A Question of Catholic Teachers

Bishop James Doitright made his annual visit to Pope John XXIII High School, a Roman Catholic school in his diocese. While at the high school, he sat in on a few classes, including those of Jeffrey Smirk and Veronica Lightfoot. Each of them was engaged in a unit on the "Sacraments of Service: Matrimony and Holy Orders." In their classes, they discussed different kinds of lifestyles for Catholics.

In telling his class about Holy Orders, Mr. Smirk was asked by a student whether he had ever thought of being a priest. Mr. Smirk replied that he had been one, but he "dropped out" so he could live with his homosexual lover. He compared his present lifestyle with the matrimonial state.

Ms. Lightfoot's class was focussed on Matrimony, and she tried to impress the students with the necessity of being mature and prepared before they chose to marry. Ms. Lightfoot mentioned that she was married "right after senior prom," and that her marriage did not survive the "premature" birth of their first child. Since her divorce, she and her daughter have had rough going, economically, but Ms. Lightfoot said she is determined "not to make the same immature mistake of looking for security in someone else's pocket." She encouraged her students to take their time dating, to date a lot of different people, and to "resist the prom night temptations."

A week later, the principle of Pope John XXIII H. S. received a letter from Bishop Doitright ordering that both Mr. Smirk and Ms. Lightfoot be suspended from teaching religion on grounds of immoral behavior, and that their contracts not be renewed for the coming school year. What canonical issues do you see in this case, and how would you resolve them?

Analyze this case: