Chicago-area parishioners protest firing of gay music director

by Robert McClory

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The ouster of gay employees at churches is causing a lot more trouble than church officials expected. Recently, instances of protest have been reported somewhere in the country almost weekly. On Aug. 15, the Chicago Tribune ran a front-page story that continued for almost a full page inside on one situation.

The story centered on a three-hour, emotion-laden town hall meeting at Holy Family Church in the Chicago suburb of Inverness. "Angry, tearful parishioners stood in line at the crowded church, each taking a turn to beg church leaders to bring back their longtime music director [Colin Collette], who was fired recently," the Tribune story reported. Said one parishioner: "Whoever made the decision, it was a bad decision."

Cardinal Francis George made the decision, Collette told the Chicago Sun-Times in an earlier story. Someone sent George a Facebook photo featuring Collette and his partner after their engagement, the Sun-Times story reported, and the cardinal sent the church's pastor an email calling for Collette's resignation. When he refused to resign, he was fired, Collette said.

The situation at Holy Family may not be as easily laid to rest as it has been in some other parishes where a longtime, beloved employee (often a choir or musical director) is summarily discharged. For many years, Holy Family was pastored by Fr. Patrick Brennan, who championed the creation of an atmosphere of the Second Vatican Council in the parish, with countless ministries and educational programs for young and old. George pulled Brennan from the parish in 2009. Brennan died in 2013. But there remains at the parish a legion of activist, informed parishioners who may not be likely to accept the removal of Collette without a fight.

One archdiocesan spokesperson told the Tribune that the "Catholic Church welcomes and accepts all people and is absolutely not anti-gay." Another explained that "ministers and educators in particular cannot take any public stance against the teachings of the Church." Despite the Collette firing, she said, the archdiocese does not expect to see more public challenges to this church policy.

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