Minnesota Teen Supports His Friend in Confirmation Controversy

Last weekend, we reported the story of a Minnesota teenager, Lennon Cihak, who is being denied confirmation because he took a stand in support of marriage equality during that state’s recent ballot initiative.

An interesting development has occurred in this story:  one of Cihak’s confirmation class peers has refused to receive confirmation as a  gesture of solidarity for his friend.  What makes this development even more interesting is that the second teen, Ryne Kisch, does not share Cihak’s support of marriage equality.

D-L Online.com reports:

“Jay Kisch said his 16-year-old son, Ryne, did not agree with 17-year-old Lennon Cihak’s support of same-sex marriage, instead withdrawing from the confirmation process at Assumption Church here ‘out of compassion and concern’ for Cihak.

“ ‘They don’t necessarily share the same viewpoint on gay marriage, but yet they’re good friends and very supportive of each other,’ Jay Kisch said.”

Yet, the priest who denied confirmation to Cihak, Fr. Gary LaMoine, made a public statement that Kisch agreed with Cihak on marriage equality, which Kisch and his family have denied:

“In a letter to the parish made public last Friday, LaMoine said both Cihak and another ‘candidate,’ meaning Ryne Kisch, withdrew from the confirmation process ‘because of their disagreement with the teaching of the Church concerning marriage.’

“ ‘My son feels like he’s been maligned,’ he said. ‘No one even asked him why he didn’t want to go through the confirmation process. I think it was just assumed that he believed in gay marriage.’

“Although Ryne, who has been a friend of Cihak’s since kindergarten, says he does not support same-sex marriage, he still wanted to stand with his friend.

“ ‘We disagree on the views but we can still be friends,’ Ryne said. ‘I decided to stick up for him.’ ”

LaMoine–and indeed the entire church– can learn a lesson from Ryne:  you don’t have to agree to be able to stand in solidarity and communion with your friend.  Love can transcend all differences.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Minnesota Teen Denied Confirmation Because of Support for Marriage Equality

Lennon Cihak

A 17-year old in Barnesville, Minnesota, is being denied Confirmation for posting a photo on Facebook revealing his opposition to the failed constitutional amendment in that state that would have defined marriage as one man and one woman, and his family is suffering repercussions too.

The mother of Lennon Cihak was informed in a private meeting with their parish priest, Fr. Gary LaMoine, that Lennon would be unable to receive the sacrament, even though Lennon had participated in a service programand attends Mass.

The photo in question is one of Lennon holding a lawn sign in support of the marriage amendment that the teen altered to show his support for marriage equality.

Other students in the Confirmation class ‘Liked’ the photo, thus the family cannot understand why Cihak was singled out. The priest sanctioning Lennon referred to it as an ‘internal and pastoral’ matter when questioned, and said he is consulting diocesan officials regarding the matter, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reports that the Cihak family is now being sanctioned for their son’s Facebook post, yet some members remain committed to the Catholic Church:

“But now the family is not allowed to participate in Communion there, Doug [Cihak, Lennon’s father] said, and he’s worried as to how far the sanctions will go, expressing concern about being able to be buried alongside his parents.

“Still, Doug insists he’s not mad at LaMoine, calling him just a ‘messenger’ of the church. The same could not be said for his wife, who said she doesn’t plan on returning to the church ever again, her son nodding in agreement…

“But through it all, Lennon said his faith hasn’t faltered.

“‘I don’t want the church to be put down. I don’t want the Catholic religion to be put down,’ he said. ‘It’s just the way the priest has things running. He’s so strict. He won’t loosen up about things.’”

It is positive that Lennon can parse out what the faith is truly about and the harmful actions of people in the institutional structure, but no young person or family should be subjected to such abusive treatment from a priest.

This use of sacraments in a disciplinary capacity undermines the beauty and depth of these important moments in the life of a Catholic, and a case like this sheds light on why many high school students choose to forgo Confirmation altogether. Hopefully, priests like Fr. LaMoine will come to their senses and minister pastorally instead of ideologically.

Diocesan officials need to intervene in this case and correct LaMoine’s mistake.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry