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Testing Faith

Catholic Church fires Purcell Marian assistant principal over support of gay marriage

By Danny Cross · February 12th, 2013 · News
news1_mikemoroski_jfMike Moroski’s story is the latest in a series of firings by the Catholic Church over moral issues. - Photo: Jesse Fox

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.” ©



02.12.2013 at 12:50 Reply

Damn. Fast catch on the Jesuit thing. I page reload ONCE and BAM...my comment becomes invalid. And it was INSANELY clever. All about rage-flipping your desk and Marianists and lightening bolts. :'(


02.12.2013 at 02:14

Mike Moroski is a really great guy and a great teacher, he'll land on his feet. I think that the thing that people need to realize however is that the contract he signed with the Archdiosese when he accepted his teaching position had a clause which said that he could not break with what the Catholic church teaches. They have every right to fire him for the breach of contract. 

While I don't agree that this is something that should be a part of contracts when hiring teachers, people are not seeing the fact that Mike Moroski is in the wrong according to his contract. I think that this move is very helpful in his move in running for City Council in Cincinnati, as it will garner support from the gay community in Cincinnati. It should also be noted that anyone who hires this guy is getting a quality product, Cincinnati could use that. His ability to wrestle down and humanize realities of our time when compared to traditions of Catholicism are an important asset as it shows his ability to create a middle ground between things that don't necessarily agree. I also agree with him in that anybody should be allowed to marry, I am conflicted in his methods but will support his future endevours as he continues to be one of the few in Cincinnati who seems to care about issues of social importance.  

"Be the change you want to see." 


02.13.2013 at 12:15

I don't see how this relates to my irrelevant yet beautifully composed comment. You didn't reference lightening bolts even ONCE. http://alltheragefaces.com/img/faces/png/angry-desk-flip.png


02.12.2013 at 01:55 Reply

What this teacher has done is to confuse Secular Social Justice with biblical Social Justice.  Church should not and can not be about taking a vote on what its members choose to believe this week.  When a church devolves to valueing secular views over God inspired biblical requirement then it is no longer a church but a political action group similar to the ACLU and using God and his church to their will.      True faith is really hard because you have to be able to endure the secular politically correct activists that use every tool to beat their values into you.   GLBT by biblical doctrine is now and will forever remain un-natural, immoral and a sign of a failing civilization.


02.12.2013 at 02:29

Churches have used the bible to justify slavery, opposition to womens' rights, opposition to interracial marriages & geocentrims. This too shall pass with time and progress.


02.12.2013 at 03:01

No Scott, the sad news is that people manipulate the bible to do the things that their poltically correct elite wanted and the tool was the church.  The good news is that the church has periods where these issues are corrected and righted.  As longe as humans run it they will always drift.


02.21.2013 at 02:41

The politically correct elite used the bible to support slavery, opposition to womens' rights, opposition to interracial marriages & geocentrims?  This seems insane. 


02.12.2013 at 04:14 Reply

If he had, instead, raped a young boy, he'd be superintendent of schools now.


02.25.2013 at 10:25

With the possible exception of the Mafia, has there been an institution in the United States in the last 60 years that has committed more felonies than the Roman Catholic Church? 


02.12.2013 at 06:07 Reply

So the Catholic Church teaches divorce is wrong.  Lying is wrong.  Disobeying your parents is wrong.  Premarital sex is wrong.  Where is the list of Archdiocese employees fired for THESE infringements?!  Hypocritical a-holes.


02.12.2013 at 08:26 Reply

Mr. Moroski was an insanely interesting English teacher who lightened every heavy day I ever had in class. He truly is a devoutly religous person, but he also refuses to drink the kool-aid.

I went on a few home rehab days with him and you couldn't smack the smile of his face as helped those in need.

My question for the Catholic Church is this: Does an open mind really pose a threat to anyone besides stodgy old men praying not to die and see that heaven may not even exist?

Regardless you da man Mr. Moroski! Don't let this mess with your head because your open mind helped open mine.