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A lesson in crisis PR from Dowling Catholic

Tyler McCubbin, a substitute teacher and coach at Dowling Catholic High School went public this week, telling the media that the private high school rescinded an offer of full-time employment because he is openly gay.

In the ensuing firestorm of public criticism, the Diocese of Des Moines called on Bishop Richard Pates to address the controversy in a TV interview. To say he botched it is the understatement of the year. 

His first statement was straight out of the Catholic playbook. "We accept everybody, we love everybody, everybody is always welcome, within the context of the Catholic Church." Then, he seemed to go off the rails a bit. When asked why McCubbin was allowed to be a gay substitute teacher and volunteer coach, Pates scrambled for words.

"A substitute teacher comes on in an immediate need, and then as they were going through that whole process of the application, that's when this surfaced," Pates said.

The reporter also said that Pates was not rejected because he was gay, but because he was so "open" about it. 

The reporter then asked, "Based on church doctrine, he should not have been allowed to teach and coach?" "That is correct," said Pates.

I'm not sure who was advising Bishop Pates. His office had already written and released a statement that outlined the school's position. He should have never gone on camera to defend his position. What Dowling did was legal - so his appearance just served to further point out the hypocrisy of the position and his obvious discomfort with stating their mistake.

One of the first decisions to be made in a crisis situation is "who will be our spokesperson?" In my opinion, they chose the wrong person.

The second decision is whether to put the spokesperson on camera, or to simply release a statement. In this case, the statement would have sufficed.

It's not pretty to hear the words, but at least they are backed up by state law, which allows them to discriminate against gay people...because...church doctrine.

Full disclosure: I am a Dowling alum and while my sense of fairness is assaulted by this position, I am (sadly) not surprised. The best person for the teaching position was overlooked because he is gay. That sends a terrible message to all the gay kids at Dowling and to the community in general. Unfortunately, no amount of media training can erase bigotry.

Claire Celsi is a communications consultant in West Des Moines Iowa. Visit her company's website or follow her on LinkedIn or Twitter


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Looks like some proof reading would have helped before publishing this article. Fact: It doesn't matter how the Bishop's soundbite comes across. The teaching of the Church is what counts.

It's too bad that a Dowling Alum and supposed Catholic doesn't take the opportunity to portray the true church teaching. Please read from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document "Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons."

“The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behaviour or to legal recognition of homosexual unions,” the document states. “The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society.”

I have to say this is article is offensive and shows a lack of respect to the leaders of our church. I am quite surprised by the reaction of many people who consider themselves Roman Catholics and yet they don't understand the difference between compassion we must always show to everyone regardless of our personal beliefs and an employment contract. To be Roman Catholic you should be always striving to live out the teachings of the church. You may not always understand or agree with a particular teachiing, but you accept that others who have studied each issue that is outlined in our Catechism have done so with mercy towards others and discernment inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you don't believe that, then I think you will always be a frustrated Catholic.

Last, I would ask you to think about this from strictly a business perspective. You are asking people to pay a tuition to instill a Christ Centered Life. Do you really think you could pull this off long term if you hired people who were living out their lives in conflict with the teachings of the church? Forget the emotions and think about it from a business case! Not a smart business move!

I back Bishop Pates and the decision of Dowling Catholic 100%. I am an alumni as well and I am proud of their decision. Not an easy one, but an appropriate one for certain!

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