LGBTQ rights and the Catholic Church


Portal of the Church of Pilgrims, in Washington, DC, with LGBTQ banner. Photo Wikimedia Commons.

Samantha Chopp and Diana Anos 

This past September, Benet Academy decided to hire Amanda Kammes as their girls varsity lacrosse coach, but then retracted the offer after Kammes listed her wife as her emergency contact. This action was followed by a public outcry from students, parents, and alumni calling for Benet to rethink the decision. Benet did change the decision and once again offered Kammes the position which she accepted. 

Kammes issued a statement where she expressed her gratitude towards the greater Benet community. That being said, after a meeting at the end of September with the Benet Academy Board of Directors, Abbot Austin G. Murphy of Procopius Abbey published a statement saying he was “deeply troubled by the school’s decision which calls into question its adherence to the doctrines of the Catholic faith.”

The Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriages. The Catechism of the Catholic Church in Section I. The Nature of Marriage and its Inalienable Characteristics states, “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.” The Catechism goes on to say, “Sacred Scripture condemns homosexual acts “as a serious depravity… (cf. Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10).”

Although the Catechism has a decidedly unfavorable attitude towards same-sex marriage, the Vatican stated that those with “homosexual tendencies . . . must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” 

Nazareth Academy’s Principal Therese Hawkins said that the situation regarding the Benet Academy lacrosse coach had an issue with communication from the very beginning as there were a variety of responses from leading figures in the school. 

In regards to Nazareth’s policies about LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff, Hawkins stands by the Church’s and Sisters of St. Joseph’s beliefs. “In both of those regards, both the Church and the Sisters clearly say that people who are LGBTQ are human beings, and they deserve love and compassion.” 

Hawkins emphasized the school’s support of LGBTQ students, “Every single human being is born in the image and likeness of God and every single human being- no matter your race, your ethnicity, your gender, your sexual orientation, your ability – all of those people, every human being, deserves dignity, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and tolerance, and that has always been a part of who Nazareth is,” said Hawkins. She cited the Nazareth LGBTQ and Allies Affinity Group as a way for students to feel supported and to support others. 

Although change in institutions that are centuries old can be slow, Hawkins thinks it’s something that continues to evolve. “I hope that as we look back on this, we will see the evolution of this in the Catholic church,” said Hawkins.

Junior Liz Selover is a member of Naz’s LGBTQ and Allies Affinity Group. She believes that Naz has a supportive environment for all, but more can be done. Selover said, “Naz can also try to educate both students and parents about why it’s important to respect others regardless of their identity.” 

Selover thinks that the Benet situation is an example of religion-based discrimination that a lot of people face today. She also thinks that this situation proves society’s move towards more progressive beliefs when it comes to the number of people who opposed and protested Benet’s original decision. 

Selover is passionate about representation in the school environment and said that it is extremely important because it tells students that they are not alone. She also stated that representation can have dramatic impacts on students who are still questioning their identity or who do not live in a supportive home.   

Sister of Saint Joseph and Academic Dean, Sister Terry Middendorf had a mixed reaction to the Benet situation. “Many of us were pleased by the principal’s decision and surprised by Abbott Murphy’s response a few days later,” said Middendorf. She also mentioned that the situation had required the Sisters to pray and have a very firm understanding of what they believed and what they would do in a similar situation. 

As far as the hiring process at Nazareth goes, Middendorf made it clear that sexual orientation does not have an impact on whether an individual would be hired or not. She said, “there are all kinds of questions that you don’t ask a person because it would be cause for discrimination, and I would think that would be one of those questions.” 

Middendorf emphasized that as a Catholic school, Nazareth should be more tolerant, more respectful, and more open. She reminds us, too, that Nazareth’s themes for the year often revolve around the very idea of unity.