SGSU Calls for Change Within Catholic Church

SGSU is taking a stand against the unjust dismissal of former Eastside Catholic Vice Principal Mark Zmuda through a poignant letter that calls for change within the Catholic Church.

The letter was sent to the Eastside Catholic Board of Trustees, Seattle Archbishop Peter Sartain, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Pope Francis earlier today. The intrepid effort has attracted national attention and earned approximately 650 signatures.

As expressed in our editorial last week, we, The Spectator, commend SGSU for speaking out against social injustice and actively upholding the values upon which Seattle University is built. We publish the letter here in solidarity with SGSU, Zmuda and the students of Eastside Catholic:

Dear Eastside Catholic Board of Trustees, Archbishop Peter Sartain, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and His Holiness Pope Francis,

Two months ago, the dismissal of the Vice Principal of Eastside Catholic Mark Zmuda for marrying his partner acutely posed the question of whether Eastside Catholic would remove an employee from their job for marrying someone of the same-sex.

The students, parents, and alumni of Eastside Catholic, with their response to their school’s dismissal of Mr. Zmuda, answered the question. The day Eastside students learned of the dismissal they chanted “Change the Church!” Alumni and parents have called for the reinstatement of Mr. Zmuda. Students from Seattle Prep, Holy Names, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and many others have added their voices to the swell of support for not only Mr. Z, as he is known to the students of Eastside, but to the growing clamor of voices inside and outside the Catholic Church that consider now the time for open dialogue and reconsideration.

Today, we the undersigned student body of Seattle University, a Catholic, Jesuit school dedicated to the mission of creating a more just and humane world, respectfully join that conversation. While not all of us may identify as Catholic, nor religious, we express our solidarity with and our support of those students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff of Eastside Catholic who wish to see Mr. Z reinstated in his position as Vice Principal. Seattle University has many openly gay staff and faculty. Their presence invites our entire community into a dialogue centered first and foremost on affirmation, inclusion, and invitation to greater understanding.

Notice above, the students of Eastside were not calling for the dismantling or dismissal of the Catholic Church, they were calling for it to change. At no point in our Catholic-Jesuit education at Seattle University have we been taught to deny employment to someone because of their desire to marry the person they love. Similarly, during His ministry, Jesus never denied anyone the ability to follow Him or work to advance His teachings. Thomas Aquinas articulated a theory of natural law, but not of how it relates to employment in the Catholic Church. We understand the Church will wrestle with the question of same-sex marriage for years to come. Today, all we ask our fellow Catholic school to consider is to love and treat others as Christ loved and treated others.

A statement issued by Eastside’s Board of Trustees said, “Eastside Catholic will remain a Catholic school and will support the teachings of the Catholic Church.” We, the students of Seattle University, believe unequivocally that we are a catholic school, we do support the teachings of the Church, and we work and live with many outstanding people just like Mr. Z. Therefore, we respectfully challenge the decision of Eastside Catholic’s Trustees to not rehire Mr. Z and we contend that he poses a vital question to the Church that we, the Archdiocese of Seattle, and all those engaged in debates like this around the country, must answer with a spirit of love, unity, and equality.

The ask today is small. However, a far more encompassing and open dialogue must follow. Therefore, we conclude by asking this question to the Catholic Church: What would it mean to espouse a Catholicism that is open and affirming to all, that engages and struggles with the meaning of the word catholic, universal? We believe the answer to this question is not only vital to the moment, but to the future of the Catholic Church in the United States and beyond.
Thank you for your attention, consideration, and action.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Eric Chalmers, Student Body President
Mallory Barnes-Ohlson, Executive Vice President

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