All Souls Catholic School teacher fired over same-sex relationship
Maggie Barton’s love for All Souls Catholic School extended beyond the walls of her Englewood classroom.
The 32-year-old technology teacher coached All Souls’ basketball team, helped create the school yearbook, ran lights and sound for school assemblies and musicals, DJed school dances and — among her favorite activities — played guitar with the choir during Mass.
“That’s one part of the faith that I always felt most connected with — worshiping through music,” Barton said. “It’s part of who I am and the music I love. I love how comforting it was… is… was. ‘Was’ is where I’m at right now.”
Love — or intolerance to love — is what got Barton fired last month from the Catholic school community in which she’d thrived for six years, she said Monday.
On Jan. 25, Barton said, she received a call from the All Souls Catholic School principal saying the Archdiocese of Denver had obtained a photo of Barton and another woman kissing. The Archdiocese, the principal told Barton, would be reaching out and Barton would be placed under paid leave pending “an investigation.”
She was fired the next day.
Staff from All Souls Catholic School did not respond to requests for comment.
The Denver Post first contacted the Denver Archdiocese on Jan. 26 to inquire about accounts an All Souls teacher had been fired for being in a same-sex relationship. Kelly Clark, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said that was inaccurate, but confirmed Barton was no longer a teacher at All Souls. She declined to elaborate, calling it a personnel matter.
After the LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado publicized Barton’s firing late last week, the Archdiocese issued a statement saying it had been necessary to terminate Barton because she didn’t abide by the contract all Catholic school teachers sign pledging to refrain from conducting themselves in a manner contrary to the teachings of the church.
“In this case, the school was made aware that one of their teachers is in a same-sex relationship, and after discussing this with the teacher, learned that she intends to persist in violating the standards she previously agreed to uphold,” the Denver Archdiocese said in its statement. “An employee who violates any of the terms of their employment agreement knows from the outset of their work that they can’t remain employed at the school.
“That a Catholic school employee experiences same-sex attraction in itself is not a cause for termination,” the Archdiocese said. “However, all Catholic school employees in the Archdiocese of Denver are expected to abide by the terms of the agreement they signed and commitments they make.”
“A very emotional conversation”
Barton, who came out as a lesbian while a student at Texas Catholic school St. Edward’s University, said she doesn’t know how a photo of herself and her partner kissing found its way to the Archdiocese, considering she didn’t have any pictures of the two of them posted on her social media — because she feared this very outcome.
Shortly after her principal called, Barton said she received a call from a man with the Archdiocese of Denver who identified himself as “an information gatherer.”
The caller asked Barton if she considered herself Catholic, whether she was aware of the Church’s stance on same-sex attraction and acting on same-sex attraction, and if she felt she embodied the values of the Catholic Church.
“I felt very uncomfortable with the questions being asked of me during the conversation, and I also felt like the person interviewing me felt uncomfortable,” Barton said. “It was a very emotional conversation for me.”
The following day, Barton said she received a call from her principal saying the Archdiocese had decided to terminate her.
“The fault is in the hands of the Archdiocese in me losing my job,” Barton said. “I have felt nothing but support from the community as well as workers and leadership within the school. I understand the school’s hands are tied because they are under the Archdiocese. I also feel if the decision was just left to the school, I would be at work right now.”
Barton grew up attending Catholic schools whose warm communities reminded her of All Souls. Even after she came out, Barton said she was met with support from her Catholic friends and family.
After college, Barton first tried a career in web development but was encouraged to try teaching by her older brother, a teacher.
“I fell in love with teaching,” Barton said. “My big moment where I knew this is what I’m supposed to be doing is having the feeling of teaching a student something for the first time and seeing it in their eyes, this aha moment. I had some instrumental teachers in my life who helped form who I am today and to have the opportunity to be that person for future students is unbeatable.”
“A message of intolerance”
Barton’s job loss has caused a crisis of faith.
The same week Barton was fired, Pope Francis voiced support for the LGBTQ community, saying in an interview that homosexuality isn’t a crime and urging Catholic bishops to welcome LGBTQ people into the church.
”I’m at a loss right now with how the leader of the Catholic Church is saying things that feel very supportive of who I am as a person and then to have someone at the level of the Archdiocese saying something that feels the exact opposite and almost contradictory to what the Pope is saying,” Barton said. “I’m confused. What am I supposed to do with that?”
The Archdiocese of Denver and Archbishop Samuel Aquila have drawn criticism for discriminatory actions toward the LGBTQ community, including the Archdiocese’s guidance to Catholic school administrators — reported by The Post in November — that they should not enroll transgender students and that they should treat gay parents differently than heterosexual couples.
“We are disappointed to see the Denver Archdiocese continue to take this harmful stance towards LGBTQ+ Coloradans,” said Nadine Bridges, executive director of One Colorado, in a statement. “Faith communities, including schools, should be a place for love and support. Denying admission to LGBTQ+ students, excluding LGBTQ+ parents from full participation, and, in this case, terminating LGBTQ+ teachers for no other cause than for who they love alienates and discriminates against LGBTQ+ Coloradans of Catholic faith.”
The Archdiocese, in its statement on Barton’s firing, says the church believes that “sexual expression contributes to human flourishing as it is integrated with a view toward its natural ends: faithful, covenantal love between a man and a woman, and a self-gift ordered toward procreation and joyful unity between spouses. Someone persisting in a lifestyle contrary to these views will find it difficult to teach them to our students.”
Barton said the message the Denver Archdiocese is sending by her firing is wrong.
“They’re sending a message of intolerance,” Barton said.
In the wake of Barton’s firing, parents and coworkers at All Souls and other Catholic communities reached out to Barton with messages of love and support.
Parents started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $20,000 toward easing Barton’s financial stress as she looks for a new teaching job. One parent took the school’s logo and photoshopped a rainbow into it, writing “All Souls for all” and sent it to Barton, she said.
Some parents have asked Barton how they’re supposed to tell their kids what happened.
“I said to tell them the truth,” Barton said, tearing up as she talked about missing her students. “I think shying away from those conversations is doing a disservice to the education of children. I want my students to keep learning. A lot of these issues come from a place of ignorance. There are a lot of supporters of the Catholic faith who would agree that this is not OK.”
Get more Colorado news by signing up for our Mile High Roundup email newsletter.
Source: Read Full Article