Gay Music Director Fired from Rhode Island Parish


Michael Templeton

By Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 22, 2016

Yet another gay church worker has been fired for exercising the right to civil marriage, this time in Rhode Island.

On Monday, Michael Templeton was fired as Music Director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence. Templeton described the meeting during which he was fired as “bizarre, unprofessional, and inappropriate,” reported Go Local. He said further of the meeting, which included the parish’s pastor and a diocesan official:

” ‘What I can tell you about the conversation, is that from what I’ve read, it’s consistent with the other situations I’m aware of around the country — that they say because of the public nature of your ministry, and the inconsistency of your life choices, that we are requiring your resignation. . .

” ‘What I can say is that I am aware of Catholic educators and administrators around the country facing this — I’ve seen this happen to some colleagues in the music ministry, and they’re all heartbreaking stories. . .These are people giving their best, they’re faith-filled Catholics. It chips away a little each time.’ “

Templeton, who had worked at the Church of St. Mary for more than five years, said he was transparent about his relationship and then his 2015 marriage. He said he has “worked hard to live a life of integrity, which means never hiding,” and until now has been able to “do things that I love with the talents and gifts I have,” including music ministry in the Catholic communities for the past twenty-four years.

From 2006 through 2012, the Church of St. Mary had been administered by Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province. Templeton has been involved with Franciscan ministries since attending St. Bonaventure University, Olean, New York, and had worked at another Providence church for a time before coming to the Church of St. Mary. St. Mary’s parish had developed a reputation as a welcoming community, Templeton explained:

” ‘I came to St. Mary’s for what it is and who they welcome, whether they come from reformed lives of addiction, or come from divorce and are remarried, whatever the reason.  I want to be clear — I did not resign, I was relieved of my duties.’ . . .

” ‘My heart breaks because this brings to light what “safe” means to people. I feel this action represented more than me in my role. It represents people who have been marginalized and thought of as “less than” for a whole host of reasons.'”

The Diocese of Providence took over the administration of the parish from the Franciscan Friars two years ago. The administrative shift means the parish is now overseen more directly by Bishop Thomas Tobin, who has a very LGBT-negative record.

Parishioners and the local community have rallied around Templeton, who said he was “overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support.” He added:

” ‘Friends from high school, college, have all left amazing messages.  I’m not a media person, I’m not seeking attention. I just want to open the conversation again. I hope people keep their faith, hold their heart, and keep the conversation going on this.’ “

Templeton posted on Facebook that the incident is “one moment in time and life surely goes on. God is good.” His message now is clear, reported Go Local:

” ‘People need to follow their heart. I feel strongly I give the best I can and what that means is bringing people closer to God through music. . .I pray for those people to follow their heart and conscience. The God I believe in is a merciful God. The Pope has called us to a year of mercy and I invite people to heed that call.’ “

Michael Templeton has exhibited a grace and concern for the faith community that was seemingly absent in church officials’ decision to fire him. He joins the more than 60 church workers who have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes in recent years.    During this year of mercy, may the God of mercy be with those like Templeton who have been treated unjustly and wrongly.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

18 replies
    [email protected] says:

    The Love of God in action! Church officials ( I don’t say leaders ) living the teachings of Jesus. The Golden Rule. Treat others as you be treated… unless they’re gay. And proclaim, even demand social justice, as long as it doesn’t impact your ignorance, intolerance, and power.

  2. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    I can’t see what any of these condemnations of marriages of same gender couples and any of these firings have to do with the Gospels. Seems like just bigotry and pettiness to me

  3. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    First, Thank You Bob Shine for another enlightening story.
    Second: What can we do about this? I am not sure if there are enough gay Catholics to make an impact, but maybe we can convince others who may be sympathetic. What if we targeted a date and withheld funds from the collection? In my own parish, the priest went on a rant after the Hodges vs Obergefell ruling by the Supreme Court June 26, 2015. I kept my wallet in my pocket that day. When he is talking politics from the pulpit, my wallet stays in my pocket. We attend Church for our own spiritual needs and do not go there for another dose of disdain. Economic boycotts are historically successful. Can’t it work with the Church?

    • Wilhelm Wonka
      Wilhelm Wonka says:

      Yes, those boycotts can work. They would send a powerful message that such behaviour is wrong, contrary to the People of God, and contrary to God’s love itself.

      If you want to empty your wallet, do so for causes that love unconditionally, without provisos.

  4. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I think it is time for Catholics to start withholding donations to local parishes everywhere to show they do not support this kind of anti-LGBT behavior. It is done in the name of the Church so why provide support for an evil that is done for our good according to the hierarchy. Dignity/Washington, a local chapter of the national LGBT Catholic group, has stopped making special contributions to Catholic Relief Charities when there are natural disasters and giving the same amount (usually $1,000 – $2,000) and giving the amount to Habitat for Humanity which does the same work, but is under leadership that does not participate in discriminatory actions. We send a copy of the check to H4H to Catholic Charities with a letter explaining why we are not supporting them after years of doing so. We do not want to participate in our being abused. As instructed in the Gospel, we shake the dust from our feet where we are not welcomed.

  5. Wilhelm Wonka
    Wilhelm Wonka says:

    I hope more and more parishioners of St Mary’s will publicly declare their support for Michael and express their disdain at his firing by attending services at another church.

    These unjust and discriminatory practices are intolerable. Parishioners need to make very clear that they are not being exercised in their name. If they remain silent, this is how their silence will be perceived. Remember WE are the Church, not just the clergy.

    • Barbara
      Barbara says:

      I am 73 and I am just as angry as you about this action. Please don’t paint churchgoers with the broad brush of the elderly. We have teen discrimination in all forms from the attack of the ERA in the seventies to this latest scourge. Action not words are what’s needed

    • amagjuka
      amagjuka says:

      Actually, the “old white people” may be the most socially conscious. We were brought up in a social justice church. I am 60 and I am outraged by the discrimination and harm done by the church to LGBT people!

  6. Thomas
    Thomas says:

    Speaking of Ideological colonization, just what were those missionaries doing in Africa, China, South American and oh yes, everywhere on the planet ? Now the Church has the chutzpah to say THEY are fighting ideological colonization. Wow.

  7. Tom Gaudet
    Tom Gaudet says:

    Funny this sad story should come by way today, and am I glad it did! My mother was born and raised in Providence, and St. Mary’s was her parish. She attended St. Mary’s school and married my father in St. Mary’s Church way back in 1949. Both parents are gone now, but my sister and I recently discussed attending Mass at St. Mary’s some day, just to see the church where our parents married. Instead, I today fired off a polite but honest email to the pastor, Fr. Francese, letting him know that I would never cross the threshold due to his and the diocese’s treatment of this talented man. Standing in favor of the Gospel will always win vs. standing in favor of discrimination perpetrated by the institution. May God bless us all with wisdom and peace while the Church just goes on getting it wrong and pointing fingers at people. The Spirit is alive, and cannot be kept bound by the tiny box that is the RC Church.

  8. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    I think withholding funds from parishes that discriminate is a great idea. Instead of staying silent and keeping your wallet in your pocket, I would (and have done this many times) put a slip of paper in the collection that says, “I am giving my church donation to a pro LGBT group since this parish discriminates against LGBT people.”You can keep the slips of paper in your wallet. If a priest preaches intolerance, put in a slip of paper instead of cash or a check. If you want to be known, put the slip in your collection envelope. The important thing is to be heard. Employment and dignity go hand in hand according to church teaching, so firing is the opposite of dignity. Instead of supporting bishops and parishes that discriminate, I donate each month to NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobbying group. I also name NETWORK on my Amazon Smile account, and Amazon gives 5% of all my purchases to them. By the way, I am straight. I consider these firings and institutional targeted discrimination to be a crucible moment for the church. Each Catholic must speak out and be heard. The discrimination is wrong, plain and simple, and Catholics must not allow bishops to discriminate “in our names.” This is being complicit with evil.

  9. miriamtf
    miriamtf says:

    It hurts deeply to hear of firing of gay church leaders for being gay but with impeccable behavior. Volunteers, like me as tg, also have faced the same booting out of public positions like choir, after years of service.
    What unjust discrimination has Catholic Relief Services done? That hurts th hear. I’ve supported them for years.

  10. Dymphna Tipper
    Dymphna Tipper says:

    Is it not possible to bring them to court for unfair dismissal? Even if you fail you sure will shame the hell out of them. Your private life is none of their business. As the Pope says “who are we to judge”

  11. Raffaello LaMantia
    Raffaello LaMantia says:

    Would Pope Julius II or Sixtus IV fire MICHELANGLO BECAUSE HE WAS GAY?


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] who was fired in mid-September as the music director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence, described the last month as […]

  2. […] the former music director at the Church of St. Mary, was fired last month for being in a same-gender marriage. The Journal reported on the negative impact this incident has […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *