Catholic Church

God, Gays, and Good Grades (g)

In a perfect world, otherwise rational people would not fear homosexuals.

When I was planning out what I would write about for this A-Z series, I had planned to address gay marriage with letter G.  My plan was to speak in general terms about allowing gays and lesbians to marry, and how a committed loving relationship is no different when it’s between a man and woman or a man and a man.

But sadly, the universe dropped a specific example on my doorstep.

Recently, I became aware of a petition on seeking to “end employment discrimination against Mr. Eledge and future faculty” of a local high school.

The petition introduces us to Matthew Eledge, an English teacher and speech coach for five years at Omaha’s Skutt Catholic High School.  He is said to be an excellent teacher and a top flight speech coach, with his teams winning multiple conference, district, and state championships.

From the petition text:

“Mr. Eledge is being fired from Skutt Catholic for being in a gay relationship.

In December of 2014, Matt and his partner, Elliot Dougherty, made the decision to get engaged. He went to the administration to let them know, and they told him he would not be invited to teach next year. Furthermore, if he told students, he would be fired immediately.

A living example of what it means to be a SkyHawk, Mr. Eledge has spent hundreds of hours striving to make sure that the students at Skutt have an incredible high school experience. He soars above the rest in accolades, talent, and character for Skutt Catholic. After months of contemplation, Mr. Eledge discussed the idea of postponing the wedding so he could come back to Skutt Catholic. He was then informed that he must end his relationship with Elliot.

A core belief at Skutt Catholic is to inspire “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”. As parents, former teachers, alumni, and individuals who support the Skutt Catholic community: we demand the administration embrace diversity and stand up for justice by not discriminating against a teacher that has inspired hundreds of students and future leaders in the community.”

I’ve never met Matthew Eledge or his partner.  But I do know what it is like to be a student learning from a teacher and coach that you look up to.  A person you respect, learn from, and whom pushes you to be a better person.  I was blessed to attend a high school with several excellent teachers on staff.*  I’ve been out of high school for over 20 years, and I can easily name a half dozen such educators who had such an impact on my life.

*The quality of the teachers I had at Gretna High School is one of the main reasons I believe so many of my high school classmates and friends became teachers.  Many of them are teaching in the same district we graduated from, which I think is amazing.

One of those teachers who had a positive impact on me was Matthew’s father, Kirk Eledge.  Like his son, Kirk Eledge is an educator, coach, and mentor.  My Coach Eledge was physical education instructor and the head coach for my high school’s football team*.

*If you’re looking for anecdotal evidence that homosexuality is not a choice or a “life style”, I would submit that being the openly gay son of a high school football coach in red state Nebraska is not something one “chooses” to be. 

I was, by every account, a mediocre to bad football player.  I knew what I should do on the field, but I could rarely convince my nonathletic body to do it, especially at game speed.  I’m guessing Coach Eledge knew early on that I would not amount to much more than a career backup, but that never stopped him for coaching me, supporting me, and encouraging me to improve.  He treated me, a career bench-warmer who just wanted to be apart of a team, with dignity and respect – the same way he treated the star players.  My guess is the students Matthew Eledge worked with at Skutt would say that same things.

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Ignoring outdated stereotypes about speech and drama kids, it is an absolute certainty that Matthew Eledge has had a gay or lesbian student in his classroom at some point in his five years at Skutt.  What message does Eledge’s firing send to these students:  Be ashamed of who you are?  Come out at school and risk persecution?  There is no place for a homosexual at Skutt?  Follow the Church’s teachings or else?

Aside from being counter to a Skutt core belief (the petition cites inspiring “moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society”), there are numerous published studies showing that gay teens are up to seven times more likely to attempt suicide.  I cannot fathom how or why any educator who would willingly put teens at risk by creating a culture of intolerance.

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I don’t want this to come across as an attack on Catholicism, or on those who are loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church.  I respect your faith.  I can understand, in principle, how having an opening gay teacher on your faculty could send the wrong message to your families, alumni, and donors.  I respectfully disagree.  I read an ABC News article stating that Catholic educators in the Omaha Archdiocese have lost their jobs for being “single, pregnant teachers and those who’ve divorced and remarried outside the Catholic church”.  I disagree with those firings too.  Know that I’d feel the same way if Skutt was a Catholic, Lutheran, Christian, non-denominational, or public school.

I read a blog post where the author makes the case that if Matthew Eledge is being fired for “openly violating Catholic doctrine”, then we should take a closer look at the Skutt administration to see where they stray from biblical teachings.  No disrespect to that writer, but I don’t want to cherry-pick bible verses (especially those from Deuteronomy or Leviticus) as a justification for getting rid of those who chose to fire Matthew Eledge.  In my opinion, that solves nothing.

In my previous job, I worked with (and in) Catholic and faith-based schools across the country.  I sat with nuns and priests who serve God daily by educating our youth.  While I cannot claim to know their stance on this issue, I can assure you that they taught love and respect in their schools – not fear and denial.

That is why I struggle to understand why Matthew Eledge is being fired.

Is the school concerned about going against the teachings of the Church?  Is the decision coming from school administration or the Archdiocese of Omaha?  Are they afraid that retaining an openly gay teacher will trigger a backlash from concerned parents and alumni?  Do they fear that students will “catch the gay” by being exposed to Mr. Eledge or *gasp* the man he is in a committed and loving relationship with?  Or is Skutt seeking to avoid alienating their donor base, which likely contains older, conservative folks – the type of people who may choose to avoid organizations that willingly support gays and lesbians?

All I know is that good teachers are hard to find.  The hours suck, the pay is horrible (especially at most parochial schools), and they have to deal with a lot more crap from students and parents than they ever did before.  So when you find an educator that is passionate about what they do and is very successful in doing it, I think you should allow them to enrich the lives of students.

In a perfect world we would #LetMatthewTeach

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(Author’s note:  Wondering why there is a random letter in parentheses in the title of this post?  Not sure how this post corresponds to the daily letter in the April A to Z Challenge?  Like clicking on links?  These questions are all answered here.)

Rejected Methods For Picking the Pope

Today, the papal conclave elected Jorge Mario Bergoglio as Pope, making him the leader of the Catholic Church.  Bergoglio (who will now be known as Francis) was elected by a two-thirds majority on the fifth vote of the papal conclave.

Or so they would have us believe…

Since the conclave is strictly off-limits to anybody but the cardinals who participate in it, there really is no good way of knowing how Francis was chosen.  Fortunately, I have a guy on the inside who let me in on some of rejected pope picking methodologies:

Obligatory disclaimers:  What follows is farce.  Satire.  A lame, late night attempt at comedy.  I, in no way, shape, or form, intend to offend any Catholics, Catholicism, or anything related with Pope Francis’s election.  I truly mean no disrespect. 

If you are likely to be offended by spoofs on the papal conclave’s election process, stop now.  I’d humbly suggest clicking on one of the other Feit Favorites from the right side.  You’ll probably find something you like better over there.  Okay…everybody good?  On with the jokes!  How was the pope picked…

  • NFL style:  A vote occurs, then the head cardinal goes under the hood to review the results on the field.
  • Actually, since it is the College of Cardinals who picks the Pope, they just send it up to the replay office in the press box.
  • The Pope candidates perform a mass for Randy Jackson and whoever is judging American Idol these days.
  • Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu decipher random clues hidden in Vatican art work and architecture.
  • Pro Wrestling Steel Cage Match
  • Prospects split into two teams and take on the task of expanding Catholicism in a third world country.  At the end the challenge Donald Trump fires cardinals until one remains.
  • A multi-event challenge.  Think World’s Strongest Man meets SuperStars.
  • NBA style:  Two finalists meet at mid court.  The Pope hat is tossed into the air and they try to rebound it.
  • A spirited game of P-O-P-E.  (And yes, banks in the Vatican are closed on Sundays).
  • Demolition derby with the old Popemobiles.
  • Shot glasses filled with the Vatican’s finest are passed around.  Everybody drinks.  The process repeats until one remains.
  • Musical chairs.
  • The Cardinal with the most Facebook likes and Twitter followers wins.
  • Whomever can correctly spell “Presbyterianism” becomes the pope.
  • Anybody who can come with a plan for Notre Dame to beat an SEC team in a bowl game deserves the job.
  • Ro-Sham-Bo
  • ESPN wins the exclusive TV rights.  The pope is selected by a panel of talking heads, brass, and the few journalists they still have left.  Pope Timothy Tebow wins handily.
  • The cardinals line up by age (youngest first).  One by one, they are blindfolded, led to the center of a large room, and turned around to slightly disorient them.  A sacred papal staff is placed in their hands.  They then swing at a giant piñata (shaped like the pope’s hat).  Whomever breaks it open wins (and gets to eat all of the candy inside the piñata).
  • Former St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa strolls out of a Vatican City dugout to make his selection.
  • Prospective popes must prepare a three course meal (appetizer, entrée, and dessert) using the following basket items:  water, wine, bread, fish.
  • An announcer describes all of the perks that come with being the Pope (clothes, cars, trips, housing, etc).  Cardinals must enter their bid and the one who is closest to the actual retail price wins.  (side note:  any joker that bids $1 is forced to become a Lutheran).
  • The Cardinals are dispatched to midwest towns on a Friday nights in Lent to run their own fish fry.  Most revenue wins.
  • Soccer style:  nothing exciting happens for what feels like days.  Right before they go to penalty kicks, somebody slips through and wins the election while you’re not paying attention.
  • Looking for a female’s perspective, the cardinals reach out to Lennay Kekua, who provides valuable counsel and advice.
  • Former Arizona Cardinal Kurt Warner bestows his blessing on one cardinal.
  • An 8 Mile-style rap battle.
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