A new priest for a cluster of churches in Minnesota, technically the “Roman Catholic Churches of St. Joseph and St. Francis Xavier” under the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, just got rid of three different singers from the choir because they’re gay men in same-sex relationships. Rev. John Drees is well within his right to do that, given the Church’s stance against marriage equality and homosexual acts, but the decision threatens to tear apart the congregation.
Ironically, it’s one of the dismissed gay men leading the charge in defense of the Church.
Some church members voiced concerns that the dismissals would lead to more people leaving the parish, which has about 400 members. Others were concerned about the decreasing inclusiveness of a community that has a history of being tight-knit.
“I’ve been discouraging people from leaving. I don’t intend to leave,” [dismissed choir member Bob] Bernard said.
Bernard discouraged protests over the decision, warning they would devastate the parish and traumatize the community.
“We didn’t want this to turn out to be another ‘bash the Catholic Church’ story, and we’re emphatic about that,” he said.
Oh, this is absolutely a “bash the Catholic Church” story, but it’s not anything new.
I have a hard time feeling sympathy for LGBTQ people who belong to an organization that goes out of its way to treat them as sub-human. I have even less sympathy when I hear those people taking the side of the Church even after they’ve been fired for the “crime” of being in a relationship.
But that’s what you get for belonging to the Catholic Church. I can’t say the priest did anything wrong, because this is literally what Catholics sign up for when they join. It’s not like the rules were secret. What did the singers expect? That their long-standing membership would override Church-sanctioned bigotry?
Still, it’s worth noting that homosexuality always seems to be the “sin” that priests take seriously. I wonder how many choir members have used birth control, or had an abortion, or got divorced. Are they kicked out as well? Or are those actions allowed to stay under the radar?
Bernard is a unique case because he’s been part of that congregation for more than 15 years. Rev. Drees informed the Church of his firing in a rather callous message.
The Dec. 10 church bulletin included a note by Drees. “We are so blessed with such talented musicians at our parishes,” it said, then went on to say that Bernard “served his last Mass with us last week.” No explanation was given. It went on to say that Travis Loeffler and Dominic Mitchell — a married duo who played at the services Bernard didn’t — “will also no longer be playing music at our Masses.”
Bernard had been an employee of the parish, while Loeffler was a volunteer, and his husband, Mitchell, had been an independently contracted musician, trustees said.
Drees then spoke with the churches’ four trustees. The musicians were being dismissed because their marriage was a public demonstration in opposition to church teachings, trustees heard. And Drees expressed confusion as to why nobody in the congregation had informed him of the marriages.
Only one trustee at the Church resigned over the firings. But the real question is how many members of the congregation will follow that trustee out the door. Anyone who remains there is basically saying they’re fine with anti-gay bigotry even when it’s not just a “rule” but something that affects the people they’ve come to know for several years. It’s heartless. And it’s what we’ve come to expect from the Catholic Church.
What else is new?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Muggsy for the link)