Philadelphia's Catholic leader praised a Main Line Catholic school for its "common sense" firing of a popular teacher because of her sexual orientation.
Margie Winters says she lost her job last month as Waldron Mercy Academy's religious instruction director even though she had disclosed her same-sex marriage in 2007.
The firing drew plenty of criticism as parents attended a meeting to support Winters. But, the decision to let Winters go wasn't a tough one, said Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.
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"Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief," said Chaput in a statement released Monday. "There's nothing complicated or controversial in this. It's a simple matter of honesty."
The church opposes gay marriage, although Pope Francis has said of homosexuals: "Who am I to judge?"
More than 200 families from Waldron Mercy gathered last week to show their support and gratitude for Winters, who had been an educator at the Merion Station school for eight years.
Chaput responded to those concerned by leaving little wiggle room on where he stands on the issue.
"I'm very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. They've shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon."
Principal Nell Stetser told parents that the school recognizes the archbishop's authority on religious teaching. However, Chaput spokesman Ken Gavin has said the archdiocese "did not influence" Waldron's decision.
In corresponding letters sent to school staff and parents, the Sisters of Mercy agreed with the decision to no renew Winters' contract.
"When a school is called to make a decision such as this, it challenges us as a faith community at the deepest levels," said Patricia Vetrano, Sisters of Mercy Mid-Atlantic president. "The leadership of Waldron Mercy has acted in accord with the school’s fundamental Catholic identity."
Vetrano called the decision to let go of Winters "final, although very painful" and said the Sisters respect that not everyone agrees with the firing.