Many families send their children to Catholic schools “expecting their children to receive an education that conforms to Catholic beliefs.” Teacher expectations and commitments aim “to protect the Catholic identity of our schools.”
“It would be unjust for a school to present itself as a Catholic school and not offer a Catholic education,” the archdiocese said. Catholic schools must “carry out a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
In November 2022, critical media coverage focused on a Denver Archdiocese policy in place since 2019 that addressed issues of gender and sexual morality. The policy document explicitly said teachers living in same-sex relationships are “unsuited for teaching” because they are “openly engaging in behavior opposed to the teachings of the Catholic Church on marriage and human sexuality.”
One Colorado, an LGBT advocacy group that previously criticized the archdiocesan policy, has sided with Barton.
Nadine Bridges, executive director of One Colorado, told Colorado Public Radio the archdiocese takes a “harmful stance” toward self-identified LGBT people.
“Faith communities, including schools, should be a place for love and support,” she said. “Denying admission to LGBTQ+ students, excluding LGBTQ+ parents from full participation, and in this case terminating LGBTQ+ teachers for no other cause than for who they love alienates and discriminates against LGBTQ+ Coloradans of Catholic faith.”
One Colorado on Feb. 3 shared a statement from Barton in which she said “the injustice of my termination lies with the Denver Archdiocese and their anti-LGBTQ+ policies. My sexual orientation is one facet of who I am, and has no bearing on my abilities as a teacher or my commitment to the values of my Catholic faith.”
“How do we change antiquated views and laws?” Barton asked in a Feb. 2 statement posted to Facebook. “Education and understanding,” she said. Barton added that she is working to educate herself and “find ways to amplify my voice for change,” inviting others to join her.
Barton told Colorado Public Radio that “choosing to work in a Catholic school as a lesbian, as someone within the queer community, might not make sense to everybody.”
“The reason why I did that is because of my faith,” she said. To feel my own faith being weaponized against me in this way, to be terminated and to lose this position is, it’s heartbreaking.”
Barton said she would attend weekly Mass at the school and play guitar with the children’s choir.
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Some parents of the parish have set up an internet fundraiser to help pay her expenses as she looks for another job. As of Feb. 7, after several days of media coverage, the contributions appear to have exceeded $22,000 from more than 175 donors in six days.
Denver is one of several U.S. dioceses in recent years to issue guidance related to gender theory following the Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them.” This document criticizes new ideological approaches to sex and gender. It says that the Church teaches an essential difference between men and women, ordered in the natural law and essential to the family and human flourishing.
Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.