WHEN they first moved in together, Mike* and his partner, who were both Catholic school teachers in Sydney, took some unusual steps to conceal their sexuality.
”We set up our house with two bedrooms so if any colleagues came over we could pretend we were just flatmates,” he said.
Mike now works in an independent school, where he is open with staff, though not students, about his sexuality. His partner, who still works in the Catholic system, is more guarded.
”He’s not able to take a day off work if I am sick. He has to be very guarded as to who he reveals his lifestyle to.”
Fairfax Media spoke to several gay Catholic school teachers in NSW and Victoria about the effect of exemptions for religious organisations from anti-discrimination laws. All
said they hid their sexuality to varying degrees for fear of how it would affect their careers.
Another teacher, Rob*, described the situation as a ”don’t ask, don’t tell kind of thing”.
Rob worked on and off in the Catholic school system for 25 years before switching to the government system. He recalls being cautioned from discussing his sexuality openly with staff by a colleague who was both his boss and his friend.
”She told me to keep it quiet and her reasoning was you don’t know who you can trust,” he said.
Daniel Torcasio openly discussed his male partner with colleagues while working as a teacher at a Melbourne Catholic boys school, but hid the truth from students: ”They want to know about your life and what you’ve done on the weekend … there was one stage where I referred to my male partner as she or her … I remember thinking ‘I’m an adult here and I’m lying’.” He too chose to leave eventually.
Greg Whitby, executive director of schools with the Parramatta Diocese, said expectations of Catholic schools were clearly communicated to applicants and that teaching contracts featured clauses stipulating employees ”adhere and observe the principles and moral standings and teachings of the Catholic Church”.
”Being homosexual by nature is not a preclusion to working in Catholic schools,” he said.
”But practising and supporting that lifestyle is contrary to what you’ve agreed to sign up with.”
Having teachers who openly flout the teachings of the Catholic church risked undermining those teachings, he said.
”If students see in their teacher that not only do they talk about this but they actually practise it, that’s the power,” he said.
For senior positions such as a school principal, Mr Whitby said employees had to be practising Catholics.
Rob said he left the Catholic system because he felt he had hit a glass ceiling.
”I just knew I was on a fast-track to nowhere,” he said. ”I definitely feel protected working in a government school. You know that [your career] is never going to be based on anything other than your worth as an employee.”
*Names have been changed to protect identity.