A teacher fired from a suburban Philadelphia Catholic school for being in a same-sex marriage will be a guest at the White House reception for Pope Francis Wednesday, along with her wife.
The women had been hoping to speak with the pope ever since Winters was fired from Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, Pa., in June, and Vettori even wrote him a letter asking him to intervene. They don’t expect to have any one-on-one time with him at such a large event as the White House reception, but they welcomed the invitation just the same.
“Obviously we won’t be talking to the pope, but we will be in the vicinity,” Winters (pictured above right) told The Inquirer. “But symbolically, it’s a great step forward.”
Winters and Vettori were married in Massachusetts in 2007, shortly before Winters was hired as director of religious education at Waldron Mercy. She told school administrators she was married to a woman, and they said it would not be a problem as long as she did not discuss the relationship with students or parents.
She complied, but this year two parents who had found out about her marriage complained, and she was fired in June, with the school’s principal citing the need to protect Waldron Mercy’s Catholic identity. Many other parents spoke out in support of Winters, who was a well-respected teacher, and signed petitions seeking her reinstatement. Winters delivered the petitions to the office of Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in August.
Chaput’s spokesman has said the archbishop had nothing to do with Winters’s firing, as Waldron Mercy is not run by the archdiocese but by a Catholic religious order, the Sisters of Mercy. With the beginning of this school year, the archdiocese is requiring parents of students in the schools it supervises to sign a pledge to recognize and uphold Catholic teachings. Archdiocesan officials say this action is also unrelated to Winters’s situation.
Winters told The Inquirer she and Vettori are excited about the reception. The White House, by the way, has invited some other guests who disagree with Catholic doctrine on LGBT issues, raising the ire of Vatican officials as well as conservatives from other faiths.
“We continue to say it’s the spirit at work,” Winters said of the invitation. “It’s the people who have been supporting us, moving this issue forward and in front of people.”
Below, watch a video Winters and Vettori recorded for the HRC.