“Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.”

Colin Collette and his partner in Rome

“Everybody was welcome. That was our hallmark. All are welcome. Well, that’s all changed now. That’s become a lie.” Those are the words of the latest church worker to be fired for being part of a committed same-gender relationship, and this time it has happened in a Chicago suburb.

Colin Collette was the beloved music director at Holy Family Church in Inverness for seventeen years, but lost that job when he became engaged to his longtime partner last week. The couple was traveling in Rome, when Collette’s partner proposed in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, and then they posted the good news on Facebook. The Daily Herald details what happened next:

“On Sunday, after leading the music for all five Masses at Holy Family, Collette said church pastor [Father] Terry Keehan asked him to come to his office.

” ‘He said, “I know this is something you’ve been longing for a long time, and in light of this I’d be happy to accept your resignation,” ‘ Collette said, recounting what Keehan told him.

“Collette said at first he considered resigning, but something inside him told him he shouldn’t because he had done nothing wrong. He left Keehan’s office without resigning, but was fired Monday, he said.”

According to Collette, his relationship was never secret and his partner, who is Catholic, was an active member of the parish and known to Keehan. The music director cleared out his office on Tuesday and notified the 100-plus members of the parish’s choir in an email, saying:

” ‘I needed them to know that I’m not doing this to contradict church teachings or make a political statement…I believe God has given me this in my life and saying no to this relationship would be saying no to God.’

“The response from his choir was overwhelmingly positive, Collette said. Their kindness and acceptance often moved him to tears….

” ‘This has been so horrific that I just pray that we even have a wedding,’ Collette said. ‘There’s no way to describe how horrible this has been.’ “

Collette joins other parishioners in pointing out Holy Family’s reputation as a place where all are welcome, and indeed the parish’s motto is “Inviting all to new life in Christ.” Liturgical minister Joe Offenburger told ABC 7 that the firing is “like a dagger in your heart for this parish” because Holy Family was “a place for Catholics where we had hope, until now.”

Still, a news report from the Sun-Times indicates pressure from the archdiocese led to Fr. Keehan’s decision to fire the music director. In a statement, the Archdiocese of Chicago acknowledged the firing saying only that “worship ministers are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the church.”

The Sun-Times reported the chronology of events this way:

“Collette told the Chicago Sun-Times someone sent to Cardinal Francis George a Facebook image featuring the couple after their engagement. The cardinal then sent the church’s pastor an email calling for Collette’s resignation, he says. When he refused to resign, he was fired.

“ ‘This voice inside of me said, “No, wait a minute. Well, no. I didn’t do anything wrong.” I said, “I’m not going to resign. God brought me to this moment and God is saying this is why I created you. You are here to live and love.’”

“Collette said the church’s pastor knew he was gay, and had attended dinners with the couple. He also helped him walk down the aisle during his mother’s funeral two years ago.

“ ‘He made it very clear that he was getting pressure from above,’ Collette said.”

Collette commented further about the situation of  LGBT church workers:

” ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell is the policy in the Church. So I guess as long as you’re willing to live the lie, you’re safe. Actually, you’re never safe. You live in fear every day someone is going to call the Cardinal or someone is going to turn you in.’ “

As of now, Collette says he would welcome a return to the parish and plans to continue worshipping there. Of the immense hurt he and his partner are experiencing, the fired employee says:

” ‘I’m not angry. The closest way to describe how I feel is if you’ve ever lost anyone that you loved, your mom or dad or grandmother…That feeling you get in your stomach that your life is never going to be the same. That’s what I’m feeling. Only instead of losing one person, I just lost 3,000 people.’ “

The firing of Colin Collette brings the total number of reported church worker and volunteers firings in 2014 up to thirteen. You can access New Ways Ministry’s record of LGBT and ally church worker firings since 2008 by clicking here, and on that page there are links for further information about each case.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

14 Responses to “Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.”

  1. Rita Warren says:

    All are not welcomed in this Place. Why are we surprised? Look how the beloved nuns are treated by the Church. The church teaches one thing but lives by another code. Love, forgiveness and acceptance are only words. I for one am getting weary..

  2. Linda Nicholson says:

    And this is the reason LGBTs are flocking to the Episcopalian church. I recently attended a very warm and welcoming Sunday service at an Anglican/Episcopalian parish in San Diego, where my son is a member. Not only did the clergy exude an embracing feeling, but the parishioners seemed genuinely happy to participate in the service. He has had similar experiences in other Episcopalian churches in the U.S. All inclusiveness is inherent to being Christ-like. This and the manner in which women are treated in the Catholic Church (my sister is a Sister) are among the many reasons the Catholic Church is losing members. I have lost hope that things will change in the Catholic Church. My faith in God, however, is stronger than ever. I urge Catholics like me to seek other spiritual venues that bring us closer to Christ.

  3. Richard Holbrook says:

    Celebrate your wedding! Blessings on you both!

  4. Friends says:

    I’m increasingly convinced that a big part of the problem with our own Catholic Church is that our clergy (i.e., Catholic priests and bishops) are forcibly and needlessly celibate and unpartnered, and therefore have become angry and bitter and irate and frustrated men. Linda has got it exactly right. HELLO! Jesus’ own Apostles — essentially His first “priests” — were almost certainly married men. The Anglican/Episcopal branch of the Universal Catholic Church has got this issue figured out. Allowing Roman Catholic priests to marry and to have spouses and children of their own — once again, as it was in the beginning — would do wonders to heal what has gone wrong with the Roman Catholic branch of the Universal Catholic Church.

  5. Mary Izak says:

    There are far more cases of gay music ministers being fired than listed in your data base. At my church alone, in Rockwall, Texas, we have lost 2 during the past 9 years! After the last was fired, the following Sunday the song, “All Are Welcome” was included at Mass. How absurd and hurtful! One of the ministers now works for the local Episcopal church where his 33-year relationship with his partner was blessed on their anniversary during Sunday liturgy!! Good for them! Churches in the city of Dallas are not immune to similar treatment of gays in committed relationships. Very sad and contrary to the gospel message.

    • Yes, you are right. Our list only includes the cases which have made the news. I recognize that it is not comprehensive. I pray that it is not just a “tip of the iceberg,” but I also know that there are many other cases that have not been made public, often because the person fired wants her/his privacy respected.

  6. Joe Sacerdos says:

    This is probably why the words of the Mass were changed 3 years ago. They used to be “it will be shed for you and for ALL.” Now the word is “MANY.” God’s unconditional, all encompassing love drives power hungry bishops bonkers. Religion is supposed to be a pathway to the Divine. It gets all mucked up when it becomes all about who is “in” and who is “out.” Let’s change the words of the hymn to “Some, but not all, are welcome in this place.”

    • Friends says:

      Hmmmm…actually I was an altar boy in the late 1950s, and I remember the relevant words in the original Latin: “Hic est calix sanguinis mei, mysterium fidei, qui pro vobis et pro MULTIS effundetur in remissionem peccatorum”. So the original Latin formula was “many” (“multis”), rather than “all” (“omnes”). Evidently, competing political camps in the RCC have been messing around with the Consecration Formula for almost six decades. This does not exactly breed confidence in the “Infallibility” of the decisions of the High Muckity-Mucks who think they run the Church, without any accountability to the folks in the pews, who really ARE the Church which Jesus Himself envisioned and intended!

  7. Sue Keller says:

    Obama just signed the executive order barring discrimination against LGBT people by religious contractors. If this archdiocese accepts ANY kind of federal funding and they most likely do, they can’t fire any LGBT person. These guys need to get a lawyer. Don’t give up without a fight.

  8. […] 700 parishioners met at a suburban Chicago parish last Wednesday to discuss the firing of gay music director Colin Collette, who was let go in late July after his engagement to partner, William Nifong, became public. […]

  9. […] equality, even as several anti-LGBT campaigners admit it is a lost cause. There is a troubling rise in the firing of LGBT church workers, as more come out publicly and get married. Theologian Massimo Faggioli is quoted in […]

  10. […] about after Collette posted on social media about his engagement to William Nifong. Collette has previously expressed his desire to return to the staff of Holy Family, where he had worked for more than seventeen years […]

  11. […] Regardless of the legal outcome of this case, Collette’s firing and those LGBT-related employment disputes which have lead to than 40 church workers losing their jobs since 2008 cause tremendous pastoral damage. A town hall at Holy Name Parish four months ago drew hundreds, almost all in support of the gay music director, who received a standing ovation. Several volunteers resigned from the parish in protest of the firing. One parishioner spoke about the pastoral harm, saying, “Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.“ […]

  12. […] This firing was traumatic for the Holy Family Catholic Community. 700 parishioners at a town hall conversation about the incident welcomed Collette with a standing ovation, and one parishioner expressed anger and disappointment at the treatment of Collette, saying: “Everybody was welcome…That’s become a lie.” […]

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