CATHOLlC Church leaders in Liverpool have been told they cannot sack a primary school headmaster who has entered a civil partnership with a male teacher.
The Archdiocese of Liverpool confirmed lawyers advised “nothing could be done” to remove Charles Coyne from his post at St Cecilia’s Catholic Junior School in Green Lane, Tuebrook.
Church leaders said Mr Coyne, head at the 218-pupil school for more than a decade, is “acting contrary to church teaching”.
He has registered a partnership with Richard Jones, who it is believed works at a nearby school.
The couple live together and had a reception in a parish centre.
Last night, the parish priest of St Cecilia’s, Father Mark Madden, said he was on holiday and referred all inquiries to the Archdiocese, – which confirmed it had taken legal advice over Mr Coyne’s position but also stressed his personal life had not affected the management of the school, described as “good” by Ofsted this year.
A spokesman said: “Legal advice was sought, but the church was advised that nothing could be done, despite the fact that the head was acting contrary to church teaching.”
He added: “Mr Coyne is a long-standing head teacher, who has effectively run a Roman Catholic school for many years. During that time, matters relating to his personal life have in no way interfered with his management of the school.”
But among those demanding changes are the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, who said head teachers should uphold the position of the church they represent.
Pope Benedict XVI has also denounced civil partnerships, calling them “anarchic” and a danger to the family.
Norman Wells, the director of the Family Education Trust, said: “It is not unreasonable for parents sending their children to a faith school to expect the headteacher to be living according to that faith.”
But the Rev Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, predicted that Mr Coyne's “courageous” step would be followed by others in senior posts.
“This will be very helpful to everybody who expects the Catholic Church to be open and honest,” he said.
The controversy follows a glowing inspection report where Mr Coyne himself received plaudits for being “a driving force who sets the standard.”
The report noted attainment success at the Green Lane school including achievements in maths and science which put St Cecilia’s in the top 10% nationally.