Over the Easter weekend, Cardinal Timothy Dolan spoke of the need to be more supportive of LGBT Catholics, and Cardinal Wuerl, saying that gay Catholics who married could be treated in the same way as divorced people, claimed that this would be “no great problem”.
They should have a few words with their colleague in the New York diocese of Rockville Centre, where for one gay Catholic who was deeply involved in contributing actively to his local parish, getting married turned out to be a very great problem indeed.
Gay man removed from Catholic parish involvement after getting married
The media has made much ado about Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, wherein he claimed that the Roman Catholic Church needs to be better at welcoming gay and lesbian people. Cardinal Dolan also stated that the Catholic Church isn’t “anti-anybody” and should be a church for all.
But his words do not ring true for real life Catholics. In fact, as Cardinal Dolan was expressing his desire to have the church be open to all, one gay Catholic man was being stripped of his roles and responsibilities within his Long Island parish.
Nicholas Coppola is a parishioner at St. Antony’s Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside, New York. His involvement at the church included serving as a religious education instructor, lector, altar server, visitation minister for homebound members, as well as member of the Consolation Ministry and St. Vincent de Paul.
He has been completely out to his parish for years, and has had the support of his priest and fellow parishioners. Mr. Coppola and his husband, David were married on October 27, 2012. A number of parishioners attended their wedding.
- more at San Diego Gay and Lesbian News.
The problems began when an anonymous letter to the bishop, alerting him to the fact of Coppola’s heavy involvement in parish ministry and of his wedding, resulted in a direct instruction to the parish priest, to remove Coppola from all his activities.
There is much in this story that is so obviously wrong, it’s hardly necessary to spell it out – from the scandal that a single anonymous complaint can cause so much harm to the good work being done in parish ministry; that the insistence on rigid adherence to doctrinal rules rather than the principles of love and service are completely contrary to the Gospel imperatives; and that singling out LGBT Catholics for this kind of doctrinal policing, but not others living in conflict with church teaching (think not only married couples using contraception, but also employers who do not respect workers’ rights) is clearly discriminatory.
More distressing is that this incident is very far from unique. It bears strong resemblances, for instance, to the case a few years ago of the Canadian altar server who was dismissed after a small group of parishioners complained that he had entered a civil union with his partner – even though the man insisted that the relationship was celibate, and so not contrary to Church teaching. Other examples include numerous cases of teachers, musicians and others who have been dismissed from their posts in church employment. SDLN lists some of these:
Nicholas Coppola is not the first Catholic to be persecuted by Roman Catholic hierarchy. Several employees of Roman Catholic parishes, schools, and related institutions have been fired for their support for marriage equality, no matter how public or private those beliefs have been. Dominic Sheahan-Stahl was uninvited to speak at the graduation of his alma mater in Michigan. Lennon Cihak was denied confirmation after urging people to vote against the anti-marriage amendment in Minnesota. Most famously in Maryland, Barbara Johnson was denied communion at her own mother’s funeral because she was gay.
“We continue to hear assertions from the hierarchy that the Roman Catholic Church is loving and embracing to all, but the experience of Nicholas Coppola and so many others run counter to those claims,” stated GLAAD’s Director of News and Faith Initiatives, Ross Murray. “Until the hierarchy stops persecuting those within its ranks who support full equality for LGBT people, its message of love and inclusion means nothing.”
Pope Francis is setting a clear example from the top of the church that pastoral sensitivity and service to all those in need, are of vastly greater importance that doctrinal purity. The recent statements by Cardinals Dolan and Wuerl suggest that they are ready to follow his lead.
It’s time for Bishop William Murphy too, to get that memo. His diocese, Rockville Centre, is technically a suffragen diocese of Cardinal Dolan’s own Archdiocese of New York, which makes Dolan Bishop Murphy’s immediate superior. One letter produced an immediate response from the bishop. Perhaps a deluge of letters in objection to Cardinal Dolan, challenging him to demonstrate his fine Easter words with action to match, could result in an appropriate letter from him, to Bishop Murphy – demanding that Mr Costello be reinstated in his valuable ministry and service in the parish of St. Antony’s , Oceanside,
- Longtime Gay Parishioner Booted From Church Posts (Religion News Service)
- A Reader Writes: There Is an Opportunity Worth Grasping with Cardinal Dolan’s Easter Statement (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- DignityUSA Asks to Meet With Cardinal Dolan (queeringthechurch.com)
- Responses to Cardinal Dolan on What Gay Folks Are Entitled to: Truth Wins Out and Dan Savage (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Cardinal Wuerl: Married Gay Catholics “Not a Great Problem” (queeringthechurch.com)
- The Hypocrisy of Cardinal Dolan on LGBT People (lezgetreal.com)
- “Catholic Parents Cope Differently When LGBT Children Are Excluded” (news.queerchurch.com)
- Cardinal Timothy Dolan: “Catholic Church needs better outreach to gays” (queeringthechurch.com)
- Cardinal Dolan: Catholic Church could do better on gay outreach (religionnews.com)