The Miss America pageant was held last weekend in Atlantic City, where Miss Arkansas, named Savvy Shields, was crowned the winner.
But perhaps the most interesting news to come out of the pageant was that Irish American contestant Erin O’Flaherty, representing Missouri, was reported to be the first openly gay contestant in the Miss America contest.
This was an interesting bit of timing. About 130 miles up the Garden State Parkway another Irish American lesbian has been in the headlines. That would be Kate Drumgoole, a former student at Paramus Catholic High School who went on to become a guidance counselor as well as basketball coach at her alma mater.
In 2014, Drumgoole married her girlfriend. According to media reports, a “vindictive relative” posted photos of the wedding ceremony online.
Homosexuality and gay marriage are, of course, frowned upon by the Catholic Church. Drumgoole was fired, with archdiocese officials referring to her as “a poor role model” and to her lifestyle as “odious.”
This all comes as the Dublin-born Archbishop of Dallas Kevin J. Farrell prepares to lead a new Vatican department designed to chart the church’s future when it comes to “the Laity, the Family and Life.”
Well, as good a place as any for Farrell to start is to ask why, in God’s name, people like O’Flaherty and Drumgoole -- as well as the friends and family who love them -- would want to have anything to do with a church that would treat them this way?
Look, this crisis concerning the church and sexuality has been centuries in the making, so it will not be resolved neatly or easily. On the other hand, there does come a point where church officials might want to ask themselves if they are making a fairly simple issue unnecessarily complex.
By all accounts, Drumgoole was good at her job. (She is suing to get it back.) And yet, Newark Archdiocese official Father Thomas Nydegger wrote that Drumgoole’s “gay marriage and gay lifestyle (whether overt or covert)” is “particularly odious."
Not so odious, apparently, to the thousands of former Paramus Catholic students who voiced their outrage in a letter to the school leadership.
"You institutionalize the kind of oppressive worldview that leads students to bully and verbally abuse other students based on their sexual orientation," the letter read in part.
There are all kinds of easy points to make here, about how at least some Catholic officials from Newark -- and indeed across the country -- seem to have one standard for pedophile priests and quite another for gays and lesbians.
And there are also serious questions to be asked about the degree to which a religious institution has the right to expect its employees to serve as role models for the faithful.
But this question remains: Should Farrell even bother heading off to the Vatican to think about the future of the Catholic Church as it relates to families if a good guidance counselor can be fired for the “sin” of being married?
And Drumgoole is not alone. According to New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian and transgender Catholics, more than 50 people across the country have been fired or had job offers taken back since 2010 because of their sexual orientation.
Devout Catholics who like things the way they are point out that the church merely hates the sin, not the sinner. And that the church’s ways are ancient and unchanging.
On the former point, that is most certainly true -- all the more reason to at least consider reforming them. Why? Because the church over the years has, in fact, changed and evolved in ways big and small.
Pope Francis is the one who famously said, “Who am I to judge?” on the issue of sexual orientation. Apparently, not all Catholic big wigs are in step with Francis.
Sooner or later, from Rome to Paramus to Atlantic City, these folks have to figure out what kind of Catholic Church they want for the 21st century.