Margie Winters got married to her wife in Massachusetts in 2007, the same year she was hired as director of religious education at the parochial Waldron Mercy Academy in suburban Philadelphia. She said that she was always open about her sexual orientation and marital status with school administrators and fellow faculty (if not the parents) for her eight years at the school. Then, this June, she was fired from the school, allegedly because a parent had complained to the archdiocese about her marriage.
Winters’ case made national headlines, and in July her wife, Andrea Vettori, wrote a letter to the Pope requesting an audience with him during his U.S. visit. Vettori received no response from the Vatican, but on Monday, she and Winters got the next best thing: invitations to greet the Pope (among hundreds of other) when he arrives at the White House tomorrow. “Obviously we won’t be talking to the pope, but we will be in the vicinity,” Winters told a local reporter Monday night. “But symbolically, it’s a great step forward.”
This is not the first politicized invitation the Obama White House has issued for the arrival ceremony. The Vatican has already expressed (anonymous) unease about other guests at the event, including Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop in the United States, “activist nun” Sister Simone Campbell, and several prominent transgender Catholics. From a Wall Street Journal report last week:
According to a senior Vatican official, the Holy See worries that any photos of the pope with these guests at the White House welcoming ceremony next Wednesday could be interpreted as an endorsement of their activities.
Winters and Vettori are both devout Catholics who met while exploring the possibilities of a religious life with the Sisters of Mercy. They decided to build a life together instead.