Long Island Catholics Under Scrutiny for LGBT Support

Nicholas Coppola & husband, David Crespo, outside their Long Island parish (Credit: Long Island Newsday)

LGBT Catholics on Long Island are making their voices heard after Nicholas Coppola was removed from ministry for marrying his husband, David. These Catholics’ opinions are varied and complex, as reported in Long Island Newsday this week:

“Kathy and her partner, devoted Roman Catholics who are gay, feel welcome in their Suffolk County parish.

“But when the time came to baptize their children, they chose to have a private ceremony rather than stand with straight parents in a group baptism at Sunday Mass.

“Acceptance, they have decided, means keeping a low profile. The couple don’t hide their sexual orientation, but they don’t flaunt it either…

“For gay and lesbian Catholics on Long Island, home of the nation’s fifth-largest diocese, participation in a church…is fraught with complexities. Some, like Kathy, feel a general sense of acceptance, but within unspoken boundaries. Others are so alienated they won’t go inside a Catholic church.”

Involvement by LGBT Catholics is particularly strained on Long Island after the ousting of Nicholas Coppola from several volunteer ministries once he had married his husband. However, in contrast to the hierarchy’s harsh LGBT policies  on Long Island and nationwide, American Catholics support LGBT equality. The Newsday piece continues with comments from several LGBT advocates:

“‘There’s been a great shift in the last couple of decades and particularly in the last two to three years,’ said Jeannine Gramick, a nun with the Sisters of Loretto order, who founded the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry to seek acceptance for gays and lesbians in the church. ‘More and more gay Catholics are beginning to realize that non-gay Catholics in the pew are supportive,’ Gramick said.

“She and other advocates said the church hierarchy is not keeping up. Gay and lesbian Catholics are ‘leaving the church in droves,’ Gramick said. ‘It’s heartbreaking.'”

“Mary Kane, 50, head of the Suffolk chapter of Dignity, a national gay Catholic advocacy group, said it is hit or miss for gays and lesbians seeking a friendly parish on Long Island.

“‘There are very welcoming parishes, and there are some parishes where gay and lesbian couples don’t feel welcome or don’t go back,’ she said.

“Many parishes seem to operate on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell basis,’ Kane said. ‘A lot of it depends on the priest.'”

Other LGBT Catholics described their experiences of alienation from Long Island parishes, which mirrors  the trend nationwide:

“Jamie Manson, of Long Beach, still feels excluded. She attended Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville — a ‘wonderful experience’ — majored in theology at St. John’s University, and received a master’s degree in Catholic theology and ethics at Yale Divinity School.

“Yet as a lesbian she feels so alienated from the Catholic Church she rarely steps inside one, except for weddings and funerals. ‘It’s so empty having nowhere to go — you feel like you are spiritually homeless,’ said Manson, 36.

“Dennis McCarthy, a longtime lay leader at Our Lady of the Snow parish in Blue Point, said the church has fallen behind the times. Until the church accepts gays and lesbians and adopts ‘a different attitude toward the role of women in the church,’ such as allowing them to be deacons and eventually priests, ‘I think they’re generally going to have a problem going forward,’ he said.

“Gays should hold ministerial positions and be allowed ‘participation in any way’ in parish life, McCarthy said.”

The  trend of firing LGBT educators, or even those assumed to be gay, and removing inclusive efforts at the parish level seems to be increasing, even as leading American bishops, like Cardinal Dolan of New York, claim to work at making Catholic churches more welcoming while closing the doors.

What have your experiences been in Catholic parishes where you live?  Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section of this post.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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10 Responses to Long Island Catholics Under Scrutiny for LGBT Support

  1. tomfluce says:

    Hi Bob, The answer is to change the core doctrine. Trying to make us “welcome” while the official teaching is that we cannot be who we are without going to hell is an impossible job. And please don’t lay it all on a hopelessly ignorant, prejudiced hierarchy. We have to accept the fact that there are vast numbers of people who believe the catechism #2357,8,9. Read their blogs. Read Randy Engel’s writings. Powerful people–with money, with conviction–expect their church to stick to its doctrine. So why not just start changing the doctrine with The Galileo Reconciliation Commission? If all of us who claim to be LGBT or allies of LGBT were to openly start at various levels to get people talking about how to lovingly dissent in the 21st century, we could achieve more than just tolerance, we could gain respect for our convictions. There should be no more Galileos, no more excommunications for conscientious reasons. Write me at tomfluce@gmail.com, go to my blog, Let’s get our energies revved up for doctrinal change. Thanks!

  2. tomfluce says:

    My blog is “least harm.weebly.com” Tom Luce

  3. Terence says:

    I consider myself fortunate. Back in Johannesburg, my then partner and I were fully involved in all aspects of parish life, including four years serving together on the parish council. Since coming to the UK, I have become heavily involved in the Soho Masses for LGBT Catholics, and through my blog, attracted the wrath of the orthotoxic conservative bloggers, who regularly couple me personally with the Soho Masses, in their copious letters of complaint to Archbishop Nichols, to the papal nuncio, and directly to the Vatican. In the past I’ve been accused of heresy and of being under Satanic influence. My most recent “crime” was to host a New Ways style “Next Steps” workshop for the Soho Masses Community, in the Mount Street Jesuit Centre. For this outrage, the self-righteous right have been writing to the Papal Nuncio to complain. The irony is that in his announcement of the move of the Soho Masses Community from Soho Masses to Mayfair, Archbishop Nichols explained that while we would no longer be responsible for planning the liturgy, “the same organizing team” would responsible for continuing and developing the work we were already doing in pastoral provision. He knows full well, because numerous people have written to tell him so, that I’m part of that organizing team – and the whole point of the Next Steps workshops is to look for ways to expand ministry and “pastoral provision”.
    My home parish is not in Archbishop Nichols’ diocese of Westminster, but in Arundel & Brighton, in a leafy part of Surrey known as “stockbroker belt” – and very, very conservative. But in my local parish I am also completely open, both about my life with a same – sex civil partner, and about my activities promoting LGBT ministry. I have also appeared on BBC television, identified as an openly gay Catholic. I have also been completely frank with both the priests in the parish, one of whom encouraged me to “keep up the good work”, and the other (the parish priest) was more cautious, but not in any way critical.
    If either of my bishops, or the local priests, had any desire to apply the letter of the law, I could certainly have been served with a cease and desist notice, just like Coppola and others, (I am constantly evaluating how I should respond, if it should come to that). However, I have been left unimpeded, and suspect that will continue – just as I know most parishes will allow LGBT Catholics to worship and participate fully in parish life – at least until those cowardly anonymous letters of complaint come in. That is why I am passionate about the importance of coming out, in church, as far as we are able in our own personal and parish circumstances, to make it easier for others. The more we become visible, the more we insist on our value to our parishes and dioceses, the more numerous we are – the more difficult it becomes for those complainants to be taken seriously.
    Besides, it’s our religious duty: see “Come out, stand proud – the Catechism commands it” (http://queeringthechurch.com/2009/10/11/come-out-stand-proud-the-catechism-commands-it/ )

  4. Annette Magjuka says:

    I am outraged. I am deeply saddened, and I feel abandoned. My identity as a Catholic is being yanked out from under me. My entire life I believed that my church led the way for social justice, equality, and the dignity of every human being. I grew up around the University of Notre Dame and remember vividly the civil rights of work faculty, priests, nuns, parishes and the community. There was no division, the community was unified in the belief that it was because we are Catholic that we work for justice. Now my faith universe has shattered. There is a witch hunt mentality that I do not accept as Catholic, and yet those in power positions are the ones perpetuating the witch hunt. People being fired, banished, lives in upheaval–and all we can do is to hope for a more lenient priest?! The best we can do is to tell GLBT people to “lay low” and try to avoid the gaze of the hierarchy?! What is happening is wrong, plain and simple. Parishioners who know this is wrong watch silently, unsure of how to stop this discrimination and evil around us, being perpetuated in our names. We must speak up for GLBT equality. To stay silent is to condone. Catholics must not condone injustice and unloving behavior. Many ask why I do not leave the church. How do you leave? I was baptized Catholic, it is my identity. It is the church that is leaving the faithful. We need leaders who will protect our souls. Leading Catholics to gossip, point fingers, discriminate, and bully is not church doctrine. This must stop. We must stand united against these sinful behaviors. Working for the dignity and full inclusion of our GLBT brothers and sisters is not just for them. It is for the souls of every Catholic, gay or straight. It is for our entire Catholic community.

  5. Paul Halsall says:

    I am very close to becoming an independent Catholic. I know they can look a bit silly – all clergy and no congregation – but I miss the sacraments, and the fight is getting too hard. How much I miss my time at Dignity New York.

    • Sr. Michele Gothro n/ofr says:

      In the Ecumenical Catholic Communion (ECC) our parishes have congregations that are full of life and remain Catholic. Look us up on line. We have a primary bishop and a few other diocesan bishops but also have an active lay people.

  6. FriarMonk says:

    In 2004, I accepted the invitation I’ve seen all my life and during 20 years of sideline involvement, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.” It is in this ecclesial community that the heart of the Vatican II documents officially continue to be lived out liberally and generously–according to each baptized member’s conscience: not necessarily in agreement in all things, but able to share together at the Table of the Lord. Gathering with a Christian Community, joining in the celebration of the sacraments as well as the Word is so essential to share in Jesus’ life as a member of God’s people. Let the many expressions of Western Christianity be a place to seek out for those who feel pushed out of their parishes, until “all may be one” in Christ. Happy Pentecost.

    • I attended an Episcopal church for a year or so. And yet, my family, my roots–Roman Catholic. Why must I choose? Why has the church of social justice that I so embraced as a young person now insist that to be “faithful,” we must discriminate? It is the opposite of all I believed the Catholic church to be. I recently attended the funeral of my 85 year old aunt. Her sister, my other aunt, is an 87 year old nun. We began talking about the church, and the discrimination that so upsets me. Another elderly nun who attended said, “That is not my church.” I am a baptized Catholic. I cannot condone the discrimination, the divisiveness, the outright cruelty–that some bishops and priests insist be done in the name of the church. To say that “hands are tied” because of the stated doctrine of the church does not cut it. Each Catholic must search his conscience. The voice of the Holy Spirit will be heard loud and clear: discrimination is wrong. Divisiveness is wrong. This is especially relevant as we celebrate Pentecost.

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