Gay Music Director Fired from Rhode Island Parish

September 22, 2016
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Michael Templeton

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2016

Yet another gay church worker has been fired for exercising the right to civil marriage, this time in Rhode Island.

On Monday, Michael Templeton was fired as Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence. Templeton described the meeting during which he was fired as “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” reported Go Local. He said further of the meeting, which included the parish’s pastor and a diocesan official:

” ‘What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation. . .

” ‘What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories. . .These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.’ “

Templeton, who had worked at the Church of St. Mary for more than five years, said he was transparent about his relationship and then his 2015 marriage. He said he has “worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” and until now has been able to “do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have,” including music ministry in the Catholic communities for the past twenty-four years.

From 2006 through 2012, the Church of St. Mary had been administered by Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province. Templeton has been involved with Franciscan ministries since attending St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, and had worked at another Providence church for a time before coming to the Church of St. Mary. St. Mary’s parish had developed a reputation as a welcoming community, Templeton explained:

” ‘I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason.  I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.’ . . .

” ‘My heart breaks because this brings to light what “safe” means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as “less than” for a whole host of reasons.'”

The Diocese of Providence took over the administration of the parish from the Franciscan Friars two years ago. The administrative shift means the parish is now overseen more directly by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has a very LGBT-negative record.

Parishioners and the local community have rallied around Templeton, who said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.” He added:

” ‘Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages.  I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.’ “

Templeton posted on Facebook that the incident is “one moment in time and life surely goes on. God is good.” His message now is clear, reported Go Local:

” ‘People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music. . .I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.’ “

Michael Templeton has exhibited a grace and concern for the faith community that was seemingly absent in church officials’ decision to fire him. He joins the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes in recent years.    During this year of mercy, may the God of mercy be with those like Templeton who have been treated unjustly and wrongly.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.


Saint of 9/11: Remembering Fr. Mychal Judge as a Gay Priest

September 11, 2016

Today marks the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which took the lives of 2,996 people. Catholics remember in a special way the life of victim No. 1, Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM.

Judge, frequently referred to as the “Saint of 9/11,” was not only a chaplain for the New York Fire Department and a beloved (and busy) pastoral minister.He was a gay priest. This last identity is sometimes ignored or even left out intentionally when he is remembered, but it should not be.

As we pray for the victims of 9/11, for those persons who inflicted such pain, and for peace in our world today, we would do well to consider Judge in his fullness, for the lessons he taught and the witness he provides for our church even now. Focusing on his death could obscure his life, as a 2011 feature article in New York Magazine cautioned:

“As it happens, the unembellished story of Mychal Judge’s death is just as moving — and an even more telling tribute to the chaplain, as well as to the men he served.”

Part of his busy life included ministry to LGBT people who were on the margins of the church and of society in the 1980s and 1990s.  The same article quoted above explained:

“Back in the early eighties, Judge was one of the first members of the clergy to minister to young gay men with AIDS, doing their funeral Masses and consoling their partners and family members. He opened the doors of St. Francis of Assisi Church when Dignity, a gay Catholic organization, needed a home for its AIDS ministry, and he later ran an AIDS program at St. Francis. [In 1999], he marched in the first gay-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade, which his friend Brendan Fay, a gay activist, organized in Queens.”

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Firefighters carrying Judge’s body from the World Trade Center rubble

Fay said that in Judge “there was a core of sadness or vulnerability in him” that made him a good minister because he “was very in touch with human vulnerability.” The priest had an apartness from it all, though, which helped him minister, too, said Fay:

” ‘He recognized the tension between the worlds he lived in. . .He’d be honored by these members of the far right, and yet at the same time he felt he had to constrain himself. There was a certain sadness about that.’ “

Judge never came out publicly, especially to the firefighters at Engine 1-Ladder 24, near his residence. But he came out selectively to many people, including gay advocates, New York City officials, and the Catholics to whom he ministered. Franciscan Fr. Brian Carroll told New York Magazine:

” ‘Mike taught me how to come out as a young man. . .And how to see sexuality as an important part of who I am. He took away the shame. For some people, sexuality is a part of their shame. Or homelessness is a part of their shame. Or addiction is a part of their shame. Mychal helped people embrace all the shame parts of themselves and turn them into something good.’ “

Judge still struggled with the church, even while he himself was quite peaceful about his sexuality, writing once from the Marian shrine at Lourdes that he felt as if he was in a “different kind of church.” Many of his brother Franciscans were surprised when it became public after his death that Judge was a gay man.

 

But Judge’s sexual orientation, for him, was an integrated part of his being and even a gift. An autobiography of the priest, written by Michael Ford, quotes Judge as saying, “Look at who we are as gay people at this moment in history, being a gift for the church, being agents of change in both church and society.”

Popular devotion to the “Saint of 9/11” is growing, as a fast-growing  website about the priest’s legacy attests. There are documentaries and biographies, including Brendan Fay’s film, “Remembering Mychal,” which was shown at World Youth Day in Poland this past July and has been screened at parishes, too. His burial site in New Jersey has become a place of pilgrimage for many people. The cause for Judge’s formal canonization is gaining steam,reported The Record, but it also has little backing from the Archdiocese of New York or the Franciscan community.

Today’s Gospel, part of the same readings proclaimed the Sunday after September 11th, 2001, includes the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. They are readings about going out to the margins to find people, and about rushing out to welcome those who have come home. This Gospel seems particularly fitting for Fr. Mychal Judge, a gay man who, in his priestly ministry, rushed to the margins and welcomed home the many people he served in so many ways. Fr. Michael Duffy, OFM, concluded the homily at Judge’s funeral with the following words (you can listen to the audio version at NPR by clicking here):

“And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.”

Fr. Mychal Judge was, and is, a gift for Catholics. Gay men in the priesthood still have to deal with structural homophobia, and disputes about priests who have come out as gay are not infrequent. Judge’s life reveals how wrong it is to reject or repress gay priests. His life is a witness to the broader truth that there are many gay priests who lead holy lives of humble service. That is why, in remembering him and learning the lessons he teaches, we must never forget that his sexual orientation was a fertile source for his ministry and his love. We must always honor the fullness of Fr. Mychal Judge’s person–the full person that God created him to be.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Related Article

National Catholic Reporter, “The joys of Mychal Judge, fallen 9/11 chaplain”


Vigil for Orlando Victims Displaces Gay-Negative Lecture at Catholic School

June 22, 2016
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Bishop Peter Ingham and Emma Rodrigues

A Catholic school in Australia replaced a lecture against marriage equality with a candlelight vigil for victims of the mass shooting in Orlando which targeted an LGBT nightclub. The vigil is but one of many ways by which Catholics have shown their support for the victims and their families, and solidarity with LGBT communities.

Parents at St. Therese School in Wollongong, New South Wales, protested the scheduling of a lecture against marriage equality  by the Australian Family Association (AFA), reported the Illawara Mercury. AFA had used harsh language against same-gender relationships in its promotional materials for the event. Parents described the school’s use of its parent email list to promote the lecture as “extremely bigoted” and “totally inappropriate.” Against the school community’s calls for the event to be cancelled, Bishop Peter Ingham had defended the lecture and the hierarchy’s teaching on marriage.

After the Orlando incident, however, the lecture was replaced by a candlelight vigil for victims organized by Emma Rodrigues, an LGBTQI advocate.  Perhaps the surprise of the event was when Bishop Ingham showed up and stood side-by-side with Rodrigues. Tim Smyth of Acceptance, a Catholic LGBT group in Sydney, noted:

“While the vigil displaced a planned talk at the school that evening by a group opposed to marriage equality (and those with a more cynical bent might question the sequence of events), postponing the talk to make way for a vigil to remember the Orlando nightclub massacre victims and agreeing to the photo, is a step forward, albeit small.”

Smyth informed Bondings 2.0 of another positive Catholic LGBT development in Australia at the Installation Mass for Bishop Vincent Long, OFM, of Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney. Smyth reported that Long’s homily included “the first public statement by an Australian Bishop calling for spaces in our church for gay and lesbian Catholics.” Smyth continued:

“Bishop Long, a refugee from Vietnam, noted that the Catholic Church has ‘not lived up to that fundamental ethos of justice, mercy and care who have been hurt by our own actions and inactions’. Bishop Long went on to refer to Pope Francis’ call for a Church ‘where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live according to the Gospel’. Bishop Long then stated that ‘there can be no future for the living Church without there being space for those who have been hurt, damaged or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians or disaffected members. I am committed to make the Church in Parramatta the house for all peoples, a Church where therein less an experience of exclusion but more an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity’.”
In the U.S., more bishops have acknowledged the shooting as targeting LGBT people, though some used language such as “same sex attraction” and “lifestyle” to allude to the LGBT dimension of the tragedy. Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, reflected more extensively and sympathetically on Orlando in his column for diocesan newspaper, The Evangelistwhere he wrote:
“But whatever — or whoever — possessed this man last Sunday morning to enter the Orlando nightclub Pulse, described by its owner as ‘a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community,’ Mateen’s objective seemed clear enough: to put a violent end to defenseless members of a class of human beings simply because they existed and he did not want them to live. . .
“At this time, we must state unequivocally that our respect for the dignity of all human beings includes those who themselves identify or are associated in the judgment of others as members of the LGBTQ community, a class whose vulnerability to acts of terrorism was graphically and shockingly exposed at the massacre in Orlando.”

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport said, “There can be no place in our midst for hatred and bigotry against our brothers and sisters who experience same sex attraction or for anyone who is marginalized by the larger society.”

Bishop Felipe Estevez of St. Augustine said a massacre should not be necessary to “recognize our shared humanity, regardless of our lifestyle or paradigm of marriage and human sexuality, and that Catholics must attended to all people including the “gays and lesbians in our families.”

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500+ marchers in Seattle honoring Orlando victims (Photo: St. James Cathedral)

Faith communities and religious congregations have shown their solidarity not only with the victims in Orlando but with LGBT communities suffering in its aftermath.

More than 500 Seattle residents walked through that city’s LGBT neighborhood from the Episcopal cathedral to the Catholic one to honor those people killed, and to call for stronger gun control laws. Fr. Michael Ryan, pastor of St. James Catholic Cathedral, said there was “no better way” to express solidarity and call the community to prayer “in a very dark and painful moment” than this walk, reported the National Catholic Reporter.

In Washington, D.C., Dignity/Washington organized an interfaith vigil that drew hundreds to the city’s Dupont Circle.

In Indiana, the Sisters of Providence hosted a prayer service at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Terre Haute, to express solidarity with the victims and their families.

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Vigilers gathered in Dupont Circle

A statement from Franciscan provincials in the U.S., reported by the National Catholic Reporter, said the order stands “shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy. To them we say clearly: We stand with you.”

Fr. Pat Browne of Holy Apostles Parish in London reflected on the hate-fueled violence which struck down not only 49 people in Orlando last week, but resulted in the murder of British MP Jo Cox. Browne, who is a chaplain to the Houses of Parliament, wrote:

“As followers of Christ it is the mission of all Catholics and Christians to ensure that everyone, regardless of their colour, their creed, their sexual orientation is VISIBLE and VALUABLE. If you want to argue with that and say No, there is an exception…he didn’t mean….then you have got it wrong. Which group have you got a problem with? Gays? Migrants? Beggars on the street? There is no-one Christ omits from the warm embrace of his love. If YOU want to, then best be honest. Leave the Church. YOU ARE NOT OF CHRIST.”

Noting the Scottish church’s continued silence after Orlando, Kevin McKenna wrote in The Guardian:

“I remain hopeful that the Catholic church in Scotland will join with Scotland’s main political parties and the majority of its citizens to express sorrow at what happened in a gay Orlando nightclub last weekend. The victims were children of God and loved by [God] and so are those in the LGBT community who today feel a little more fearful and vulnerable as a result. The church to which I belong must now also reach out to them.”

Despite these positive responses from around the world, problematic responses are beginning to increase. Conservative Catholic outlets have published pieces that suggest church leaders should not be in solidarity with LGBT people or that claim anti-LGBT Christians are being attacked after Orlando. Melinda Selmys responded critically to such notions at her blog, Catholic Authenticity:

“Erasing the fact that the attack on the Pulse was likely motivated, at least in part, by religious homophobia is cowardly. As evidence arises to suggest that the killings may have been sparked by internalized homophobia, the Church really needs to be all the more forceful in communicating that homophobic hatred and violence are unacceptable. . .

“Instead, we have virtual silence from the hierarchy. We are left to grieve alone, unacknowledged by our spiritual fathers. And we have articles, like this one, that use one of the greatest tragedies ever to strike our community as an opportunity to argue that that community is illegitimate, that it must never be accepted, acknowledged, named.”

 

Earlier this week, Bondings 2.0 explored the religious roots involved in the mass shooting in Orlando that targeted an LGBT nightclub. This reality means faith traditions have a responsibility to respond strongly when violence strikes. Catholic faithful and pastors, by their words and acts, are showing that the church is the people of God, and that God’s people stand in solidarity with LGBT people, especially in their time of need.

To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the Orlando massacre and Catholic responses to it, please click here.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

 


Republican Candidate Stops for Mass at Gay-Friendly Parish

October 3, 2012

 

Paul Ryan

Instinct magazine reports that Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan stopped at a gay-friendly Catholic parish for Mass recently while on the campaign trail.

Ryan and bodyguards attended a 10:00 a.m. Mass at St. Patrick-St. Anthony parish, Hartford, Connecticut, run by the Franciscans.  Instinct cites a New York Times story from a few years back when Connecticut was debating marriage equality:

“In an October letter to each diocesan parish, the Hartford Archbishop, Daniel A. Cronin, asked all Catholics to sign a petition, endorsed by the diocese and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Family Institute of Connecticut (a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy organization), against the proposed laws. The Franciscan fathers at St. Patrick-St. Anthony refused to read the letter to their congregation or circulate the petition.”

St. Patrick-St. Anthony parish is currently the only Connecticut parish listed on New Ways Ministry’s gay-friendly parish list.   Their parish motto is “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.”

Let’s hope and pray that some of the Franciscan spirit of welcome and concern for the poor and marginalized was transmitted to Mr. Ryan.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry