Edmonton man says Catholic Archdiocese fired him after investigation into same-sex relationship

A former pastoral associate with the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton says he was fired from his job because he is in a same-sex relationship with another man and has a daughter.

'I believe this is due to homophobia,' says former pastoral associate

Mark Guevarra says he was fired from his job because he refused to say whether he was in a same-sex relationship with another man. (Mark Guevarra/Facebook)

A former pastoral associate with the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton says he was fired from his job because he would not say whether he was in a same-sex relationship with another man.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Mark Guevarra said he was investigated two months ago by his employer but refused to answer a direct question about whether he had a male partner and a daughter.

"I was called into my priest's office in the presence of the head of human resources for the Archdiocese and was terminated on the grounds that I am in a relationship," wrote Guevarra. "They took my refusal to answer as sufficient evidence to prove that I am in one."

Guevarra said he was also investigated for helping to form an LGBTQ Catholic prayer and support group without the approval of the Archbishop.

Guevarra has declined comment until he consults with his lawyer.

On Friday afternoon, the Archdiocese declined to discuss specifics of the case, citing privacy reasons.

Marriage 'a sacrament'

"Anyone who comes to work at the Archdiocese or one of its parishes agrees to live in accord with the teachings of the Catholic Church and its sacramental theology," spokesperson Lorraine Turchansky wrote in a statement.

"For example, the Catholic understanding of marriage is that it is a sacrament, in which a man and a woman promise before God to enter into a committed, exclusive and permanent relationship.

"It is particularly important, and understandable, that someone who serves in a leadership or teaching role in the church be a practising Catholic who lives in accord with its teachings. In human rights legislation, this is referred to as a 'bona fide occupational requirement' for a particular position."

Under Canadian law, some limitations on individual rights may be considered reasonable and justifiable, if an employer can show that a discriminatory standard, policy or rule is a necessary requirement of a job.

The 'Meiorin decision' from 1999

The Supreme Court of Canada's Meiorin decision in 1999 laid out a three-part test to determine if an occupational requirement is justified. Under that test, an employer must prove that the relative standard was:

  • adopted for a purpose that is rationally connected to job performance
  • adopted in an honest and good faith belief that the standard is necessary for the fulfilment of that legitimate purpose
  • reasonably necessary to accomplish that legitimate purpose.

Guevarra's clash with the Archdiocese is the latest to pit the local Catholic church against those advocating for LGBTQ rights.

This week, CBC Edmonton revealed that the Edmonton Catholic school board had reached an agreement with a mother who filed a human rights complaint after her transgender girl was denied access to the female bathroom at school.

In his online post, Guevarra said the Archbishop refused to meet with him.

He laid out his reasons for refusing to answer the question about his relationship. He asked why his "sin" would be grounds for dismissal while the sins of others, such as those using contraception, are not.

"I believe this is due to homophobia," he wrote.

"If I'm so carefully scrutinized, what is to stop all church workers from being scrutinized?"

Guevarra encouraged readers to share his post.

"Wherever you stand on the same sex issue, I believe my termination is unjust," he wrote.

"I believe the denial of a prayer and support group for LGBTQ Catholics is unjust. I believe being terminated for conscientiously and respectfully disagreeing with a church teaching is a slippery slope for all church workers, and therefore unjust. Worse still, it sends a damaging message to all LGBTQ Catholics that they have no place in the church."