Sunday, May 21, 2017

Update: My Email to St. Ignatius College Prep

As I noted yesterday, a faculty member of Chicago's St. Ignatius College Prep, Matt Tedeschi, was discharged, apparently for “Teaching While Gay.” Making noise and effecting change are two different endeavors. Therefore, I decided to send an email to the president of the institution, Fr. Michael Caruso, the board chair and some parents.

Do I reasonably expect this to change anything? Probably not but doing nothing is certain not to change anything. Do I expect a reply? Not if they have any sense at all. Once you mention the possibility of litigation the only communications that should come out of this school would be from their lawyers.

One of the things that I failed to mention yesterday is the effect that this all has on students.
For perspective, I am a retired CEO (200 employee nonprofit).

Your school is not in compliance with IRS code pertaining to 501(c)3 entities. For starters a Catholic school is not a church. You are required to file an annual Form 990 with the Service and have not done so. Moreover, you are required to keep your entity record accurate and current. According to the Business Master File you are identified as St. Ignatius College of Chicago with a sort key of St. Ignatius High School. According to Illinois, the first does not exist and the second effected a name change in 1978. As taxpayers we all subsidize tax-exempt organizations. You are expected to follow the rules.

Before I get into the more important issue I would point out that the difference in culture between Catholic secondary and post-secondary schools is striking. For example, Father Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, has been particularly outspoken about what he sees as a requirement to welcome LGBT students and staff. On the whole, the Jesuit universities provided partner benefits many years before the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. It reflects, I think, a difference in intellectual honesty.

Devout Catholic parents have as many gay children as the rest of us. They might have more. When you treat a gay faculty member unfairly you are treating some of your students unfairly. These kids are already fragile and you are directly responsible for making their lives worse. Most are not out to their parents. They have no one to turn to so they suffer in silence.

I am referring, of course, to your treatment of Mr. Tedeschi. First off, to claim that he was not dismissed because he is gay is dishonest and dishonorable. It is patently obvious that you are trying to limit your liability. Illinois, Cook County and Chicago all have laws prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The only exception to the law that a Catholic school gets is to preference Catholic applicants for employment.

Furthermore, it has been reported that the school attempted to coerce Mr. Tedeschi into signing a nondisclosure agreement as a condition of his receiving additional compensation. Again, this was apparently about managing your legal exposure. His refusal to sign the agreement and the subsequent denial of funds could be viewed as retaliatory. This is explicitly prohibited by the applicable nondiscrimination laws.

But forget the laws. You are a priest, capable of both compassion and critical thinking. You had many better choices. Tedeschi did not deserve to be terminated. He certainly should not have been asked to ink an NDA and he should be fairly compensated. I wonder if you even considered the impropriety of students compromising someone else's private life. What have they learned from this incident? Incidentally, if the school knew about this and did not intervene you can be held legally responsible for the conduct of those students. Again, forget the law. Those students should have been stopped out of common decency.

Sadly, I am following too many of these cases. In the end this is going to be costly. You still have time. For the record I have not communicated with Mr. Tedeschi in any way whatsoever, directly or indirectly.

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