OCALA, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The Catholic teacher at the center of a dispute over handing out to students St. John Bosco's writings critical of Islam is finding support online.
Mark Smythe, the religion and history teacher at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala, Florida, was reprimanded for teaching a lesson utilizing the writings of St. John Bosco, who called Islam a "monstrous mixture" of religions and denounced Mohammed as a fraud. Since reports of his disciplining have gone public, he's found support through an online petition. Tradition Family and Property (TFP) Student Action circulated its petition Monday, requesting that the superintendent of schools, Henry Fortier, rescind the reprimand and keep Smythe at the school.
TFP is claiming the archdiocese of Orlando is censoring Catholic teaching at its schools by reprimanding Smythe for presenting the writings of a saint not considered politically correct by today's standards. Found in the text The Catholic Educated in his Religion, St. John Bosco describes Islam as a "monstrous mixture of faiths."
In April, Smythe was preparing for an upcoming lesson on Islam when he found a pamphlet containing the writings of the saint in the church while at eucharistic adoration. Weeks later, a parent shared a copy with a Muslim friend who posted the material on the Documenting Hate website, a site started to catalog "bias incidents" for distribution to leftist news outfits.
Jacilyn Flannigan, associate superintendent of diocesan schools, spoke with the Huffington Post, claiming the writings of the saint were not "in accordance with Church teaching" — despite the fact that, in order to be declared a saint, the Church reviews all of the individual's public writings, establishing that they contain nothing contrary to Church doctrine. A bishop will grant a stamp of imprimatur, ensuring the document is free of doctrinal errors and fit for publication.
In her statement to media, Flannigan said she had already spoken with and reprimanded Smythe, even though the official reprimand was dated after the article. Smythe refused to admit wrongdoing and sign the reprimand, leaving his position at the school in jeopardy.
Henry Farro, Smythe's attorney, said in an April 28 letter to Blessed Trinity School that Smythe has not violated either Church teachings or his contract by his actions, only that Smythe "has attempted to teach religion and history to the students in his care." Farro fears that Smythe's contract will not be renewed for the 2017–18 school year, instead of an outright firing that could spark protests from the many students and parents supporting Smythe.
Church Militant reached out to the archdiocese of Orlando, but neither Flannigan nor Fortier have commented.