Saint Dominic teaches about 230 girls in grades seven through 12.
JERSEY CITY — A Clifton woman says she was fired from the all-girl Saint Dominic Academy in Jersey City after she shared with her students a letter from a Catholic leader who blames gay priests for the "rot" and "corruption" of the Catholic Church.
Joan Simon, 55, told The Jersey Journal she gave the school's juniors and seniors a copy of the letter in September and, upon her return following a leave on Oct.
9, was fired by the school's dean of students.
"She kept saying it was not church teaching," Simon said.
"She does not like the traditional teachings of the church." Saint Dominic teaches about 230 girls in grades seven through 12.
Simon's lawyer has sent the school a letter demanding her reinstatement and saying her termination was "in violation of fairness, good faith and several employee-protection related laws." Simon had been entering her seventh year at the Catholic school in September.
The 3,000-word letter was written by Ralph Martin, president of Renewal Ministries.
Posted on the ministries' blog on July 31, it is addressed to "troubled Catholics" and came on the heels of the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick following allegations he sexually abused men and boys.
The letter is an indictment of the Catholic Church's leaders for refusing to acknowledge the "huge homosexual problem in the church." Simon, who taught religious studies, called the letter a "positive response to the scandal in the church." She said she handed out copies to her students on Sept.
10 and gave a copy to another religion teacher at the school.
Parents who attended back-to-school night three days later also received copies and were "fine" with it, she said.
"I thought it would be beneficial to the students," she said.
Saint Dominic's head of school, Sarah Degnan, issued this statement: "The matter raised by Mrs.
Simon is a personnel issue, and we will not comment on it.
We will say, however, that every decision made within Saint Dominic Academy is in the interest of the young women entrusted to our care." Parents who spoke to The Jersey Journal are divided.
Irene Calao is a Jersey City woman whose daughter, now in college, was a pupil in Simon's class.
Calao feels firing Smith is "too harsh." "This is a Catholic school, she's a religion teacher," she said.
"If you don't want to hear the scriptures of the Bible, why go to a Catholic school?" Jennifer Hughes, also of Jersey City, has a 15-year-old daughter who is a Saint Dominic sophomore.
Hughes thinks the school did the right thing if it fired Simon over the Martin letter.
"That's not the message that we should be sending anyone, particularly young people right," Hughes said.
"Excusing abuse by referring to it as a homosexual scandal ...
I don't think that's the position of the church.
I don't think this article is reflective of the church." Patrick Hornbeck is a Fordham University professor and chair of its theology department.
Hornbeck told The Jersey Journal that even as the Catholic Church remains opposed to, say, same-sex marriage, Catholic teachings demand gay and lesbian individuals be treated with "respect, compassion and sensitivity." Saint Dominic may have found that distributing the Martin letter violated that teaching, he said.
"It's certainly far more often the case that you see Catholic institutions firing or disciplining teachers or parish administrators for coming out on the left on this issue, so it's distinctive that this may the case of a person with more conservative views being brought into line," he said.
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