"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

A sense of fair play

carlson CHRIS


Students at Bellevue’s Eastside Catholic High School are in the process of learning the old lesson about how unfair authority can appear. In the process, though, they may turn the tables and provide Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain their own “teaching moment.”

As most parents know, each generation has an evolving sense of “fair play.” Youth is quick to spot hypocrisy and utter the phrase all parents hear too soon: “that’s not fair!”

All authority figures, whether parents, politicians, priests or the police, end up replying with some version of “life’s not fair, kid,” or “that’s tough, that’s the way life is.” And the young respond with “That doesn’t make it right,” or “That’s not the way it should be.”

Part of the problem is each generation believes it has a superior sense of justice as well as an expectation that justice is truly blind to the inequities created by money and power. Infusing this expectation is a concurrent sense that most issues are black or white with consistency prevailing, not gray and inconsistent.

The issue at hand is the forced resignation by the Archdiocese just before the Christmas break of Mark Zmuda, a beloved teacher, administrator and coach for the past 13 years. By all accounts he is a competent, professional person performing well.

His “mistake” (and sin in the eyes of the Church) was that of availing himself of his right under Washington law to marry his same-sex partner last summer. Some one complained to the Archdiocese that this was a violation of his contract which requires conformance with Catholic teachings.

Before this matter has run its course the Eastside Catholic students may indeed extract the proverbial pound of flesh by creating continuing publicity which at a minimum will embarrass an Archbishop they believe should have known better than to step into this particular cow pie.

While probably aware of the slippery slope he was about to step onto, and also aware that Pope Francis’ reluctance to “judge” homosexuality would surely be cited by critics, the Archbishop clearly felt that a “don’t ask, don’t tell” implied tolerance was not an option. While the issue is a divisive one, Church teaching is clear regarding marriage as between a man and a woman with a primary purpose of propagating the species.

As recently as January 1st Pope Francis reiterated his personal support for the traditional Church view in a joint interview with the Cardinal of Malta.

Defending the school (And the archdiocese) was attorney Mike Patterson, who more often has represented the archdiocese in lawsuits growing out of charges of priestly abuse of minors in past years. Both he and the Archbishop should know that an issue like same-sex marriage is NOT a mere matter of contract law or historic Church doctrine, but rather a matter defined by the perception created by a liberal media.

The Archdiocese nonetheless has now opened itself to other questions reflecting contradictions and inconsistencies. Is the archdiocese going to force the resignation of its Catholic employees who are divorced but remarried outside the Church (i.e., no annulment)? Or what about Catholic female teachers who have practiced or currently are utilizing some form of birth control other than Vatican roulette?

One suspects students at Eastside Catholic, as well as other Catholic schools around the northwest, whether it is Jesuit High in Portland, or DeSales in Walla Walla, or Gonzaga Prep in Spokane or Bishop Kelly in Boise, are going to see and seize the opportunity to tweak dioceses everywhere by posing awkward questions and/or holding sympathetic walk-outs of their own.

Youth will be served and before it accedes to authority prevailing simply because time marches on and they move on, youth will extract that pound of flesh.

In the process some student somewhere is going to look both Archbishop Sartain and attorney Patterson in the eye and say “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Share on Facebook