Fort Worth Catholic school rescinds alumna’s lifetime honor over abortion, LGBTQ+ support
Nolan Catholic High School rescinded a lifetime achievement nomination for an alumna over her public support of abortion and LGBTQ+ rights.
The Fort Worth Report obtained a Sept. 22 email that Oscar Ortiz, head of school, sent to community members informing them of his decision not to induct the Rev. Carlye Hughes, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark in New Jersey, into the school’s Hall of Fame.
“A few weeks ago, we nominated to the Hall of Fame a Nolan Catholic alumna who has shown great perseverance in her life and dedication to the service of others. This is commendable; it is the reason why she was nominated,” Ortiz wrote. “However, after her nomination, a few details came to light regarding her public advocacy on issues that are directly opposed to the Church’s teaching on morals and social issues.”
Hughes and Ortiz did not immediately return a Report request to comment.
Nolan Catholic is an educational ministry of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth. Its Hall of Fame recognizes people associated with the school for “their outstanding life achievements” and who exemplify the school’s motto, Esto Dux, which means “to be a leader.”
Ortiz told Hughes about his plans to revoke her nomination, according to his email.
“She is aware that my duty as a leader of a Catholic school — that invites all faiths to its campus and is welcoming of all people irrespective of their backgrounds, political and religious beliefs — calls me to uphold the Catholic principles that set us apart from other organizations, whether secular or of different faith denominations,” Ortiz wrote.
Hughes, a lifelong Episcopalian, has deep roots in Fort Worth, where she grew up. Her father was a basketball coach at Dunbar High School, who becamethe winningest boys’ basketball coach in U.S. history. She was the rector of Trinity Church in Fort Worth for six years before her election as bishop.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal protections for abortion, Hughes wrote a column, published in the New Jersey’s Star-Ledger on May 31, 2022, stating that the choice to end a pregnancy is personal, private and particular to an individual woman’s circumstances.
“Abundant access to high-quality care should be a baseline for all people and most certainly women, including those considering pregnancy or already pregnant,” she wrote.
The Rev. Kevin Johnson is the priest-in-charge of All Souls Episcopal Church in Arlington. He graduated from Nolan Catholic High School in 1982. Johnson remembers going to school with Hughes, he said.
The Episcopal Church approaches theology and interprets scripture differently than Catholicism does. When it comes to topics like abortion, the Episcopal Church tends to support abortion rights and believes that “those questions are best held between a woman and her medical provider and her loved ones,” Johnson said.
“This comes down to the practice because it is a live theology. The idea of just giant blanket statements that say, everybody must do this in every situation, in every context, is stuff that we tend not to do,” he said.
Earlier this year, a New Jersey church found its “all are welcome” sign split in two after displaying pride flags. In an email to her church’s followers, Hughes expressed concerns about the action and reminded people to observe awareness months celebrating diversity.
“The growing tolerance of derogatory language for sexual orientation, gender identity, race, and religious affiliation has direct and hurtful consequences,” she wrote May 22. “While those who perpetrate acts of hate think that their action affects only the intended object of their maliciousness, these acts harm the entire community.”
The Episcopal Church blesses and acknowledges same-sex marriage and appoints women to leadership roles, Johnson said.
“I think at the core of Episcopal theology is this idea of respecting, recognizing and respecting the dignity of every human being. That every human being is born with and carries the image of God,” he said. “So part of our job as people of faith is to look for that image and to respect the dignity of that image within everybody.”
Johnson was a couple of grades behind Hughes at Nolan Catholic and considered her a colleague and friend, he said, adding that he understood why Hughes’s nomination was rescinded.
A female-ordained priest and bishop who supports same-sex marriage is not in the tradition of Roman Catholicism, Johnson said.
“At some level, I understand the conflict that’s there with the institutional conflict,” he said. “But I’m saddened that the institution didn’t have enough capacity to recognize Carlye (Hughes) for her amazing work to bring people to the faith and to serve people.”
Fort Worth Report journalist Dang Le contributed to this report.
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