Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying

Nicholas Coppola, left, with husband, David

Last Sunday, Cardinal Dolan spoke to the need for improved Catholic outreach to the LGBT community. Many Catholics questioned his sincerity, and they asked for dialogue on the hierarchy’s part to reinforce the statements. The experiences of Nicholas Coppola, a gay Catholic man in New York, are a disheartening reminder of how some church leaders continue to treat LGBT Catholics poorly — and an opportunity for Cardinal Dolan and others to change a broken dynamic.

GLAAD’s blog reports that Mr. Coppola was an active leader at St. Antony’s parish on Long Island until January. He participated in liturgical ministries, was a religious education instructor, and aided ministries for homebound parishioners, the grieving, and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. The blog notes:

“He has been completely out to his parish for years, and has had the support of his priest and fellow parishioners. Mr. Coppola and his husband, David were married on October 27, 2012. A number of parishioners attended their wedding.

“Upon returning from his honeymoon in January, Mr. Coppola was called into the office of Fr. Nicholas Lombardi S.J., the pastor of St. Anthony…

“Fr. Lombardi stated that Mr. Coppola must be removed from all parish involvement. The reason stated was that Mr. Coppola made a public statement by getting married, which is against church teaching.”

Fr. Lombardi acted against Mr. Coppola upon receiving a fax from the Diocese of Rockville Centre that included an anonymous letter written to Bishop William Murphy identifying Nicholas Coppola as a married gay man involved in parish activities. The Diocese’s fax acknowledged that the anonymous nature of the letter undermines it, but that if there were a ” ‘married’ ” gay catechist it “would be of concern” to Fr. Lombardi. In GLAAD’s blog post, Mr. Coppola recalls the meeting that ensued:

“‘I was in shock. I had just come home from my honeymoon. I went to mass on Martin Luther King Day, where we heard a great sermon about justice and equality,’ said Mr. Coppola, recalling the meeting. ‘After mass, I was summoned into the pastor’s office and told that I could no longer be active in my own parish.’

“Mr. Coppola has had two meetings with the Diocese of Rockville Centre, and was informed that the bishop’s ‘hands were tied.’ While the Roman Catholic hierarchy states that it wishes to welcome gay and lesbian people into the church, being in a loving, committed relationship, and seeking protections for that relationship and for one another through civil marriage will exclude one from parish life.”

Mr. Coppola is the latest victim of exclusionary policies from the Catholic hierarchy that deny the gifts LGBT Catholic individuals and their families offer to our parishes and communities. Cardinal Dolan’s and other bishops’ Easter messages about improving LGBT outreach will mean nothing if cases like Mr. Coppola’s continue to occur.

However, Mr. Coppola continues to pray that a new vision of church will emerge:

“I want a church that is open to all and loves each one of us the same.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. pjnugent
    pjnugent says:

    More shameful behavior by they hierarchy. I’m disappoinnted that the pastor who executed the diocese’s order is a Jesuit. Until unjust actions like this stop, Dolan’s words are just that – empty words They all have a long way to go prove that they are really going to begin welcoming GLBT people into the Catholic community.

  2. Erma Durkin
    Erma Durkin says:

    There can be no clearer example of the contradictory position the Hierarchy has backed itself into. On the one hand acknowledging that LGBT persons are born with their particular sexual orientation, and, despite this, it protests its love and acceptance of LGBT persons, and welcomes their faithful ministerial work in the Parish; yet, on the other hand, the Hierarchy’s only response when a LGBT Catholic civilly marries is the immediate, insensitive dismissal of their person from their spiritual home. “Sorry, my hands are tied.” will never heal the suffering of betrayal, felt by the gay person, nor the alienation of countless members of the Laity who counted on their Bishops to be wiser in dealing with, and more courageous in working to solve the dilemma faced by LGBT people who want to live lawfully, and faithfully, with the one they love.

    “Sorry, my hands are tied.” What an utterly disgusting statement coming from one who is supposed to be a Shepherd to the souls entrusted to him. Where is the Shepherd who leaves the 99 and goes in search of the one who is lost; not with a stick to beat it, but with tender words and gentle touch to calm and reassure it; to bring it back to the fold.

  3. Norman Prince
    Norman Prince says:

    Isn’t there a contradiction here. The Church does not recognize any marriages not performed under its requirements. Accordingly, in the “eyes of the church” Mr Coppola remains unmarried. After all, same-sex marriage is “impossible” according to church doctrine. Mr Coppola and his partner, then, entered into a civil contract which is entirely out of the church’s jurisdiction, and the church should have nothing to say, except to affirm that Mr Coppola remains unmarried, notwithstanding the civil contract.

  4. Robert L. Olson
    Robert L. Olson says:

    I believe that the Church is quite correct in taking the action that it did. I think that Cardinal Dolan meant well when he made his ill advised remarks but I knew that they would be used against him. I teach Catholic religious education for confirmation candidates in 9th and 10th grade. I have no option other than to relate true church teaching on abortion and same sex marriage. Mr. Coppola publicly defied church teaching with his marriage to another male and is justifiably sanctioned.

  5. Ben Krill
    Ben Krill says:

    It must be very painful to be the pastor of St. Anthony’s to expel an exemplar of faith and service from its community. It must be very painful for a Bishop to be bound (‘hands tied’) through Catholic teaching which communicates contradictory teachings. It must be very painful to be a member of the parish of St. Anthony where now the members of its worshipping community may shun and treat them as though they were witches of Salem. It also must be very painful to not be able to share the joy of your love and committment with your faith community as did this wonderful couple. Imagine your beloved child being rejected from everything you taught them to value, and as the did, they would yet be rejected and publicly shamed by their spiritual shepherds. They did what you as a catholic parent taught them to do. They learned their faith, internalized it, and fell in love in a manner different from the norm, yet love and a committment, nonetheless. They followed both their heart and their conscience. The informed conscience seems never to be mentioned or preached from the pulpit. Yet conscience is the center and the DNA of all moral theology,particularly, Catholicism. In the present church, politic and public conformity is what will get a pastor or bishop good grades…another term as pastor, or a promotion to Monsignor,etc. How financially viable a parish is, overrides its spiritual viability. Shame on us all!
    When a catholic is shunned (as the Amish may call it), they do not move to another Catholic worshipping community they simyply stop going to church, period.
    How painful it must be to “Belong More Deeply” Bishop Murphy, when one has tried and tried and tried,
    and yet belong more deeply has become nothing more than rehtoric for “conform more deeply.”
    Put your education, your heart, you soul, and your promting by the Holy Spirit on the shelf, yes! then you shall belong more deeply…to an institution, not to yourself, nor to your conscience.
    Yes, Indeed how painful it must be to swallow the acid pill of obedience and be the spiritual leader who leads the uninformed and the vulnerable souls not toward the path of resurrection represented by its pancea of color, but down a road of black and white. Indeed, how painful must it be.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] most of the cases have involved school teachers, and, to a lesser extent, parish music ministers.  Nicholas Coppola, a volunteer at his parish, was the sole exception where someone not employed by the church was […]

  2. […] Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying […]

  3. […] April 4, 2012: Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying […]

  4. […] readers of Bondings 2.0 will be familiar with the case of Nicholas Coppola, the New York parish volunteer dismissed from his ministries because he married his partner, […]

  5. […] Catholics on Long Island are making their voices heard after Nicholas Coppola was removed from ministry for marrying his husband, David. These Catholics’ opinions are varied and […]

  6. […] Another thing that adds to the persuasive power of his side is that the case seems to fall into the growing disturbing pattern of church institutions firing LGBT employees.  The fact that an obituary was involved in his case, as it was in the firing of Carla Hale, also […]

  7. […] letter-writer alerted the pastor that Coppola married his long-time partner.   We reported on the announcement of his dismissal, we reported on his collection of over 18,000 signatures on a petition for his re-instatement, and […]

  8. […] from a bishop.  A little over a week ago, we reported that Nicholas Coppola, a gay man who had been dismissed from his volunteer ministries at a Catholic parish on Long Island because he married his partner, delivered a petition with over […]

  9. […] is only one of many LGBT individuals fired from a Catholic institution, similar to Carla Hale or Nicholas Coppola of recent weeks, she provides a hopeful lesson for all who find themselves rejected or […]

  10. […] (see list of related blog posts below my signature).The most recent case before Hale’s was Nicholas Coppola in Long Island, New York, who was dismissed from several parish ministries because it became known […]

  11. […] Nicholas Coppola was removed from parish ministry for marrying his husband, many rushed to support the Long Island gay Catholic man through a petition to the Diocese of […]

  12. […] Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

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