Seventeen-year old Lennon Cihak was denied confirmation after he posted a picture of himself on Facebook holding a sign he altered in support of the vote for marriage equality on Minnesota’s November 6th ballot. Cihak attends Assumption Church, a Catholic institution headed by Rev. Gary LaMoine. On their website, a link is listed to the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization that has provided more than $15.8 in the fight to deprive gay and lesbian couples the right to marry since 2005.
The Forum reports: “The decision by the Rev. Gary LaMoine to deny the religious rite of passage for Lennon Cihak in mid-October shocked his mother, who said her son has gone to church every week and volunteered around the community in preparation for his confirmation this year.” Shana, Cihak’s mother, said she was called into a private meeting with the priest and told that her son would not be allowed to be confirmed. Rev. LaMoine rejected claims that the denial of confirmation was related to the Facebook post, and told the Associated Press that the issue was an, “internal and pastoral,” matter.
Earlier this week, Rev. LaMoine sent a letter to his congregation attempting to discredit the family’s claims, placing sole responsibility on Lennon. “A couple of candidates chose not to enter into full communion with the Catholic community,” he states, “because of their disagreement with the teaching of the Church concerning marriage.” After retelling the story of Lennon’s Facebook post, Rev. LaMoine says that assertions the family has made about his rescinding of confirmation are, “not true.” “Nevertheless,” he continues, “even if he had not withdrawn from the confirmation ceremony, I would have had no choice but to remove him from consideration given his rejection of marriage as we understand it. Rejection of the Church’s teaching on marriage is a very serious breach of faith.” GLAAD has reached out to Lennon to offer support.
Catholics across the nation played a major role in the passing of marriage equality in Washington, Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland earlier this month. Rev. LaMoine’s assertion that, “one cannot embrace the faith of the Church in Confirmation while rejecting [its teachings on marriage] at the same time,” is a statement that many Catholics find inconsistent with their experience. While Roman Catholic hierarchy remains opposed to marriage equality for gay and lesbian men and women, Catholic congregants continue to be some of the most pro-LGBT of any Christian denomination.
Rev. LaMoine’s insistence on keeping his words and actions out of, “the public forum,” betrays how little he knows about the current state of affairs within his denomination. The Roman Catholic hierarchy has made their opposition to marriage equality (and LGBT equality in general) very public. While the hierarchy is pushing an anti-LGBT agenda on society, they are internally persecuting those who disagree with the hierarchy’s hardline politicking. One does not have to look far for examples of victims of this struggle.
2012 alone gave us the story of Barbara Johnson—the lesbian Catholic woman denied communion at her mother’s funeral, Al Fischer—the St. Louis based music teacher who was fired from his position at a Catholic school for marrying his partner of 20 years, and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl, who was disinvited from delivering a commencement speech at Sacred Heart Academy in Michigan after making his engagement to his partner public on Facebook.
Whatever the desires of religious hierarchy may be, people who fill their sanctuaries, people like Lennon and his mother, have made their voices heard: LGBT equality must be a priority for all people, especially for people of faith.
During the marriage equality votes in Maryland, Maine, Washington, and Minnesota, many Catholics have stated that their faith led them to support LGBT equality. How have your communities of faith responded to the call for marriage equality?