Even though he was given a couple days to think about it, Mike Moroski knew on Monday, Feb. 4 what he had to do. That’s when the Archdiocese of Cincinnati gave him an ultimatum: Remove a blog he posted to his personal website supporting gay marriage or be fired from his job as an assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School.
“I was pretty certain that I wasn’t going to take the post down,” Moroski says. “I spent all day Tuesday and Wednesday on the phone with trusted clergy, family and friends to try to figure out the initial decision, even though it was pretty clear on Monday what the decision already was.”
The 34-year-old downtown resident, who is recently married, says he told the Archdiocese on Thursday that he was not willing to recant the statement, and he was subsequently placed on administrative leave pending termination for making statements that aren’t in accordance with Roman Catholic beliefs.
Moroski realizes the irony of teaching his students a lesson by choosing not to teach them anymore.
“I really do just want to be back at work,” he says. “I can’t — it’s not a moral high ground; I can’t go against my primacy of conscience.”
Primacy of conscience is a somewhat-debated concept of one’s conscience being the final arbiter of what is morally right, even if it goes against the church’s teachings.
Moroski’s story is the latest in a series of firings by the Catholic Church over moral issues. In 2009, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati dismissed Sister of Charity Louise Akers for supporting the ordination of women in the church. Last December, a Kettering, Ohio woman sued the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for firing her for becoming pregnant out of wedlock.
Moroski posted the blog, titled “Choose Your Battles,” at mikemoroski.com Jan. 27. It attempts to put the gay-marriage debate into the context of something he learned from his Catholic upbringing: human rights.
Part of it reads: “I unabashedly believe that gay people should be allowed to marry.
Ethically, morally and legally I believe this. I spend a lot of my life trying to live as a Christian example of love for others, and my formation at Catholic grade school, high school, three Catholic universities and employment at two Catholic high schools has informed my conscience to believe that gay marriage is not something of which to be afraid.”
Even though the Archdiocese’s issue with the writing is its opposition to the Catholic stance on gay marriage, the point for Moroski is larger than the debate over marriage equality. For him, it’s about what’s right. “Really, the issue for me — and it sounds really counterintuitive — the issue really isn’t gay marriage as much as it is people,” Moroski says. “I’ve spent my whole professional life advocating for marginalized folks.”
This is the type of faith-based reasoning that has caused some to question the Catholic Church’s hardline stance on social issues. In response to Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk’s 2009 dismissal of Akers, Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister wrote an opinion piece in the National Catholic Reporter, a nonprofit independent news organization that covers Catholic news and moral and societal issues. Chittister wrote: “The truth is that suppression of thought is more dangerous to the church than any sin the church has ever committed. It has not only driven people away, it has stunted its own development, diminished its credibility.”
And at the same time the church is kicking out qualified and dedicated leaders, it’s also running a multimedia campaign trying to lure Catholics back to the faith. Since 2010, the Catholic Church has been running TV ads as part of a campaign called “Catholics Come Home,” which targets non-Catholics and those who haven’t been to church in a while.
CityBeat's calls to the Archdiocese seeking comment weren’t returned.
The church has been firing employees for violating a “morality clause” — basically a contract stating that an employee will act in accordance with a religion’s teachings — which it says falls under the “ministerial exception” of civil labor laws, the legality of which is being challenged by lawsuits like the Kettering, Ohio discrimination suit.
Moroski attended Catholic schools his entire life — from kindergarten through undergraduate studies at Xavier, and he’s currently enrolled in graduate programs at two more Catholic schools: the University of Dayton and Notre Dame. He taught at Moeller for 10 years, where he organized a group of students who helped rehab buildings in Over-the-Rhine for affordable housing. Outside of work he has spent time volunteering at the Drop Inn Center and teaching job-seeking skills to people who have felony convictions on their records.
For the past year and a half he’s been at Purcell Marian, which he says has been entirely supportive of him even though he’s been run out of the school by the Archdiocese.
The ordeal hasn’t weakened Moroski’s faith in his religion, but he hopes it can at least spark a dialogue with church leaders.
“Here’s a really brilliant, beautiful opportunity to all grow in faith and have a conversation with the church hierarchy, which I respect,” he says. “I think they’re a little disconnected from the people in the church and people of faith, but I don’t think they’re bad people or hateful people. I do think maybe this could be a chance to say, ‘Hey, look, you can learn from us, too.’ ”
Moroski hasn’t spoken directly to his students since this happened, but there’s a lot of love for him on Twitter and Facebook. One student started a campaign at change.org asking the Archdiocese not to remove him.
Moroski says that if he were able to contact his students, his message would be familiar.
“It’s the same thing I said to them for 12 years — do right and be kind to each other and don’t let anyone make you something that you’re not,” he says. “I hope they understand that’s the message I’m still trying to send them even though I can’t be with them right now.” ©