Choose Your Battles: Mike Moroski and Kevin Stallo
June 7, 2014
Mike Moroski was an assistant principal at a Catholic high school in Ohio before he was fired for publishing a blog post in support of same-sex marriage. In this conversation, Moroski joins former student Kevin Stallo, who was inspired to come out as gay because of the post, to discuss the connection between the Catholic faith and social justice.
This story was produced by David Dault at Sandburg Media, LLC.
This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives. The interview was recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.
Mike Moroski: The post that got me fired ironically or appropriately, looking back in retrospect, was entitled, “Choose Your Battles.” And it was born out of a conversation I had with a very conservative Catholic religion teacher. I taught across the hall from him. We were having a conversation about gay marriage, and we vehemently disagree on the whole thing. But what struck me about the conversation, I don't know why it struck me more than any other one that I had with this guy, was how civil it was and how at the end we were still buddies, could have beers together and we didn't hate each other.
So the day after the conversation we had, for some reason, I just felt inspired to write a blog post and I called it, “Choose Your Battles.” And largely the post was not about gay marriage, which is also ironic at this point. It was more about how the beauty of being able to engage in civil discourse when you disagree vehemently with somebody and come out the other end of it, and maybe have both learned a little something. Your mind’s certainly never going to be changed, but maybe learn a little something and still be friends.
My favorite part about teaching is my favorite part about what I do now. That's my favorite part about the political side of my life, because no matter what I do, I see, I'm not necessarily that smart, but the one thing I think I am good at that I got from my parents was creating a situation, and a classroom's kind of a potential incubator. Right?
Kevin Stallo: Yeah.
Mike Moroski: If you choose to look at it that way. So a classroom ideally should be this incubating space where young people can say whatever they want to say without fear of being reprimanded, a safe place so that they can grow into the person that they want to be.
Kevin Stallo: That was something that you were always big on. We could go to your classroom and it could be a free discussion where we could all interact with each other, and we could say, this is what's concerning me, or this is what I'm worried about in life. And you were able to have that discussion with us, whether or not it was related to English, it was related to us growing, and you encouraged love and acceptance of all people. And I think to be in a situation now that we're at with this Catholic school contract in Cincinnati, it's putting us in a situation now to where it's making people choose between what they feel is right and what they need to do to have a job.
Mike Moroski: I was raised around Catholic priests that all joined the priesthood in the sixties and seventies when joining the priesthood was seen as this, it's hard to imagine now, but like this radical thing to do, this Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day fist in the air, damn the man sort of thing. And I was raised around these guys and then went to Xavier and hung out with the Jesuits who were very much kept pushing my liberalism. And then, not to mention the professors who did the same, in fact, most, a lot of my friends still are nuns and brothers and priests, pretty radical ones to be fair, but nuns, brothers, and priests.
And they of course always talk about this sense of mission and doing community work and working and living with the poorest in our society, Gospel values, and all this. And it was my faith also, and how I was raised by these mentors of mine that made it impossible for me to take down that blog post last year when I wrote in public support of gay marriage and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said, “Take this post down, sign all these documents saying you'll never sue us, you'll never say anything mean about us ever again.” And it was a very easy decision to say, no, again, rooted in that sort of the values I was taught by Catholic leaders of don't let anyone make you something that you're not. And you definitely don't back down when someone's telling you to marginalize another group.
Kevin Stallo: And I've told you before, that was, when that post went up. I think that's the first thing that kind of started to prompt that conversation for me. I was 27 at the time, I believe. And it was that what prompted the conversation and the thought in my head that I need to have this conversation with my parents. Like I had already talked to my family about it, and I had talked to my brothers, but I hadn't talked to my parents. And that's what started that conversation with them to where I could have that open dielectric. Cause I could say, “I loved working with Mike. I loved learning from him. And that was great for me. And the fact that this is going to be taken from him because of something, because of him supporting people like me, is a problem.”
And that was something that kind of made me think this is what I need to talk to my family about. And that post was enough for me to get angry about the Catholic Church and stuff and enough to explore that on to where it was just, it's not hate that I have for the Catholic Church, it's sadness. Like I don't hate them. I'm sad for them. I'm sad that we have to go through this, and I'm sad that people are going to be raised by this.
Mike Moroski: And I'm sad in a lot of ways, but that it took that to get to that point. It's obviously a beautiful thing. And hearing you say that just touches me in a way I can't even put words around. So anyway, this has been awesome, but isn't it sad that you had to get to a point of, you know what, I care so little about institution X at this point that I'm done. I just want to be free. And hopefully we can get to a day where when you're 10, 11, 12 years old, a system is set up in such a way that you feel you can be free and who you are then.
Kevin Stallo: Yeah.
Mike Moroski: I guess that's what we're trying to do.