By Darlene White
Catching the headline, “Archdiocese Policy Models Justice in the Workplace” (National Catholic Reporter, 3-20-09), I was eager to see where this piece of heaven was planted. However, I was stunned to learn it was the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese – a place I have been part of most of my 71 years. Just a few of my own experiences provoke this response and both happened within the last five years.
Diocesan officials wiped out an entire staff of a once vibrant justice-seeking inner city parish in Minneapolis. Nothing about that was exemplary . . . more purge than process.
An employee of a suburban parish was fired. She requested a meeting with chancery officials. The officials were lined up but she was denied the presence of even one and instructed to write a letter of voluntary resignation to her parishioners. The purported rationale for this demand was “to avoid confusion among the faithful”! That standard excuse appears with greater frequency these days but is no less of an affront to the intelligence and judgment of adult Catholics!
The author mentions that most employed Americans who work without a contract can be fired “virtually any reason, absent violations of state or federal discrimination statutes”.
In Minnesota, thank God, our Human Rights Ordinance includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. It is interesting that churches and other non- profits are exempted from that injunction. This archdiocese labored tirelessly to make sure that that particular language was part of the ordinance. How secure are our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in this environment. And how sad is that!
Termination ‘for cause’ means whatever ‘the powers’ determine it to be. Their criteria are broader and deeper than the Grand Canyon . . . without the beauty! As a result, there are constant assaults on the freedoms of church employees that other citizens take for granted. Everyday in this archdiocese, hundreds of men and women struggle to lead lives of integrity and service while living and working in an institution that grows more archaic, fear-driven and abusive.
Rigid orthodoxy and authoritarianism are the hallmarks of employer/employee relationships in the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese. Below a veneer of justice is a cesspool of deceit and bullying. There is no reflection of the compassion and liberating spirit of Jesus in this management system!
Among other organizations, Darlene White is a member of Catholic Rainbow Parents, Grandmothers for Peace, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM), and several small Christian communities. She believes patriarchy is the antithesis of the gospel message which requires radical equality and respect all creation. An edited version of this commentary was published as a letter-to-the-editor in the April 17, 2009 issue of the National Catholic Reporter.