In an exclusive interview published today in the Columbus Dispatch, Bishop Frederick Campbell broke his patient silence on what was until now a purely internal human resources matter regarding the dismissal of Carla Hale. She was a teacher at a Catholic high school in the Diocese of Columbus until her public and open admission that she considers her lesbian partner a “spouse” in contradiction of Catholic teaching:
Campbell said earlier in the day that Hale was not fired because of her sexual orientation but because her “quasi-spousal relationship” with another woman violates the church’s moral teaching. He said Hale violated a teacher contract and Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus policy that prohibits immoral behavior and requires employees to follow general church tenets.
In an exclusive interview with The Dispatch, the bishop said diocesan officials “don’t necessarily go looking for things like that,” but Hale’s decision to name her partner in her mother’s obituary made the relationship public and initiated the termination process.
As bishop, he said, he has a “fundamental responsibility” to maintain the Catholic identity of the institutions under his purview.
“We do this in an atmosphere of care, of calm consideration, but yet out of the realization that at particular times we have to make particular decisions,” he said. “And they are difficult sometimes, but they do flow from what we believe, who we are and how we are to live.”
Unfortunately this is not the last word on the matter. According to the Columbus NBC affiliate, WCMH Channel 4, Hale’s attorney has formally filed a criminal complaint against the Diocese of Columbus which carries a possible penalty of up to six months in jail and has no exemption for religious organizations. That Bishop Campbell waited until now to speak publicly on the matter is evidence of how agonizing and heartbreaking this must be for him to see a former employee now lashing out against the Church.
In a bizarre side-story, an angry parent was escorted from a charity dinner with the Bishop after an outburst this past weekend. WCMH Channel 4 reports that John Petrucci supports Hale’s dismissal but was concerned about the violent threats that have been directed at Bishop Watterson High School. In response to the confrontation, a spokesman for the Diocese issued the following statement:
“During last evening’s dinner for diocesan ‘Bishop Annual Appeal’ contributors, an attendee, immediately prior to Bishop Campbell’s address, abruptly stood and began speaking regarding Carla Hale in a manner that was not understood or heard by many in attendance. While speaking, he began moving toward the Bishop in a way that concerned many in the audience. Several attendees thought it necessary to intervene on the Bishop’s behalf, asked the man to leave, and escorted him from the event. No extraordinary force was either required or applied in this process.
“Bishop Campbell is aware of the passions that have surrounded the Carla Hale issue and is deeply concerned about the anxiety and alarm it has created within our community. He encourages all on either side of this subject to maintain civility and calm while the grievance process in this case moves forward.”
Given the threats that Petrucci is rightly concerned about, it is understandable that some in the audience may have thought he was a supporter of Hale. The attack on Belgian Archbishop Leonard is one recent example of the anger and hatred that is directed against the Catholic Church. The hacker group “Anonymous” has also issued threats against employees of the diocese. There will surely be worse to come for any who have the courage to defend the truth. Petrucci’s outburst illustrates how easily emotions and passions can overwhelm reason and good judgment. We must choose our words and our actions carefully.
Bishop Campbell and all who share his steadfastness will be called uncompassionate, intolerant, and hypocritical for holding fast to unpopular beliefs. However, we must remember that that love and compassion demand that we make sacrifices for the good of others. Carla Hale’s supporters who call for the Church to violate eternal truths have forgotten that compassion is not just about giving unconditionally, but that sometimes correction is needed when we go astray. The Bishop’s crozier is a reminder of this sacred duty not only to keep his sheep in the fold, but also as a rod to defend from wolves when the time comes.
Until these most recent development, the media coverage of this story has been entirely focused on Carla Hale’s supporters. However, members of the public who support Bishop Campbell and the Dioceses for upholding the Catholic faith have quietly begun to mobilize. A group of parents and students of Bishop Watterson High School has started a petition to offer prayers and encouragement to the Bishop and the Diocese. In the tribulations that lie ahead, they will need our help and our sacrifices.