The Catholic Church in the Canary Islands has sacked an openly gay religious education teacher from his post at a state-run high school in Lanzarote.
In 2012, former priest Luis Alberto González married his partner, and then sent a letter to the Canary Islands bishopric, informing the Catholic Church authorities of his situation. Now, after two years of silence, and after sending a letter to the editor of EL PAÍS, he has received a short reply stating: “For moral and doctrinal reasons and protected by canonic law, suitability for teaching religion is withdrawn.”
But the Canary Islands’ education department, which pays González’s salary, has already ratified his position for the next academic year, which starts in September.
I knew this would happen. This is the way things work”
González, who has been a religious education teacher for 15 years, says he is not surprised at the Catholic Church authorities’ decision. “I knew this would happen,” he said. “This is the way things work. I accept that my profile is not what the Church is looking for, and that is why I would ask them to justify their decision so that I can receive unemployment benefit. Something else will turn up.”
González is critical of the Catholic Church’s position on same-sex marriage. “I can no longer follow a religion that sees itself as the spokesman for God to the extent that it can invade every area of a person’s life. There are layers of society, such as those people in education, who do not see the problem with a homosexual married man teaching religion, but as one scales the heights of the Catholic hierarchy, it is made clear that one is in a different sphere, defending ideas that seem medieval.”
The islands’ education authority seems unhappy at the move, and says that a decision will be made at the end of the month on what will happen to González. “It is the bishopric that decides which teachers will teach religious education and if they are appropriate, but we are going to make sure that this is no longer the case,” says Manuela Armas, the deputy chief of the regional education department.
In 2011, the Constitutional Court ruled against the Catholic Church in a case involving the sacking of a female religious education teacher who had married a divorced man.
The bishopric decides who teaches religious education, but we are going to make sure that this is no longer the case”
The government is in the process of introducing reforms that will put religious education on the same footing as other subjects, a move aimed at halting a decades-long decline in attendance. Under the new system, grades obtained in religion class will count toward a student’s average grade in the same way math or language courses do. But polls show that up to 70 percent of Spaniards oppose the move.
Meanwhile, González believes that the Catholic Church must face up to the changes in Spanish society. “There are always those who say that if you don’t like the way the Church works, you can leave. But I have been a priest, and believe that change can come about from within, and that we can help transform it. The Church needs an overhaul, it needs to accept and address these debates.”