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