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There are good Catholics. There is no good Catholicism.

Kristen Ostendorf was a teacher at a Catholic school in Minnesota for 18 years. Then one day, in a workshop with 120 other teachers, she openly confessed how she lived her life.

It wasn’t planned. It was a very surreal moment when I heard myself saying the things I tried not to say. And I was at once terrified and really glad and proud. I didn’t just say, “I’m gay, I’m in a relationship with a woman, and I’m happy,” and sit down. That really wasn’t the point of what I was saying. It was, “This is my prayer for all of us: That we mean what we do.” Then I sat down and I thought, “I wonder what’s going to happen next?” I hadn’t considered [the repercussions], but I didn’t know I was going to say what I said.

Take a guess what happened next. Go on, I bet you can do it, no problem.

The next day, not even after any significant deliberation, but the very next day, she was called into the office and asked to resign. She refused, so they fired her.

This is the same school that recently compelled their president to resign when it was discovered that he was in a long-term relationship with another man.

Ms Ostendorf seems like a good person with a great deal of personal integrity, yet, unfortunately, much of her discussion in that article is about how Catholicism is such a positive, affirming force in her life, and how she loves the scripture and has been inspired by it.

The evidence says otherwise. I think too many people look into religion and see a mirror, reflecting their good values and their personal aspirations, and they fail to see that they’re holding up a burden and a distraction and a poisonous delusion, and that, as good people, they’d be even greater when free of that ugliness. They need to realize that they are not the church, and the church is not them — and that separating oneself from an edifice of lies is actually a virtue.

Comments

  1. says

    I am reminded of someone who said somewhere:

    People aren’t religious because they are stupid; rather, religion is a parasite of the mind that makes people do stupid things and think stupid thoughts and, worst of all, believe that freeing themselves of superstition would make them less human and less able to cope with reality, when the exact opposite is true.

  2. Helena Bowles says

    Without trying to pretend the UK is perfect when it comes to gay rights, this action actually would be illegal here.

    Of course, over here that just means the bigots would have to spend bit more effort trying to trump up a reason for the dismissal – poor performance would be a likely ploy – probably after a campaign of low key harassment that creates a situation where performance would actually slide or the teacher leaves voluntarily. Although under that latter circumstance she might be able to sue for constructive dismissal.

    I’d like to say she’s better out of it but I’d guess this is something that could follow her throughout her career. No bloody wonder the closet exists!

  3. gingerbaker says

    Are Catholic schools exempt from all employment laws?

    Because what Kristen Ostendorf admitted was that she was a sinner. Are not all sins immoral to the Catholic church? She was not allowed to have a female lover, according to the church, because of her gender – she is a female. Is gender discrimination not proscribed under employment law, even for a Catholic school?

  4. borax says

    You know there is something wrong with an organization when it will fire adults for having a loving relationship with someone of their own gender, but protect a sexual predator.

  5. says

    You know there is something wrong with an organization when it will fire adults for having a loving relationship with someone of their own gender, but protect a sexual predator.

    Well you have to understand that when you molest a child, it’s not *your* fault. It’s the fault of the sexual revolution and gay rights! If all those pesky homogays would just keep QUIET, well, no priest would ever consider being gay with a child! So, get rid of all the gays, and no more molestations! It’s really quite simple.

    So, since it’s the fault of the gays and not of the pederast, you have to forgive the pederast and move him somewhere that no one knows his history. Then, find every gay avaible and destroy them.

  6. borax says

    @4 gingerbaker. I don’t know if it applies is this case, but many Catholic schools classify their teachers as clergy because the teachers also lead prayers. It gives the school an easy way of firing anyone who upsets the status quo.

  7. sisu says

    She’s pretty clear about why she was fired –

    There is a document that we who work at a Catholic school sign called “Justice In Employment” in which we agree to not publicly act or speak against the Church or its teachings. I suspect my eight words (“I’m gay, in a relationship with a woman”) broke the rules spelled out by that document.

    I’m not an employment lawyer. I do know that in MN, we’re an employment “at will” state, meaning that your employer can fire you at any time, for any non-prohibited reason. Presumably breaking one of the rules in the doc she’s required to sign would be a reasonable reason for termination.

    The question I don’t know the answer to is how that squares with Minnesota’s human rights act, which does prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. There’s a weaselly exemption for “bona fide religious organizations,” but the FAQ says “only if religion or sexual orientation is a bona fide qualification for a particular job.” Given that she’d taught there for 18 years and was presumably in good standing, I fail to see how her sexuality was at all relevant or a “bona fide qualification” for her teaching.

    tl;dr not my field but I hope she gets a lawyer and sues the hell out of them.

  8. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    much of her discussion in that article is about how Catholicism is such a positive, affirming force in her life, and how she loves the scripture and has been inspired by it.

    Compartmentalization, it’s what’s for dinner.

  9. borax says

    Tashiliciously Shriked, You forgot the part where the kids are trying to seduce the priests. Damn those kids these days.What with their sexual revolutions and loud music and trapper keepers and shoes that have lights in them.

  10. tbp1 says

    I think too many people look into religion and see a mirror, reflecting their good values and their personal aspirations, and they fail to see that they’re holding up a burden and a distraction and a poisonous delusion, and that, as good people, they’d be even greater when free of that ugliness.

    This.

    This applies to so many of my friends and relatives, including the minister that officiated at our wedding (a friend from long before she was ordained).

  11. bhjoellund says

    Fun fact (perhaps): Kristen means christian in Danish, and possibly other Scandinavian languages

  12. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    I’m reminded of a wedding I went to a few years ago.

    The couple I had known in undergraduate and were good friends of mine. They’re both culturally Catholic and the ceremony was held at one of those churches whose architecture is breathtaking – and it went very well with the way that the invitation said “Renaissance and Medieval garb is encouraged.”

    During the service, the priest went on and on and on about the need for them to “remain open to the possibility of children.”

    Which is to say, he ranted about babymaking and how that was absolutely key to marriage. Later, I was chatting with the bride’s sister, and she said that before the ceremony, the priest made her (and other relatives) sign statements indicating that they believed that the couple was intending to have children. The priest was unwilling to perform the ceremony or allow it to be held in the church otherwise.

    Now, that’s disgusting.

    Making it worse is the fact that the bride has a malformed pelvis (she walks with difficulty – she had her father walk her down the aisle so that he could help her walk and she wouldn’t have to use her canes, and the slow, almost-hugging walk of the couple post-wedding was similarly “he’s literally helping her walk”) and suffers from severe lupus. They do want to have children – but their intention is to give it a very short window of trying, before she goes back on her medications (which are class 1 teratogens) and birth control and they’ll adopt.

  13. stevem says

    But they HAD TO fire her! She’s a teacher, and by telling her students she’s gay, she’s recruiting them to the gay world. They can’t have teachers leading kids “astray” [to the “darkside”], Catholics are here to “save” people; gays are “sinners”. They’re not firing her for *being* gay, but for *admitting* being gay (recruiting). She’s saying “I’m gay, so can you.” Catholics “hate the sin, but love the sinner”. She’s not *bad*, just doing a *bad thing*: teaching gayness.

    [blecchh, excuse me for trying to “channel” the Catholic “mindset”]

  14. AMM says

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t really care about people’s religion as such. If they like sitting in a beautiful building and smelling incense while some guy in white robes reads from an old book — or if they like sitting naked in a circle around a candle in the woods and invoking unseen spirits, what’s it to me? In the end, we all have our little delusions we need to help us get through the day.

    What I care about is how people treat other people. The core of my “religion” is recognizing and respecting other people’s humanity. The one mortal sin in my theology is treating someone — anyone — like they don’t matter, like you can do what you want with them. (I include awful people like Hitler and Idi Amin in that, too.)

    And that’s what makes me see the Catholic Church as evil. Treating people like so many pieces of bric-a-brac, dividing not just non-Catholics, but Catholics as well into two groups: real people and hellfire fodder, this is not just priests or whoever acting badly on their own, it’s church policy. It’s their theology. From the pope on down, they’re into human sacrifice to the gods of power and theology. “The Church” and all its rules and inhumanities are far more important than Ms. Osterdorf’s humanity. Or the humanity of the children molested by priests. Or the souls of the men and women in abusive marriages who they tell that God requires them to stay and suffer.

    I feel the same way about the atheist organizations that support misogyny. Or the Communist Party, which, wherever it goes, insists that it’s a virtue to sacrifice innocent people, even its supporters, for The Greater Good (of Teh Party.)

    Why should I care about “incorrect” beliefs? We’re all full of them. I care what you do, especially what you do to the people around you.

  15. Brother Yam says

    Recently, I met a pleasant couple when going to the Minnesota State Fair. These women are very active in their church, but cannot mention that they are gay and living with one another. I was astounded at how someone could work with an organization that prohibits their very relationship and then go on and tell me how important work is being done by “The Christian Left” in civil rights and Christianity is a force for good.

    The mind boggles…

  16. Larry says

    So do all of the children she has taught over the previous 18 years require some sort of gay exorcism because, obviously, her being gay then must have impacted their lives as negatively as the school believes she will impact her current and any future students.

    Or is it only the fact that she has publicly announced herself that causes Teh Gay to do its work.

    My opinion is the school has damaged itself by firing a qualified and presumably popular teacher. Reason #135910 why the catholic church is dying.

  17. tbp1 says

    @Esteleth, #15: I had a similar experience several years ago when two of my former students married each other. I literally hadn’t been to a Catholic wedding since the 70s (my first and only up until that point) and all I remember about that was all the kneeling (not a factor in my religious heritage). My wife and I were both shocked and more than a little creeped out by how much time the priest spent talking about children. So far, no signs of kids from them, by the way (I presume by choice, but don’t know for sure).

    On a not totally unrelated note, one of our nieces got married a few years ago, and the minister gave a long rant about the wife submitting to the husband, yadda, yadda, yadda. I think my wife was on the verge of walking out when he finally moved on to a different topic. Naturally, our niece is actually a much stronger personality than her husband and if there’s a dominant partner, it’s her.

  18. BeyondUnderstanding says

    Of course they had to fire her. It’s much more difficult to demonize and other homosexuals when they’re openly in your community. Those kids might get the impression that LGBT peoples can be nice, and (dare I say) normal individuals. Gasp!

  19. David Marjanović says

    I was astounded at how someone could work with an organization that prohibits their very relationship and then go on and tell me how important work is being done by “The Christian Left” in civil rights and Christianity is a force for good.

    The mind boggles…

    It’s very easy to understand: Such people believe the organization has misunderstood the faith, but it’ll change one day*, or perhaps even they can change it from within. Quitting the organization would just throw out the Baby Jesus with the bathwater, they tell themselves and keep tithing.

    * Arc of history bending towards justice & stuff. Easy to believe if you already believe in an omnibenevolent god.

  20. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    @fabianoccacin 25

    Forgive me, but is there any part of the bible that forbids female homosexuality?

    I do not think so. But then, the bible more-or-less defines sex as something that a man does to someone else. Women are not sexual, except when they’re lusty temptresses.

    Random aside: I went to a wedding awhile back that featured two brides (and no grooms, just to be clear). There was a reading from the book of Ruth. To wit, this one:

    Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

    Now, in the text, that is said by Ruth to her mother-in-law, Naomi. But that quotation is used not uncommonly in religious-and-lesbian contexts.

  21. Esteleth, statistically significant to p ≤ 0.001 says

    Though, personally, I’m a fan of the Lolcat translation of those verses.

    Ruthie sez “Noes, do not want goes; ‘n yu can’t maek meh. Ai follohs yu an sleeps nexta yu. An Yur kittehs r mai kittehs an yur Ceiling Cat mien tew kthx. “Ai dies wif you, ‘n if dem putting yu in litterbocks, dem putting me in litterbocks. An Whatevurs Ceiling Cat duz to yu, Ceiling Cat duz to me, srsly, even if ai not wif yu, ‘n stuffs.”

  22. says

    @Esteleth #26

    the bible more-or-less defines sex as something that a man does to someone else

    Something else, according to some interpretations

    Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

    Now I cannot help imagining it as sung by Tarja

  23. notsont says

    I’m probably in the minority here, but I don’t really care about people’s religion as such. If they like sitting in a beautiful building and smelling incense while some guy in white robes reads from an old book — or if they like sitting naked in a circle around a candle in the woods and invoking unseen spirits, what’s it to me? In the end, we all have our little delusions we need to help us get through the day.

    You are not in the minority, in fact I doubt anyone here would care if anyone wanted to anything ridiculous, people only care when they try to force their beliefs on others. Unfortunately forcing beliefs on others is the sole purpose of most religions. Sure in modern day they try to dress it up as something else, but the core of most religions is evangelical, even if its just to keep the ones who are born into it under its thumb.

  24. Ichthyic says

    I do know that in MN, we’re an employment “at will” state, meaning that your employer can fire you at any time, for any non-prohibited reason.

    wow. things are so different here in NZ. employees actually have the right to challenger their terminations in court, and there are articles nearly every day of an employee that has successfully sued for wrongful termination. employers do NOT have the right to fire someone on a whim here.

    Of course the current conservative (read: stupid) national government lead by Key is trying to “fix” that, but for now, it’s quite an interesting difference.

  25. Ichthyic says

    people only care when they try to force their beliefs on others.

    … or try to pretend their delusions are real.

  26. Ichthyic says

    Why should I care about “incorrect” beliefs? We’re all full of them. I care what you do, especially what you do to the people around you.

    you’re being dishonest with yourself, and with those around you, when you imply that beliefs do not relate to actions.

  27. consciousness razor says

    In the end, we all have our little delusions we need to help us get through the day.

    Is that so? Why would we all need delusions to help us?

    Why should I care about “incorrect” beliefs?

    Because they’re the reasons for “incorrect” actions.

    We’re all full of them.

    Perhaps we all are, but that doesn’t imply we need them.

    I care what you do, especially what you do to the people around you.

    Then what sense would it make to say you don’t care about others’ beliefs? Do you not care enough to even find out whether your own beliefs and actions might be wrong?

  28. says

    Helena @3

    Yes.

    I’ve recently been shoved back into the closet because the job I was out at discriminated me out of employment and out of a chunk of my sanity. And that door was barred from the outside by trying to be out in interviews and having it mysteriously go so much worse than when I performed incorrect gender dysphoria for the hiring committees.

    The closet is carefully taught and enforced with blood and pain.

    And it is vile that it is so and that many have to choose between honesty and the ability to fucking eat.

  29. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Sorry, but are these people really being good as Catholics? There are good people who think that they are Catholics, but only doing good when they are being human beings.

  30. Azuma Hazuki says

    Fuck the Catholic church. I was raised Catholic. I am a lesbian. It was sheer luck that I was able to repress all the hellfire and brimstone pornography through my formative years; had it burst out at 14 instead of 24 I’d be dead now instead of just horribly mentally damaged.

    Fuck that horrible pile of corruption. They can’t even get their own founder’s teachings right. Fuck that sulfurous, stinking sewer of greed and evil and torture. May the hierarchy fall asleep to the echoing-in-time screams of the torture victims of the inquisition, dream of themselves writhing and howling and thrashing in the lowest circles of their own hell, and wake to the smoldering of their consciences, assuming they have any. May the weight of over 1700 years of tyranny, greed, corruption, torture, and barefaced evil crush the church like a rotten egg and may I see it happen within our lifetime.

    tl;dr: fuck the Catholic Church.

  31. notsont says

    … or try to pretend their delusions are real.

    (I’m only replying because i’m kinda compelled to sorta) That’s the thing I am sure somewhere there are people who believe all kinds of delusions and they only affect themselves. But yea most people either through direct or indirect action affect all of us by believing in the indefensible. Even if they don’t intend harm to others.

  32. knut7777 says

    Reminds me of the Reilly case at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, which forever sealed my contempt for institutional catholicism. In the late ’70s a college staffer visited a doctor for some sort of std. Someone in the doctor’s office notified the dean’s office that they had a homosexual on the staff. He was duly fired. An uproar occurred, more among the faculty than the students. The Reillys, two untenured instructors in the theology department who were husband and wife, wrote a defense of the staffer and condemned the gross violation of privacy and the institutional callousness of the firing. Their contracts were not renewed. I had been a scholarship student there, but that was the worst of several homophobic actions that I had observed among faculty and students, and contrived to finish out my degree at other schools in the area.

    Every time I am called to donate money to the school I tell the caller, usually a naive student, exactly why they will never get a dime of support from me.

  33. David Marjanović says

    Though, personally, I’m a fan of the Lolcat translation of those verses.

    Not that I’ve read the whole thing either way, but I’m probably a fan of the Lolcat translation of all verses. Ecclesiastes 1 is just sublime.

    employees actually have the right to challenger their terminations in court […] employers do NOT have the right to fire someone on a whim here.

    That’s actually normal. The US is the odd one out.