And now Donohue returns to Orange County with another whiny screed—although he doesn’t dare call out his target by name. In a May 18 press release titled “Victims’ Pros Lie about NY Archdiocese,” Donohue rails against the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which has only been one of the most important organizations in the United States fighting against pedo-priests and their enablers in the Catholic Church. Donohue has never liked them because they do a great job, and he’s now mad that “someone whom we have never heard of has surfaced demanding that the New York archdiocese publish the names of six miscreant priests, the implication being that there is a cover-up.
“This is a non-starter,” Dononhue continues. “The names of the offending priests have already been published by the archdiocese. It is scurrilous to imply otherwise. The only real story here is how far some will go to try to discredit the Catholic Church.”
What the hell is the lace-curtain Irish crying about? He provides no links, no context, no nada in his write-up (which you can go ahead and Google on your own). But the person he was targeting is someone well-known to OC Weekly readers, a heroine we should all emulate.
Say her name, Billy: Joelle Casteix.
She’s the Western regional director for SNAP, and someone who has long advocated for sex-abuse survivors because she herself is one: a music teacher at Mater Dei High abused her, and school and diocesan officials long stonewalled her about it. Casteix held a press conference last week talking about the pedophile protectors at the New York archdiocese, cretins of whom Donohue laughably says, “When it comes to clergy sexual abuse, the New York Archdiocese has one of the best records in the nation.”
Casteix and an attorney for the survivors streamed their press conference on
Facebook Live. None of the New York press present quoted Casteix in their stories, which means Donohue has no life because he watched a Facebook Live segment. But why didn’t Donohue have the stones to call out Casteix by name? Does anyone really buy Billy Blob’s shit that he “had never heard of” Casteix, who’s only been a national presence on the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal for about 15 years? How the hell can Donohue continue to get fatter with every passing year?
So many questions, but at least we have two answers: Casteix is a secular saint; Donohue is a PENDEJO. Hey, Billy: Learn from St. Joseph and get a real job.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been in Chicago and San Francisco talking to LGBT Catholics and hearing from theologians, Catholic school leaders, parents, and others about how the church can do a better job reaching out to and learning from gay Catholics. One of the most hopeful messages I heard came from a Catholic bishop appointed by Pope Francis.
“In a church that has not always valued or welcomed your presence, we need to hear your voices and take seriously your experiences,” Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, told several hundred participants at the New Ways Ministry gathering in Chicago last month, “LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis.”
New Ways Ministry, founded in 1977 by Fr. Robert Nugent and Sr. Jeannine Gramick, faced sanction in 1999 when Cardinal Ratzinger—then the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Pope Benedict XVI—issued a directive that prohibited them from “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons.” The two continued their pastoral ministry anyway. Nugent died in 2014, but Gramick is still active with the organization. Given this history, Bishop Stowe’s presence at the conference is a sign of the times.
Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has strongly defended the traditional church teaching against same-sex marriage. He also has been critical of what he calls the “ideological colonization” of some contemporary ways of understanding gender. Still, Francis has taken a dramatically different approach to speaking about gay and lesbian people than previous popes, who emphasized homosexuality as an “intrinsic moral evil,” as well as those American church leaders who have put opposition to LGBT rights at the top of their lobbying efforts. While most U.S. bishops still have not caught up to the pope, Cardinal Joe Tobin, appointed by Francis to lead the Newark archdiocese last November, recently welcomed a pilgrimage of LGBT Catholics to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “I am delighted that you and the LGBTQ brothers and sisters plan to visit our beautiful cathedral,” Tobin wrote in an e-mail to the group’s leader. “You will be very welcome.”
Francis’s fresh start is in line with his frequent acknowledgments that the church has too often excluded people by fixating on a narrow, moral legalism. “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” the pope said in a 2013 interview. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person? We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation.” Less than a year later, when asked by reporters about gay priests at the Vatican, his quote become a viral papal soundbite that has reached near-iconic status: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord, who am I to judge?”
Bishops who can cite the fine print of the church’s teaching on sexuality should also be listening closely to the honest stories of Catholic parents
During a spiritual reflection at the New Ways Ministry conference, Bishop Stowe noted how Jesus often challenged what he called the “self-proclaimed Sabbath police,” and made a direct connection to that mindset with how LGBT Catholics are often treated. “Some of you have experienced the same kind of approach to the law that Jesus corrected so many times in the Gospel—an approach that sometimes devalues human beings,” he said.
The most painful stories I heard came from gay and lesbian Catholics who have been fired from Catholic schools or other Catholic institutions after public disclosures of their relationships. Since 2007, according to New Ways Ministry, at least fifty LGBT Catholics have been fired or forced to resign. Margie Winters, a long-time religious education director at Waldron Mercy Academy in Philadelphia, was fired in 2015 after a disgruntled parent outed her marriage to another woman. (See “Fighting a Firing in Philadelphia” for more details.) “I loved and still love that community because it’s a part of my heart,” Winters said at the Chicago conference. “It was like a death. This kind of firing is a trauma. The sense of exile has been hardest for me.”
Bishops who can cite the fine print of the church’s teaching on sexuality should also be listening more closely to the raw, honest stories of Catholic parents. “Ten years ago I was blissfully ignorant of all things LGBT until it came to my family,” said Ray Dever, a deacon in St. Petersburg, Florida. The father of five, who describes his family as “pretty darn Catholic”—four of his five children were in Catholic schools at the same time—is now a proud and public advocate for his transgender daughter Lexi. “The hard part is seeing one of your loved ones endure self-hatred,” he said. “When the word suicide comes into play, your life changes. We wanted to get her through her junior year alive. There are so many families who reject their LGBT kids and that’s tragic, especially when that is done in the name of faith. I’m no expert but what these families need to hear is God created these kids just the way they are and that God loves them.”
His daughter Lexi came to terms with her identity at Georgetown University, where she worked at the LGBTQ resource center on campus. “Transgender people just want to live an everyday life and be a normal person in a crowd,” she said. “I struggled with coming out. I was convinced I would be abandoned by family and friends because I saw that happening to others.” Trans youth have disproportionately high suicide rates, she noted, and the average life expectancy of a transgender woman is only thirty-one years.
One of the most impassioned and articulate Catholic voices for the full-inclusion of LGBT Catholics is Fordham University theologian Bryan Massingale, an African-American priest. While some have brushed aside Pope Francis’ oft-quoted statements as merely signaling a shift in tone on LGBT issues, Massingale sees a more substantive process unfolding in this papacy. “There is a change of tone, to be sure, but the tone masks a definite doctrinal shift and development now underway—a change that is cautious, tentative, tense, at times ambiguous and contradictory, and yet nonetheless real,” Massingale said during a plenary address at the New Ways Ministry gathering. “What is neuralgic for many church leaders lies not so much in being gay, but in being honest, forthright, and transparent about it,” he said. “The open closet,” as Massingale calls it, is a paradoxical dynamic of “private toleration and public condemnation,” a stance that he finds problematic. “Justice is inherently public,” he said. “Justice is the social face of love. To insist on private acceptance and compassion for LGBT persons without an effective commitment to defending LGBT human rights and creating a society of equal justice for all is not only contradictory, it is inherently incomprehensible and ultimately unsustainable.”
At the University of San Francisco, I met with more than two dozen Catholic teachers, school administrators, theologians, and women religious, along with the mayor’s point-person on transgender initiatives. The group came together for a conversation about how to support LGBT students and help Catholic institutions think about making a culture of inclusion central to Catholic identity. Michael Duffy, director of the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at the university, pulled together the meeting in part because of his experience at some Catholic workshops and conferences, where discussions about LGBT issues have often been unhelpful and narrowly defined.
Theresa Sparks, the San Francisco mayor’s advisor on transgender initiatives, told the group that she has had little engagement with Catholic institutions. “There is a vacuum there,” said Sparks, who raised all her children in Catholic schools and spent some time homeless after transitioning herself. One in five transgender individuals have experienced homelessness, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Last spring, an English teacher at Mercy High School in San Francisco came out as transgender. Gabriel Bodenheimer put his job at risk when he decided to transition from female to male—but the Sisters of Mercy, which owns and operates the school, supported him. “We feel because of our values, the choice was this, but that doesn’t mean it was easy,” Sister Laura Reicks, president of the 16-state region of the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Community told the San Francisco Chronicle. Bodenheimer told the San Francisco gathering that his experience was “harrowing and also heartening.” But “a culture of fear and silence,” he said, is still the norm when it comes to transgender issues at Catholic schools.
One longtime Catholic school educator, who requested anonymity, told me that a “Breaking the Binary” conference at his school in March caused an uproar among a vocal contingent of parents. “Some parents were upset and felt a Catholic school should not be talking about gender identity,” he said. “We’ve never had a response like this to anything we’ve done before.” About fifty parents kept their children home from school. Students picked the theme of the conference, which was not solely focused on transgender issues but included discussions about women in the workplace and gender stereotypes. The transgender conversation was optional. A panel of experts spoke to the students: an attorney who specializes in representing transgender clients, two health care providers who work with the trans community, and a social worker. A student who transitioned after he graduated shared a video about his experience. The school is operated by an order of women religious.
“We really used the mission of our school and our Catholic identity to talk about transgender people not as a political issue but in terms of standing on the margins and going to the existential peripheries where people are sometimes suffering,” the educator said. “A Catholic school is a place where kids should learn to think critically so they can make the world a more just and humane place. We teach the church’s position on sexuality and we also have an obligation to help them wrestle with complex moral issues.”
A religion teacher at one of the city’s most prestigious private high schools said he was harassed and threatened by students after they found his online dating profile — and then he was fired by the school.
Matt Tedeschi, who taught religious studies at St. Ignatius College Prep in Little Italy, said students found out he was gay and “outed” him to the rest of the school — then went on to harass him about his sexual orientation in the classroom and on social media.
Tedeschi, who taught for about four years at the school, said he believes he was then fired because his sexual orientation conflicts with some Catholic teachings, and the incident — and ensuing gossip — embarrassed top leaders at the elite school. He was slated to be considered for tenure in the fall.
“In this place that prides itself on being a value-based school and teaches us to care for the vulnerable and marginalized, it’s precisely the same religious basis that allows horrible harassment to take place,” he said.
In a statement released Thursday, St. Ignatius leaders said Tedeschi was not fired from school because of his sexual orientation. Previously, St. Ignatius administrators declined to directly address Tedeschi’s firing and subsequent allegations, but said that the teacher “was treated fairly” by the school’s administrators.
“Saint Ignatius College Prep must respect the confidentiality of the term of employment of its present and former faculty and staff members,” school spokesman Ryan Bergin said in a statement. “Although I cannot comment on Mr. Tedeschi’s claims regarding his prior employment at Saint Ignatius College Prep, I can assure you that he was treated fairly at all times by the administration of the school, and we wish him all the best in his future career.”
‘Outed’ by students
Tedeschi, who was raised in the Catholic faith and graduated from Marist High School, a coed Catholic high school in the Mount Greenwood neighborhood, studied religion at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign before earning a master’s degree in biblical studies from Yale Divinity School. In August 2013, he was hired to teach religious studies at St. Ignatius, the school he had dreamed of going to when he was a teen.
“In a lot of ways, I fell in love with it all over again when I became a teacher there,” said Tedeschi, 31. “I was really pleasantly surprised by how bright these [students] are.”
Two years ago, the school expanded Tedeschi’s responsibilities, and he began teaching French classes in addition to religion classes.
“Matt was known as being a really tough teacher, but he was really good” at his job, a former colleague said. “Most of the kids really enjoyed him — he was very smart, witty.”
And while Tedeschi described the students as generally “very polite,” his experience at the school changed in February 2016, when a student “outed” him to the student body after finding Tedeschi’s profile on OKCupid, an online dating website.
Tedeschi had never discussed his sexual orientation in the classroom, he said, and the online dating profile did not list his name or that he was a teacher at the school. The profile, which said he is interested in men, features three photos, including one which portrayed him shirtless.
There is no explicit content.
“Never once did I think a high schooler would be on it,” he said of the dating website for those 18 and older. Other teachers at St. Ignatius have online dating profiles, he said, including profiles on OKCupid.
“Everyone should have the right to a private life,” Tedeschi said.
After discovering the dating profile, the St. Ignatius student texted screenshots of Tedeschi’s profile to several other St. Ignatius students, and it spread across campus.
“He ‘outed’ me to a bunch of students. He knew that he was making fun of me and insulting me,” Tedeschi said. “He wanted to embarrass me.”
Discussing the profile in a group text message that Tedeschi obtained screenshots of, one student wrote: “Wow. This is SOOO juicy.”
“He was sort of cyberbulled by some of our students,” said one of Tedeschi’s former colleagues who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
A ‘horrible’ environment
When Tedeschi found out the student had seen his profile, he said he told two administrators hoping they would take action to stop the bullying from students. At first, the administrators “were supportive,” he said, and brought the issue to St. Ignatius Principal Brianna Latko. Tedeschi talked to the students after the incident, but the students were ultimately not punished, he said. Latko did not respond to emails seeking comment.
“It was a horrible environment for me,” he said, and students continued to harass him.
In April 2016, one of Tedeschi’s students went on a 16-tweet tirade about him, writing on Twitter: “Let’s not forget I have screenshots that can end you.” The student attached a photo from Tedeschi’s dating profile.
Tedeschi said the student’s tweet was “public blackmail” and “a threat” that declared Tedeschi could be fired because he is gay.
Tedeschi brought the student’s tweets to the principal, and asked for him to be punished. The student received two Saturday detentions, Tedeschi said.
“It was a slap on the wrist,” he said.
Tedeschi said administrators could have prevented “the culture of harassment.”
“They were just watching it play out,” he said. “I was having anxiety attacks before I went to class. It just completely undermined my authority as a teacher and made me feel small. … This unnecessarily pitted me against my students, which never should have been the case.”
The harassment from students continued to happen in his classroom this school year, Tedeschi alleged, but he continued teaching.
Then, during a class this spring, a student unexpectedly shared sensitive information involving other students. Tedeschi said he didn’t know the student was going to share the information, told her she should report it to the administration and also reported the incident himself to a counselor at the school.
Latko subsequently called Tedeschi out of class to discuss the incident, and reprimanded him for “allowing the discussion to go on,” he claimed. St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer questions about the incident.
Later that week, in March, the principal informed Tedeschi that St. Ignatius was not going to renew his contract.
The school gave him the opportunity to finish out the school year, but after he discussed his departure with a colleague, the school called him to say that his employment was being terminated immediately. In exchange for the rest of his salary he would have earned over the semester, school administrators urged him to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but Tedeschi declined, he said.
Tedeschi said he was told he was being fired because he showed poor judgment posting photos online and didn’t stop the classroom conversation involving the sensitive information. He said he was also told he was negative and undermined authority — although administrators declined to elaborate to him on these charges or provide further details in writing.
He said that no one told him directly that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.
St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer DNAinfo’s questions about why Tedeschi was fired, but in a statement released Thursday said the teacher was not fired because of his sexual orientation.
Tedeschi contends he received positive reviews from the school’s leaders in his four years at St. Ignatius, and his employee file contained no disciplinary complaints.
Tedeschi said he believes he was really fired because he is gay and the school was embarrassed by the “outing” and subsequent fallout. He also believes the school administrators fired him “in retaliation” for complaining about the harassment he experienced at the school.
St. Ignatius administrators declined to answer general questions about the school’s hiring practices, specifically whether they hire, and allow, gay teachers to work at the school.
“The questions that you raise touch upon issues that are taken seriously by our school,” Bergin said in a statement. “Saint Ignatius College Prep has as its core mission a diverse community dedicated to educating young men and women for lives of faith, love, service and leadership. Through outstanding teaching and personal formation, the school challenges its talented student body to intellectual excellence, integrity, and life-long learning and growth. Inspired by the gospel of Jesus Christ, this community strives to use God’s gifts to promote social justice for the greater glory of God.”
Tedeschi said that he was “outed” to the school through no fault of his own and that if St. Ignatius doesn’t want to hire gay teachers, the school’s policies should explicitly express that. While the Jesuit school is part of a “more open-minded order,” some leaders at the school believe that same-sex relationships conflict with Catholic teachings, he said.
“It’s a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, because they are worried about negative fallout,” he said. “I never would have taken this job if I thought this could happen to me.”
St. Ignatius has other gay faculty members and gay students, but it’s “kind of hush-hush,” Tedeschi’s former colleague said.
“I don’t think he was necessarily targeted [from the beginning] because he was a homosexual male, but because there was too much attention being called on Matt being gay,” the source said. “It was creating too much trouble” for the administration, the former colleague said.
“The fact that he was fired still leaves me scratching my head,” his former colleague said. At a school that preaches social justice, “Matt tried to advocate for himself, and he was [reprimanded] for it until he was told to leave.”
Juan Perea, a Loyola University law professor who specializes in employment law, said religious institutions are afforded some employment exemptions under the law, including a ministerial exemption that states that churches and other religious institutions can discriminate against others in favor of hiring Catholics over non-Catholics, for example.
Under the exemption, ministers are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that an employer can’t hire or fire a person based on an individual’s “race, color, religion, sex or national origin.”
By the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s definition, ministers can include employees “that conduct religious ritual, worship or instruction.”
Under federal law, it is a relatively new finding that sexual orientation can count as a form of sex discrimination, Perea said. For decades, the federal circuit courts regularly rejected claims of LGBTQ discrimination under Title VI.
But the U.S. EEOC’s view of sex discrimination began to change under the Obama administration, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit — the court that governs Chicago — agreed last month that a lesbian professor can bring a lawsuit against her former employer Ivy Tech Community College.
“The law is changing right now on all of these issues,” he said.
A private, coed Jesuit high school, St. Ignatius College Prep was founded in 1869.
New allegations of child abuse are being levelled against Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican’s financial chief and the most senior figure in the Australian Catholic church.
Fairfax Media has reported claims contained in a new book, Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, that he sexually abused two choirboys at St Patrick’s cathedral after becoming archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.
The author Louise Milligan first flagged these claims on the ABC’s 7.30 Report in July last year. But according to Fairfax Milligan’s book, to be released on Monday, contains details of the accusations that have not been made public before.
After the 7.30 Report Pell accused the ABC of conducting a “scandalous smear campaign.”
Cardinal Pell’s office issued a statement on Saturday saying the cardinal had “not been notified by the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions or Victoria police of the status of their investigations, which have been underway since at least February 2016.”
“Cardinal Pell will not seek to interfere in the course of justice by responding to the allegations made by Melbourne University Press (publisher of Milligan’s book) and media outlets today, other than to restate that any allegations of child abuse made against him are completely false,” the statement said.
“He repeats his vehement and consistent denials of any and all such accusations, and stands by all the evidence he has given to the royal commission.”
The boys, students at St Kevin’s College, sang in the cathedral choir and were allegedly abused by the archbishop in a room somewhere in the precincts of the cathedral. They left the choir and the school shortly afterwards.
Milligan claims one of the choirboys died of a drug overdose in 2014. His mother was subsequently told by the second boy that they had been abused by Pell when they were teenagers at the cathedral.
Milligan writes that both spoke to the Sano taskforce established to investigate allegations that emerged during a parliamentary inquiry in Victoria and the later royal commission into child abuse.
Pell has now been accused of abusing boys at three stages of his career: as a seminarian, a priest and as archbishop of Melbourne.
He has denied all these allegations on a number of occasions. No charges have ever been laid against him in relation to them. The cardinal, prefect of the secretariat for the economy at the Vatican, has stated that he willingly co-operated with the detectives of the Victoria police when they interviewed him in Rome in October last year.
Sano has also investigated allegations that as a young priest Pell abused boys in the swimming pool of his hometown Ballarat. Pell also denies these allegations.
Milligan writes that Pell and his defenders have been able to “bat off or gloss over” the swimming pool allegations by casting them as “horseplay or a bit of rough and tumble … The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful hypocrisy.”
Citing ill health, Pell declined to return to Australia to give evidence to the royal commission in person last year and instead gave evidence by videolink from Rome. In February this year the Australian senate called on the cardinal to return home “to assist the Victorian police and office of public prosecutions with their investigation into these matters.”
Pell dismissed the parliamentary resolution as “an interference on the part of the Senate in the due process of the Victoria Police investigation.”