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Gay Choir Director Fired

According to TwinCities.com,

After decades of honing his musical skills, Charles Philyaw landed his dream job in 2004 as the full-time director of music liturgy at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Verona.

The church, with 1,643 adult members, was more than just a place to work for Philyaw. He and his partner, James Mulder-Philyaw, joined the parish and participated fully in the religious community.

Then in June, it all collapsed. Philyaw said he was told by the parish priest, the Rev. Dave Timmerman, that he would no longer be retained because he was living an openly gay life. He was given two weeks' notice.
Far from attempting to obfuscate the issue, the issue was made plain.

"Absolutely, Chuck lost his job because he's openly gay," said Jo Ellen Kilkenny, one of the five whose inquiries triggered Philyaw's dismissal.

She calls him a "wonderful music director" and said she feels horrible that he lost his livelihood, yet it became indefensible for him to be in a highly visible role as an active homosexual, she 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 said.
I must tell you that this is a very well done article as it states plainly the Church's side of the issue with quotes like these:
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."
In this case, the article doesn't say if any lawsuits are pending but sexual orientation is becoming a constant addition to anti-discrimination statutes across the country. How long until churches lose the right to discriminate at all? I think we're a bit of a way off from the government stepping in and forcing women priests or gay priests on us but couldn't you see it argued that when an employee's main duties are not necessarily ecclesiastical or ministerial that the Church will no longer be able to say who it hires and fires. The government could just say, "oh he's just the musical director" or "Oh he's just a teacher."

The government is already forcing Catholic hospitals to give out abortifacients. They're forcing Catholic adoption centers to arrange gay adoptions. How long do we have before America and Catholicism are mutually exclusive?

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Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

I wonder if they do articles like this for guys who cheat on their wives and are fired....

Veridicus said...

This is my home diocese.

What's upsetting about this is that the priest knew all about his lifestyle when he was hired.

However, Bishop Morlino has (rightly) cleaned house the last few years. There's a fair amount of press about how the choir director's house is in foreclosure and other finacial troubles he's facing. None of these problems would have arisen in the first place if the priest would have made the right choice at the very beginning.

Warren said...

He may have (wrongly) been given an opportunity to share his directing skills, but Mr. Philyaw would have to be living a most cloistered life in that proverbial closet to claim ignorance of the Church's proscription against gay acts. Obviously, Mr. Philyaw's lifestyle does not conform to Catholic teaching. Catholics or non-Catholics working for Church institutions should be dismissed if they cannot, by their lifestyle and word, respect Church teaching. If the hiring committee ignored the obvious, then they personally should be held accountable and dismissed for creating the conditions for scandal.

Anonymous said...

I'm not being facetious, but what does it mean to say "acting on the attraction" or being "openly gay"? If I understand the Church's teaching, there is no sin in having same sex attraction; you just have to live chastely.

Is merely living with another person of the same sex enough of a scandal to assume that he's "acting on the attraction"? Is this a near occasion of sin kind of thing? Because it's certainly plausible (if not entirely probable) that a gay person might cohabitate with someone and still abstain.

I raise this point because it bears clarification: bigotry is wrong. We can't on the one hand say that we accept SSA people into our communities, and then toss them out because we suspect they're not living up to Catholic teaching. If I suspect that the music director is using artificial birth control, but I have no proof, can I have him fired on hearsay?

I don't know anything about this particular case, but it seems that there needs to be some pretty strong evidence that the person is "acting" on the attraction before any action is taken. And frankly, it seems a little icky to think that someone might actually have that kind of evidence.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

If a hetro person lives with someone they're not married to, in such a manner that most assume they're...um...sleeping together, it's considered scandal.

Same for same sex couples.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Side note:

Philyaw directed the church choir, led the liturgy committee and played for multiple Masses weekly. He said he was upfront with Timmerman before his hiring about being in a gay relationship.

Whoever hired him is at fault. A lot.

Would he have hired someone who declared "I'm cheating on my wife, and living openly with my mistress"?

Tadgh Seamus said...

Is merely living with another person of the same sex enough of a scandal to assume that he's "acting on the attraction"? Is this a near occasion of sin kind of thing? Because it's certainly plausible (if not entirely probable) that a gay person might cohabitate with someone and still abstain.

I'm gonna just take a stab here and guess that the hyphenated last name of the "partner" might be a big, neon, blinking clue.

Anthony said...

I think he has a point.

Scott said...

People have lost all sense of what scandal is. I don't how many times on a forum a cohabiting heterosexual posts about their situation and gets indignant when others tell them it is wrong. "People are just assuming we are having sex! It's not my problem if others assume that....blah, blah, blah." Well, they may be guilty of gossip, but the cohabiting couple is guilty of scandal--basically their actions are telling everyone around them it's ok to cohabit.

Maggie said...

This is my home diocese, as well, and I can only imagine the firestorm that will erupt in the People's Republic of Madison because of it. Let's pray for Mr. Philyaw, Mr. Mulder, Bishop Morlino, Msgr. Jim, and Fr. Dave. This is going to be an ugly one.

Brian Walden said...

Given that he was apparently upfront about living an openly gay lifestyle when he applied for the job, they should have at least worked out something where he was still employed until he could find another job. It's the parishes fault, not his, that he was hired when he shouldn't have been.

Brian Walden said...

Also is the parish cleaning house in the rest of their staff. I've never been in a parish that didn't have at least one heterodox religious education teacher. What about EMHCs, acolytes, lectors, etc.? Has the parish told them to shape up or ship out? I'd feel a lot better if it could be demonstrated that this was a parish wide thing and not singling out one person.

Marie Duchesne said...

They knew this man was openly living a homosexual relationship and hired him anyway. Who ever hired him should be fired. Someone should definitely apologize to this man and then make him a referral to the Episcopal Church.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Whomever hired this guy should be fired for sure.

The thing the media needs to realize is that this would of happened if it was a heterosexual cheating on his wife, or a heretic, if you violate Church teaching when employed by the Church, you should be fired :)

Anonymous said...

Hold on a sec! Aren't they called "Music Ministers" anymore? It seems logical to conclude that the Church and not the state should decide who will or will not be one of its ministers.

Anonymous said...

I know of at least one case where a Catholic school principal was fired for being divorced and remarried without an annulment. The bishop pointed to the "morals clause" in the hiring contract and she was out the door.

With the right contracts, diocese may be able to circumvent anti-discrimination law.

David L Alexander said...

"I know of at least one case where a Catholic school principal was fired for being divorced and remarried without an annulment. The bishop pointed to the 'morals clause' in the hiring contract and she was out the door."

I may be completely off-base about this, but in my years (off and on) of parish work, I meet a disproportionate number of single males in their 30s and 40s and beyond, who are -- how can I say this? -- a bit light in the loafers. Perhaps they have unnatural proclivities, but are able to lead chaste lives, in which case I say, more power to them. It would only concern me if such a trend were to keep men away who are not so challenged in this area.

But if the trend is indeed there, the chances of hiring people who can't contain themselves is going to increase. Putting in a "morals clause" does not negate the possibility of having "best friends" who cast suspicion without cause. It has to be perfectly clear upon hiring, as to what is okay, and what is not okay. It's not enough to put it in the fine print. You have to discuss it during the interview.

Click Me For More Blogs said...

Separation of Church and State only works one-way.

NB: Catechism 2358
"They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided"

Click Me For More Blogs said...

Separation of Church and State only works one-way.

NB: Catechism 2358
"They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided"

Anonymous said...

Many years ago I got my first church musician job because the organist was fired because (1) he divorced his wife (with whom he several children and (2) when the ink was barely dry on the legal papers, he remarried - and acknowledged that he had been seeing the new wife and that had precipitated the divorce.

The Mission of the STMS-MULS said...

Good posting, we are also keeping an eye on this as it is in a neighboring diocese

David said...

Clik for more blogs:

Not all discrimination is unjust.

Indeed, I have no doubt that many parishes would sack someone for hetero cohabitation in sin, or remarriage without an anullment. In that sense, I don't even think you can call this discrimination; Church teaching is clear, you only "sink the sausage" in a saramental marriage, and even then the act has to be open to life. Certainly, to openly advocate use of the pill, or the recreational rubberware, even within marriage, ought to be a sackable offence - no discrimination there... Just as rabbis and imams don't meet the job requirements for the sacred priesthood...

David said...

On the other had, a one- off "one night stand", whilst sinful, is not a sackable offence, to my mind...it lacks the element of obstinacy, evidenced, in this case, by the hyphenated name of the partner.

Anonymous said...

There's an add on the left hand side with a link to "Gay friendly churches, Find Gay friendly religious organizations in your neighborhood.

Is that weird or what?

Anonymous said...

If you do a search on the web, they claim to be married and it shows their wedding picture.

Anonymous said...

The Catholic church should rememeber we are speaking of real human beings here, whom Jesus would have never created if he did not thing they were worthy a place on this earth. Above all else , he told us "Love one another."These precious people are wonderful, the church baptizes them, gives them first holy communion. cnfirmation But come out of the closet and that all no longer matters. These are the leopors of modern time, Jesus would not have passed them on the street.
A mom with love.

David L Alexander said...


The issue is not something over which the individual has no control (as in a leper), but in behavior which one chooses, followed by making that choice public. Our Lord spent a fair amount of effort admonishing public sinners. You know, all that talk about repenting and reforming our lives and stuff.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Did you bother to even read the post, or just drop in and shoot off on auto-pilot?

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is still going on?
Scandal is the key word here.
Public knowledge is the key.
We are all sinners yes, but the difference is the public nature of the sin and espousing the legitamacy of it from his position of authority. Stating and acting in a public way that defies the teachings of the Church. It is no different for example, a nurse working at Planned Parenthood, professing pro abotion rhetoric and handing out condoms to teenagers. She too would loose a postion of authority and dare I add, she should also be unable to be an extraordinary Eucharitic minister. Mistakes abound by many in his parish. To me it was done in the love of Christ. To sit back and do nothing while a mockery was being made of the Catholic faith was just as big a sin as the couple who believed they were doing nothing wrong and the Church should be changing with the times. What would Christ have done? I venture to guess that He would have talked to the couple, tried to set them straight and would end by saying, "sin no more."
When one makes one's sin(s) public, one cannot complain and be surprised that we are called on them. And if it is true that the priest knew Mr. Phyliyaw was an "active homosexual" then yes, the responsibilty rests with him. It sure would give Mr P the indicaton that his active homosexual behavior was not a sin according to this priest and would further lead to expansion and openess of his relationship, which is exactly what happened.
Also a member of the Madison Diocese

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