A board member of a Catholic nonprofit organization who was told he could not become board president because he is gay is trying to rally support to modify the group's rules.
Jeffrey Goldone, who has been a vice president on the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis board of directors for five years, was nominated for president in May. He accepted the nomination but was dropped from the running several weeks later.
"I was told that I could not run for president because my living relationship goes against Catholic moral teaching," which could bring 'shame and embarrassment" to the society, Goldone wrote in a Aug. 2 letter addressed to "fellow Vincentians."
Goldone has been in a relationship with his partner for 20 years.
"We are truly blessed by God to have each other and to have Jesus Christ in our lives. How could we be the source of 'shame and embarrassment?' " he wrote.
Goldone's letter includes a request to sign a petition saying an "injustice has been done" and asking for the group's rules to be modified. He asks recipients to "encourage your conference members, your family, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners to sign the petition too."
The petition is to be sent to local and national Vincentian leaders and to St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson.
"We believe that active gay men and women bring a multitude of talents and abilities to our society that are to be shared with all, especially those who are in need," the petition reads.
The petition quotes the rules as saying, "Vincentians oppose discrimination of all kinds and work to change the attitudes of those who view the weak or those who are different with prejudice, fear or scorn, attitudes which gravely wound the dignity of others."
On the other hand, a section of the rules states that the "Society recognizes the right and duty of the diocesan bishop to confirm that none of its activities is contrary to Catholic faith or morals."
Goldone, when contacted by the Post-Dispatch, said the rules are "in conflict with each other, and I want them to be within agreement of each other."
Goldone took his concerns to Carlson and met with him.
Ronald Guz, the outgoing board president, said the organization didn't make the decision, but rather "the Catholic church did" in its teachings.
The group's executive director, Zip Rzeppa, wrote in an e-mail: "We serve all people without discrimination. And please note we are not discriminating against Jeff Goldone, a man who has done much good. He disqualified himself for the position of president by choosing to live a lifestyle of illicit sexual union, which falls outside the teachings of the Catholic Church, and outside the qualifications of the Society's international Rule."
Rzeppa added that the vetting process is different for president because the position holds so much authority, like the power to appoint other board members.
Carlson, in a statement to the Post-Dispatch, said: "The Society of St. Vincent de Paul has a regulation that members running for president live a life according to church teaching. I clarified what church teaching is in the matter of homosexuality."
The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church labels homosexual acts as "acts of grave depravity" and "intrinsically disordered" because they "close the sexual act to the gift of life."
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of St. Louis is part of a lay organization that spans 140 countries. Its national headquarters is in St. Louis. The organization is affiliated with the Congregation of the Mission, a Catholic order founded by St. Vincent de Paul and commonly called the Vincentians.
The St. Louis group raised $10 million in contributions between 2004 and 2008, according to public records. Its board members are volunteers. As a vice president, Goldone helps with organizational decisions and helps ensure it meets its mission of serving the poor.
Goldone said he never intended for his situation to become public and wanted to keep it within the organization.
"I don't want to jeopardize the fundraising abilities to do their mission," he said. "It's going to hurt them, and I don't want that to happen."
He said he mailed the letter to the Vincentian leaders at 141 Catholic churches in the area and to many members of his parish. In all, Goldone said, he mailed the letter to about 250 people.
Goldstone points out that he has volunteered countless hours and helped raise money for the last several years. His petition argues that it is "inexcusable" that he was allowed to serve as vice president and in other roles, yet be denied the chance to serve as board president because of his lifestyle.
"If the organization is truly a Christian organization, it must not discriminate against anyone," the petition says.
In a similar matter in May, Marquette University rescinded its offer to a Seattle University professor to serve as dean of its College of Arts & Sciences. The openly lesbian professor, Jodi O'Brien, has written frequently on gender and sexuality issues, and her supporters said Marquette president, the Rev. Robert Wild, rescinded the offer after learning O'Brien was gay.
Wild has said he rescinded the offer because O'Brien's writings did not reflect "the university's mission and identity."