Colleen Simon of Kansas City, Missouri is the kind of parishioner any church would be lucky to have -- a true example of putting one's faith into practice. Until this week, the 58-year-old woman served as the pastoral associate for justice and life at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Parish, a job that consisted largely of managing a food pantry that serves 70 hungry and homeless families every month.
But when a profile of Simon's work in the Kansas City Star mentioned her marriage to her wife Donna, none of Colleen's Christian service mattered: the parish -- believed to be acting on orders from Bishop Robert Finn -- forced her to resign.
The Kansas City Star reports:
Simon's job unraveled in a horrible confluence of unintended consequences that ran into the Catholic faith's hypocritical stand on homosexuality...
The Simons have never hidden their marriage (in Iowa on May 19, 2012). Rather, Colleen Simon kept a don't-ask, don't-flaunt attitude. She said she told the pastor who hired her in July 2013 (he is no longer at the parish) of her marriage. But day to day, she avoided pronouns that would highlight it, substituting "my spouse" or "my beloved."
"You don't want your legacy to be one of division and ugliness," she said. "It's awful. But there are laws, and until that law gets changed in the church, it is what it is."
Colleen Simon says that after the article ran, she was asked to resign. She bears no grudge against the journalist who wrote the piece, but is reportedly "devastated" and "heartsick" that her ministry at St. Francis Xavier has come to an end.
The church asked Simon to resign, but she refused, insisting on being fired instead. Why? Because she may need unemployment benefits, which wouldn't have been available to her had she stepped down voluntarily).
See, Colleen is a three-year survivor of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. She's currently cancer-free, but she told the Star that many bills from her treatment remain unpaid, and she's not sure how quickly she'll be able to find work at her age.
So just to recap, in today's Catholic Church, it's perfectly acceptable to fire a middle-aged cancer survivor who spends her time feeding the poor and the hungry -- because no amount of good works can outweigh the greatest "sins" of all: being gay and marrying the person you love.
Photo via The New Civil Rights Movement.