When a mob of high school students stormed out of Eastside Catholic in late December, 10th grader Sienna Colburn admits, she didn’t expect to be rallying again on January 31.
Friday was “Z Day,” planned after Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish terminated Vice Principal Mark Zmuda for marrying his partner, whom he calls the love of his life.
“I don’t think anybody thought it would amount to this but I think we all had hope that something would happen,” she said.
Colburn joined more than a hundred students, parents, alumni and activists Friday night for a panel discussion on LGBTQ teachings within the Roman Catholic Church.
Like others who sat beside her, Colburn wants to change those teachings.
"You could ask that about so many of these teachings: women's ordination, contraception, divorce,” said Gary Chamberlain. "Will they change? I think so, but under what circumstances? When?That's really hard to say."
Chamberlain is Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics, retired from Seattle University. Mark Zmuda’s termination, he says, prompted modern day reaction that follows the pattern of past centuries as popular thought grows in contrast with church teachings.
"Then the teaching no longer becomes valid. So, people in a sense walk away from it," Chamberlain said. "As democracy becomes more a part of the whole structure of the Catholic Church, then you may begin to see some shifts."
It happened with usury, slavery, and theology laced with anti-Semitism. As public opinion shifted, church teaching followed.
"It was John Paul II who officially apologized for, you could call them teachings, but ‘mis-teachings,’ about Christians and Jews," Chamberlain said.
As it concerns sexuality, Chamberlain believes change would have to occur in two main foundations for current Catholic teaching on same-sex unions: scripture and natural law. Scripture readings concern the way in which Catholics interpret the Bible’s references to homosexual acts. Natural law refers to the idea that a man and woman are a “natural fit” physiologically, and thereby reflect God’s divine law.
"There was a real emphasis upon having children and anything that didn't contribute to that was morally wrong," Chamberlain said.
The Vatican began rethinking sexuality for procreation only in the 1960s. Popular readings of the Bible have also changed, considering scripture in context with its ancient audience.
"It's not a long-lasting loving relationship in which there's a commitment to each other," Chamberlain said.
That’s exactly how Colburn sees her former vice principal’s marriage, which is why she won’t give up.
“Show him that we all love him and we’re behind him no matter what,” she said.
Zmuda is inspired by the movement but describes the battle as a very personal one, hurting his marriage, his finances, and his sense of stability and joy.
“I’ve had to file for unemployment,” he said.
Any official change in Roman Catholic moral teaching in regards to same-sex unions would likely begin with the Pope calling a special commission to study the issue.