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Jaci Russo, Fatima School Council President, Resigns Amid ‘Morality Clause’ Controversy

Jaci Russo photo by KPEL
Jaci Russo photo by KPEL

LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) — The president of the Our Lady of Fatima School Advisory Council has resigned amid the growing controversy of a new morality clause that all teachers with the Diocese of Lafayette are required to sign.

Former council president Jaci Russo called the new clause flawed in a letter to school principal Joni Duos obtained by our news partners at KATC TV-3.

The clause prohibits teachers from engaging in homosexuality, using birth control, or being married outside the church.

Russo said the clause unfairly puts teachers in a position of having to lie or deny things in order to keep their jobs with the Diocese.

“This is a travesty,” she wrote, “as I know there are teachers who have had children out of wedlock and are divorced and remarried without annulment, yet they signed the clause and continue to teach.”

The new morality clause has been the subject of much criticism this week. It has placed into the spotlight those teachers who do not meet up to the expectations of the clause. Jane Riviere, an openly gay teacher, didn’t sign her contract because she couldn’t “be honest to its content.”

“I don’t understand how she could be such a great teacher for the past 30 years, and not be viewed as unacceptable,” Russo wrote. “Isn’t a woman of this quality exactly who we want to teach character to our kids?”

“Why not focus on the teaching of God’s word and not the policing of those who the church deems unfit to educate,” Russo said. “If that is how it wishes to hire, then do so at the beginning, and not after a career spent at the institution.”

Here is Russo’s complete letter:

Dear Mrs. Duos,

I cannot in good conscience stand by while we prevent great teachers from doing their jobs at Fatima.
So, effective immediately, please accept my letter of resignation as the President of the Our Lady of
Fatima Advisory Council.

I believe that the new Diocesan morality clause is flawed in many ways. By listing these “sins”, a number
of teachers are forced to either lie about who they are, or deny the things they may have done in order
to keep their jobs at Fatima. This is a travesty, as I know there are teachers who have had children out
of wedlock and are divorced and remarried without annulment, yet they signed the clause and continue
to teach.

What does this say about their moral fiber? Is adherence to the clause based on reality, or just what
each individual is willing to admit?

Jane Riviere is a woman of great character, as evidenced by her honesty and how she has handled this
situation with dignity and grace. The outpouring of comments in support of her from former students
and co-workers is a testament to the lives she has touched – not to mention how my own children feel
about her. I don’t understand how she could be such a great teacher for the past 30 years, and now be
viewed as unacceptable. Isn’t a woman of this quality exactly who we want to teach character to our
kids?

I am not Catholic, and I personally do not believe that homosexuality is a sin. I believe that gay people
are born exactly as God has intended. But even if you believe that being a practicing homosexual is a
sin, who are we to judge the “sins” of another?

In the New Testament, Jesus says, “I did not come to call the virtuous, but the sinners.” If we removed
all sinners from our school there would be no faculty left to teach the students and no parents to enroll
their children.

As it clearly states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are called to accept homosexuals with
love, not cast them out.

2358 The  number  of  men  and  women  who  have  deep-seated  homosexual
tendencies  is  not  negligible.  This  inclination,  which  is  objectively  disordered,
constitutes  for  most  of  them  a  trial.  They  must  be  accepted  with  respect,
compassion,  and  sensitivity.  Every  sign  of  unjust  discrimination  in  their  regard
should  be  avoided.  These  persons  are  called  to  fulfill  God’s  will  in  their  lives  and,  if
they  are  Christians,  to  unite  to  the  sacrifice  of  the  Lord’s  Cross  the  difficulties  they
may encounter from their condition.

My children have attended Our Lady of Fatima for the past 10 years. I have watched them learn from
some of the greatest teachers in the parish. All four of them made their First Communion at Fatima, and
have been made to understand and appreciate God’s love for them. They have been taught at Fatima to
love and accept others. Yet the example Fatima teaches today is to unjustly discriminate against a great
teacher. I am grateful for what Fatima has given them, but am disheartened at the direction the school
is taking.

Yes, the school has the right to hire and fire as it sees fit, but under the guise of Righteousness, I find we have
lost our way. Why not focus on the teaching of God’s word and not the policing of those who the church
deems unfit to educate. If that is how it wishes to hire, then do so at the beginning, and not after a career
spent at the institution.

In the end can one determine which sin is greater, being gay or the sexual abuse of children by trusted
adults? And who has the moral high ground to judge? I was always under the impression that it was God and
God alone.

I wish nothing but success for Fatima, but moving forward I must stand on my own principles, and the
principles I wish for my children.

Sincerely,

Jaci Russo

 

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