by NZ CATHOLIC staff
WHANGAREI — A Catholic college, from which a teacher lost his job after supporting a protest about same-sex marriage, has emphasised the need for adherence to Catholic teaching.
A media storm erupted after teacher Nigel Studdart was suspended from, and then left, his job as a science teacher at Pompallier College in Whangarei after reportedly encouraging students to wear wrist bands supporting gay rights.
The wrist bands were part of a protest against comments by principal Richard Stanton in the August 24 school newsletter, in an article titled “Keeping Marriage Sacred”. Mr Stanton wrote that same-sex couples might be more disposed to a mindset that sees children as an entitlement or right, and therefore as commodities or possessions, rather than gifts. He acknowledged in the newsletter that possessive parents are not exclusively found in same-sex relationships.
Some students at the school reacted by setting up a Facebook page called “Support Gay Rights at Pom”.
After a four hour meeting on September 18, the college’s Board of Trustees reportedly issued the following statement: “The Pompallier Catholic College BOT advises the school community that Nigel Studdart will not be returning to the College as a teacher. We wish him well for the future.”
It was widely reported that Mr Studdart was dismissed.
NZ Catholic asked the board about the Catholic special character aspects of employment contracts and job descriptions that staff sign up to, as well as the school’s media policy, its pastoral practice for students who have same-sex attraction and the level of community support it has.
The board did not supply answers.
In a newsletter dated September 21, Mr Stanton did not mention Mr Studdart, but did discuss the implications of the school’s motto: “Diligere Verum, Love the Truth.”
“Our college motto presents a clear challenge to all who are associated with our college. It is an admonition to parents in their guidance of children, to staff in their ethical conduct and academic pursuit, and to students in their learning,” Mr Stanton wrote.
“I have little doubt that it was carefully chosen to guide and nurture the on-going life of our college.”
After discussing the difficulties of living in accordance with truth and how the Church’s understanding of, and search for, truth is done in community and not through individual revelation, Mr Stanton wrote that as a Catholic college, “we give allegiance to the truth as discerned by our Catholic community and endorsed by its designated authority (bishops)”.
“Our students, staff and parents need to be both aware of and open to this truth.”
Mr Stanton discussed the development of doctrine and the use of informed intellect in decision making.
Referring to ethical codes within professions, Mr Stanton wrote that they represent what is understood to be true for “that particular body of people”.
“If an individual finds adherence to a code to be problematic, they would need to evaluate the relative merits of remaining within that fraternity, whether it be a profession, a religious body or a college with designated special character.”
Mr Studdart is reportedly considering taking legal action against the school.