The Roman Catholic Church generally does not fire church music directors for presumed premarital sex, usury, moderate gambling, smoking, or countless other vices.
But when a Verona, Wisconsin, church fired music director Charles Philyaw for being honest with the congregation about having a gay partner who was also a member of the church, the hypocrisy of antigay parishioners and an ex-gay advocate became apparent. The June termination at St. Andrew Catholic Church was reported Monday by the Wisconsin State Journal.
Parishioner Jo Ellen Kilkenny said, “We are all sinners, but when you hold a leadership position, you’re held to a higher standard than people in the pews.” She may be right to hold leaders to a higher standard — but that’s beside the point: Kilkenny tolerates sinful church leaders — she just doesn’t tolerate homosexual Catholics. In particular, she could not stomach receiving the Eucharist from someone (Philyaw’s partner) whom she knew to be gay.
Another self-deluded parishioner, Mark Heyde, incomprehensibly believed that laying the groundwork for Philyaw’s termination would somehow save Philyaw’s soul. Two other antigay parishioners, Kevin and Julie Keyes, fled responsibility for their actions, deflecting blame for Philyaw’s termination to church officials.
The diocese refused to comment — but made its unfortunate moral double-standard clear by referring media to a vocal ex-gay activist:
Brent King, spokesman for the Madison Catholic Diocese, said Bishop Morlino does not comment on personnel issues. But the diocese made available the Rev. Monsignor James Bartylla, director of vocations, who is helping to coordinate locally a program called Courage, a national Catholic initiative that counsels people with same-sex attraction.
While same-sex attraction is considered a disorder by the Catholic Church, it is not a sin in and of itself, Bartylla said. “It is acting on the attraction that makes it a sinful act, a grave depravity,” he said.
People with same-sex attraction must control their desires and live chaste lives, he said. If they do so, they can participate fully in church life, including in leadership positions, he said.
Because of this distinction between same-sex attraction and acting on it, it would be a mistake to say the Catholic Church dismisses anyone from employment simply for their sexual orientation, King said.
As for parishioners who are sexually active homosexuals, Bartylla said the church would welcome them, then “begin dealing immediately” with the issue. “We’d encourage them and challenge them to come into conformity with church teaching, the same as with any parishioner dealing with sin.”
Courage dislikes being associated with the largely Protestant ex-gay movement, but in recent years the organization’s web site has parroted the misinformation of the reparative-therapy think tank NARTH regarding the origins of sexual orientation. While the organization does not boast that anyone can “change” their sexual orientation, Courage nevertheless encourages its celibate same-sex-attracted followers to deny that they are “gay.”
Given Courage’s promotion of ex-gay ideology and politically correct language, I believe it’s fair to apply the ex-gay label to Courage and hold the organization accountable for its associations.
Courage treats same-sex attraction differently from other, more significant vices. Neither it nor other “conservative” Catholic organizations require local leaders to conform to the church’s official cautions against the dangers of usurious banking, globalization, lawless free-market greed, immigration hysteria, inequitable access to health care, and consumerism (envy). Even on issues where conservatives should have solid standing, such as abortion, they fail badly in practice: Their advocacy of discredited abstinence-only education and their opposition to comprehensive sex education leads to high rates of unwed pregnancy and subsequent abortion in socially conservative states.
Amid all that amorality, Msgr. Bartylla singles out sexually honest and musically inspired Catholics for discrimination. That’s certainly no sign of moral “courage.”
According to the Journal, several parishioners courageously defended Philyaw; some of them have stepped back from regular participation at St. Andrew, while others have stopped speaking to the bigots.
As for Philyaw:
His firing has not shaken his faith in God, he said. He and his partner now worship with a United Church of Christ congregation.