian, maybe not. But asking me to refute rumors about my sexual orientation, and to depend on the response for the renewal of the contract, was unacceptable. As if it were normal to investigate under the sheets of the employees.”

The woman took her complaint to the Italian General Confederation of Labour (CGIL) and the country’s national homosexualist organisation Arcigay, which has demanded a response from the government over the action of “a private school funded by public money.” 

Sara Ferrari, a councilor for the province of Trentino and officer for Equal Opportunities, said, “The Italian legal system prohibits discriminatory dismissals based on sexual orientation of the employee. If the non-renewal, as claimed by the teacher, was based on an approach that adheres to the personal sphere, it would be serious.”

The woman told La Repubblica that she had received “numerous appreciations for my work” from Sister Eugenia, but she was told that “rumours” had circulated “related to my sexual orientation, and that I was required to refute these rumors.” 

“In return,” she said, “the school would have ‘turned a blind eye’ to my situation. At this point I became angry; I did not expect such a surreal interview. I was asked if it is true that I have a girlfriend. The director spoke of it as if it were perfectly normal to get into this kind of detail.”

“I was disgusted. Since I was not going to reveal anything, Sister Eugenia said I was ‘demonstrating the validity’ of the accusations.” At the suggestion that she consider possible “healing” for her same-sex attraction, the woman responded that this was “racist” and that Sr. Eugenia should “reflect on the concept of homophobia.” She added that she had been particularly offended when the school had circulated “guidelines” about homosexuality that included an endorsement of “reparative therapy.”

“What happened to me is the stuff of the Middle Ages, comparable to the discrimination suffered by Jews or blacks,” she said. She added her hope that the Education Ministry would create “a real control on loans to private schools. There are some who do not deserve them.”

The school has issued a statement saying that teachers are hired under temporary contracts and that the teacher had not been “fired.” The contract had expired June 30 and the school decided not to renew.

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According to the school, the questions came up in the course of a routine assessment interview and were made in response to “some complaints expressed by some parents, students and colleagues, in respect of some of [the teacher’s] statements in the classroom. Several people had expressed complaints about the teacher’s discourse on sexuality, considering them inappropriate, out of place and not compatible with the school environment."

The statement added that some of the comments “had come also from the students” who had “been upset” by some of the teacher’s assertions.

Arcigay and the Rainbow Families association of homosexualist groups have also asked for Minister Giannini to intervene.

The minister has issued a statement saying, “At this time I am gathering the information needed to understand all the aspects. Wherever we were faced with a case related to a sexual discrimination we will act with due severity.”

The case has caught the attention of Ivan Scalfarotto, a homosexual activist and vice president of the ruling Democratic party, who told La Repubblica, “I think an assessment of civil-legal nature should prevent this unconscionable violation of the principle of equality and non-discrimination enshrined in the Constitution, international conventions and laws.” He added that the fact the school, though private, receives government funds “makes it an even more unbearably sad story.”

Scalfarotto is one of the most powerful homosexual activists in the country, also holding the position of State Secretary of the Ministry of Constitutional Reforms. He is the promoter of the “anti-homophobia” bill that has sparked protests up and down the country. The bill, together with regulations issued by the National Antidiscrimination and Racism Office (UNAR) has been criticized as an effort to shut down any public moral opposition to homosexual behaviour, and even as a means of abolishing public expression of Christian moral teaching in public life.

The representative of CGIL Trento is also quoted saying, “It is yet another episode of discrimination and violation of human dignity in peer institutions that affects all schools.” The dismissal should be withdrawn, the union said, and “civil and social rights be restored in this institution. Otherwise, in addition to legal initiatives, we will ask that public funding be withdrawn.”

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