Colleen Simon is one of those rare people who live to serve others, seeing herself as doing God’s work for the food pantry at St. Francis Xavier Church. She’s in charge of receiving food donations — just last week she oversaw a delivery of 2,000 pounds of food — and feeding the hungry and the homeless. There aren’t a lot of people that would do Colleen’s work, and now even Colleen may not be able to do it.
It all began when Colleen Simon was profiled in a local Kansas City newsletter, The Star’s 816, for her work in the food pantry. Though the author of the piece didn’t intend it, she outed Colleen Simon as gay when she mentioned Colleens’ wife, the Reverend Donna Smith of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church; they married in Iowa on May 19, 2012.
Colleen has never hidden her marriage to Smith, but instead used a kind of “don’t ask, don’t flaunt’ perspective about her sexual orientation and her legal marriage; in fact, the day she was hired at St. Francis Xavier, she told the pastor about her wife. Sadly, he is no longer at the parish, but he hired her nonetheless because Colleen wanted to serve, she wanted to help, she wanted to do the right thing.
However, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph doesn’t feel the same way, at least not since it became public knowledge that Simon and Smith were married. After a series of emails and discussions with the members of the church last week, she was asked to resign; Simon believes that the order originated from Bishop Robert Finn though the diocese, naturally, is declining to comment.
But, as she should Colleen Simon is not giving up without a fight. She has thus far refused to resign and insists instead that the church, and Bishop Finn, fire her … for being gay and married.
It all sounds rather noble, but she has a more down-to-earth reason for her request: she might need unemployment benefits. This fall Simon will celebrate her third-anniversary as a cancer-survivor, and many of her hospital bills remain unpaid, and she worries that, in her late fifties, she might have difficulty finding work to continue paying her medical expenses.
But that’s the Catholic Church; ask a woman who worked tirelessly in the food pantry, feeding the hungry, to simply quit her job because she’s gay and married to a woman; ask a woman, a cancer survivor, who is still paying off exorbitant medical expenses to resign, meaning she’ll receive no unemployment benefits. That’s mighty Christian of the Catholic Church, though it isn’t surprising.
I hope Colleen Simon keeps showing up at work, and doing her good deeds, and feeding the hungry until the day the Church is forced to fire her for being gay. And then, maybe, she can leave the zone of hypocrisy, find work where she is valued, no matter her orientation, and maintain her health, and live her life and be at peace.
That isn’t asking too much, is it?