Appeals court treads on First Amendment freedoms

Appeals court treads on First Amendment freedoms

It’s ironic that Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie, in charge of the bishops’ liturgy committee and leading proponent of the kind of liturgical translations that give us “gender neutral” language, would be named a defendant in a gender discrimination lawsuit.

The lawsuit itself was filed by an employee of Gannon University, a Catholic college in northwest Pennsylvania, who claims she was fired illegally because of her sex. Lynette Petruska claims that when she was appointed as the first female chaplain at Gannon in 1997, she was assured that she would not be replaced when a priest—by definition, male—became available. The article says:

The suit alleges that Petruska knew that Gannon had a practice of gender discrimination, and that Bishop Donald Trautman, the chairman of Gannon’s board of directors, had a reputation for being unable to work with women and for removing women from leadership positions.

If “gender discrimination” means that only men may be priests, then I guess that’s true.

From there we descend into a sordid tale of the university president being accused of sexual harassment, of a coverup, of Petruska fighting the coverup, and her eventual quitting-before-they-could-fire-her in 2002. Interestingly, the suit was dismissed by the federal circuit court on the grounds that under the “ministerial exception,” a religious institution cannot be sued under federal anti-discrimination laws. But the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed that decision, saying that the exception was applied too broadly. In another twist, the appeals court’s decision was authored by Judge Edward Becker in the final days of his life before succumbing to cancer. His majority opinion says that the “ministerial exception” to Title VII should be “carefully tailored” and applied only when the alleged discrimination somehow relates to “religious belief, religious doctrine, or the internal regulations of a church.”

A “tailored” ministerial exception is no exception at all

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1 comment
  • When Melanie was in the hospital we asked the nurse to inform the chaplain that we would like Communion brought to her on Sunday. No one ever showed up even though the nurse said she asked.

    Many of the older nurses were first-generation Irish and I think all were Catholic—nearly all remarked on Melanie’s rosary and her Office—so I’m pretty sure they took the request seriously.