A teacher at a Colorado Catholic school was fired after being confronted about a photo of her kissing her girlfriend, which archdiocese leaders called proof she is “violating the standards” of the church.
Lifelong Catholic Maggie Barton, 32, moved from Texas to suburban Denver in 2017 to accept a job teaching technology at All Souls Catholic School in Englewood.
She told The Denver Post that the principal called her on Jan. 25 to place her on paid leave pending “an investigation” into the photo the local archdiocese obtained of her kissing another woman.
Barton — who came out as lesbian while a student at a Catholic school in Texas — said she has no idea how the photo was found, having deliberately kept photos of her and her partner off social media to avoid such pushback.
Soon after the call with the principal, Barton got another from a man who said he was “an information gatherer” for the Archdiocese of Denver, she said.
“He was asking me a lot of questions about my understanding of the Catholic faith and if I was aware of the church’s position on same-sex attraction and all that kind of stuff,” Barton told Colorado Public Radio.
“It was a very uncomfortable conversation,” she said, also telling the Denver Post it was “very emotional.”
Despite being told she was being investigated, she was fired the very next day, she said.
“An injustice occurred. I experienced discrimination on a personal level that nothing in my life to this point could have prepared me for,” she earlier wrote on Facebook.
“It’s discrimination. There’s no other word for it,” she also told KDVR.
“To be terminated from a position because of my sexual orientation, that’s discrimination.”
As well as losing her job, Barton has suffered a crisis of faith.
“I grew up in the Catholic faith. I believe I embody the values of that faith in my everyday life, and it pains me to hear that cannot be true because of who I love,” she wrote on Facebook.
“To feel my own faith weaponized against me, is truly heartbreaking,” she wrote.
“It’s hard for me to understand how who I choose to love and being in a loving, happy relationship can affect my ability to be a good teacher,” she told KDVR..
The archdiocese, which is led by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, confirmed Barton’s firing in a lengthy statement.
“The school found it necessary to conclude the teacher’s employment because she did not honor the commitments she agreed to in her contract with the school,” it said.
It included a copy of a contract that forces employees to “personally [exemplify] the characteristics of Catholic living,” such as “refraining from taking any public position or conducting himself or herself in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“In this case, the school was made aware that one of their teachers is in a same-sex relationship, and after discussing this with the teacher, learned that she intends to persist in violating the standards she previously agreed to uphold,” the archdiocese said.
It claimed that “same sex attraction in itself is not a cause for termination,” but it was justified by her failure to uphold the “commitments” she made in her contract, which is there “to protect the Catholic identity of our schools.”
“Many families do send their children to our schools expecting their children to receive an education that conforms to Catholic beliefs,” the archdiocese said.
The contract “is a promise to our parents that their children will receive an authentic and fully Catholic education.
“It would be unjust for a school to present itself as a Catholic school and not offer a Catholic education,” the statement added.
“We recognize the current popular culture and some in our society may not hold the same views as we do, but as Catholic institutions our schools retain their right to ensure that its ministers, which includes our teachers, carry out a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” it said.
“Someone persisting in a lifestyle contrary to these views will find it difficult to teach them to our students.”
Barton told the Denver Post that the justification merely added further confusion given that it appeared at odds with Pope Francis’ recent messaging that “being homosexual isn’t a crime,” even if it’s still a sin.
”I’m at a loss right now with how the leader of the Catholic Church is saying things that feel very supportive of who I am as a person and then to have someone at the level of the Archdiocese saying something that feels the exact opposite and almost contradictory to what the Pope is saying,” Barton said.
“I’m confused. What am I supposed to do with that?”
She said she was “humbled and deeply grateful” that parents of some of her former pupils set up an online fundraiser that by Thursday morning had raised more than $25,000.
She advised those parents to also “tell the truth” to their kids as to why they’d lost their teacher.
“I think shying away from those conversations is doing a disservice to the education of children,” she told the Denver Post.
“I want my students to keep learning. A lot of these issues come from a place of ignorance. There are a lot of supporters of the Catholic faith who would agree that this is not OK.”