The Washington Post published a fascinating and important article this week about a topic I've been hammering on for a long time: the Catholic Church's war on LGBT people and LGBT allies. Despite Pope Francis's nice-sounding words, that crusade hasn't stopped.
The Washington Post reports:
Having worked in Catholic church music ministry for nearly 40 years -- basically his entire adult life -- Mike McMahon thought he knew the landscape and his place in it. As a gay person, all was fine as long as he was "discreet."
And that worked for him even in the conservative Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., where he was employed for about 30 of those years as music director at several parishes. In that time, McMahon, who has three graduate degrees in theology, also served as president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the national body for liturgical music leaders in the Catholic Church.
Then came same-sex marriage, the topic that has roiled traditional religion and rocked the "don't ask, don't tell" status quo so common in houses of worship and religious schools.
Last summer, McMahon, 62, was fired as music director at St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington after news of his marriage reached the pastor, the Rev. Lee Roos.
McMahon said his meeting with Roos was less than half an hour. Church employees had verified that McMahon had married his partner in February, and he could either resign or be fired, McMahon said Roos told him. He opted to be fired and was told the dismissal from the part-time position was effective immediately...
McMahon wasn't fired because of poor workplace performance -- Fr. Roos admits that McMahon is a "gifted musician" -- he was fired because, in the words of Arlington Diocese spokesperson Michael Donohue, McMahon's marriage to his husband "serves to cause scandal in the church and confusion among the laity." Smearing a loving, committed couple in this way isn't just shameful, it's downright malicious.
Stories like Mike McMahon's are intensely personal for me: I, too, am a former Catholic church musician who, like McMahon, was dismissed for being married to my soulmate -- simply because that person is another man. I, too, was told that my continued public presence as a married gay man would "cause a scandal." (Does the church of priest sex-abuse coverups have any business calling any loving, legal, consensual marriage a "scandal"?!?)
And I know dozens of wonderful, dedicated, talented LGBT musicians serving the Catholic Church as organists, music directors, liturgists, cantors, choir members, and teachers. Mike McMahon's story could happen tomorrow to any one of them.
Until more lay Catholics, priests, and even bishops start to stand up and speak out against the Catholic hierarchy and its persecution of LGBT people -- until "who am I to judge?" becomes more than an empty platitude -- the bullying, oppression, and repression will continue unabated, and we'll continue to hear more sad stories like that of Mike McMahon.