School failed to live up to its diversity ideals

Michael Griffin sought a marriage license and was fired.
Michael Griffin sought a marriage license and was fired.
Posted: December 12, 2013

To make clear: Michael Griffin was welcome to teach at Bensalem's Holy Ghost Prep as long as he and his male companion simply lived in sin. Once Griffin told the school principal of his intention to marry, all bets were off. On Friday, the veteran teacher was fired.

Administrators long knew about his relationship, Griffin said, but were comfortable looking the other way. Going public and being legal was too much. It's the Catholic Church's twisted version of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Ironically, had Griffin taught in New Jersey, where he resides and plans to wed, he would be legally protected from discrimination based on his sexual orientation. Almost half of the states have enacted similar laws.

Pennsylvania, you will be shocked to learn, is not among them, though there is pending legislation. An earlier effort failed to make it out of committee.

Of course, Griffin cannot marry in Pennsylvania, which has a ban on gay marriage, currently being challenged in the courts - along with so many other antediluvian laws.

A Holy Ghost alumnus and teacher of a dozen years, Griffin wrote on Facebook: "My heart aches over everything that has happened. Holy Ghost helped form me to be the person that I am today."

Griffin, 35, also posted the school's mission statement, which seems cruelly out of touch with his dismissal. The school motto is "One Heart and One Mind," though the institution appears to now be of several.

Holy Ghost's philosophy promotes "a particular concern for the poor and oppressed," and that "One Heart and One Mind leads to the total educational experience: diversity in thought, openness to new possibilities, impetus for change."

Well, good luck with that.

"Clearly, we were a couple," Griffin said of his 12-year relationship with partner Vincent Giannetto. "We both wear rings, and we were together. The alums and donors, they could all see that."

The couple attended parties at the priests' residence, and sat with the principal at a school fund-raiser. A Holy Ghost administrator attended the reception for the couple's 2008 civil union, which suggests a curious inconsistency of tolerance.

Perhaps that should be the school and church motto.

"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?" Pope Francis said earlier this year. He has criticized the church for being "obsessed" with homosexuality, birth control, and abortion over the needs of the poor and oppressed and being "a home for all." In September, the pontiff said: "The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials."

Making Griffin's union legal and doing what the Catholic Church has long prescribed for heterosexuals proved to be his downfall, a paradox that does not seem close to being remedied.

Indeed, the president of the National Association of Catholic School Teachers said she would counsel gay and lesbian teachers not to go public with marriage plans. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 15 LGBT teachers have been fired from Catholic schools during the last two years.

Griffin plans to find his next teaching job in New Jersey at either a public or private non-Catholic school. "I know there are protections for me there," he said. "After what I've been through, I think I would like to work in a place where I know my job is secure."

Pennsylvania, birthplace of liberty but not granter of security.

As one friend posted on Griffin's Facebook page: "Sorry to hear this bro. Ur an awesome teacher, if the school can't see that God can."


kheller@phillynews.com

215-854-2586 @kheller

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