The Brooklyn Diocese has fired a church worker over his same-gender marriage, a church worker who one supporter described as “love incarnate.”
“LaBanca was booted as music teacher at St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy in Astoria and as music director at Corpus Christi church on Oct. 13 after someone told Diocese officials he’d gotten married to a man in August, LaBanca said in a Youtube video posted over the weekend.
“‘I’m stripped of both of my jobs, all of my employment, my health insurance and, most importantly, the community life that has meant so much to me, not because of my work performance — not in the slightest — but because I’m gay,’ he said.
“LaBanca, a stage veteran who has appeared in Broadway shows and on TV, said the trouble started when a community member reported his Aug. 1 wedding date to Rowan in ‘an apparent act of righteousness.’
“LaBanca said a ‘Diocesan committee of high-ranking officials met for almost six weeks to discuss the fate of my employment and to answer the question, “Should Matthew be allowed to remain at his jobs?” ‘
“‘The answer turned out to be no.'”
According to LaBanca, he rejected a three-months severance package because it would have prohibited him from speaking publicly about the firings. He commented, “I realized no price could be placed on my personal integrity.” He called the firing a “capricious, discriminatory practice against the LGBTQ community.”
The diocese confirmed LaBanca’s firing in a statement in which it described the musician and teacher as a minister who was in breach of contract for failing to to “support an exemplify by his/her public conduct Catholic doctrine and morality.”
New York Daily News shared about the protests beginning against LaBanca’s firing:
“Collete Martin, the mother of a former student at St. Joseph’s, described LaBanca as ‘love incarnate. The kindest, most talented, gifted music teacher ever.’
“‘This teacher was instrumental in bringing joy to a school that was not joyful for my son,’ she added. ‘He has a lot of community support.’
“Martin also objected to the secrecy surrounding the termination, which she says was ‘done under the cover of night.'”
ABC 7 reported further:
“Labanca’s friend, Mary Ann Daly wonders what has become of the church she loves.
“‘It’s just so hypocritical — we know it’s been going on, so why do you make him a victim? It doesn’t make any sense,’ she said.
“‘The people on the ground in these communities are more wonderful than I ever knew … they have reached out to me, students, parents, parishioners, my family,’ Labanca said.
“He has not decided yet if he will sue the diocese but he misses his job and misses the students and wonders just what kind of moral and spiritual lesson the church is teaching its youngest members.”
A Change.org petition against the firing, which you can find here, has gained nearly. 2,000 signatures. LaBanca concluded his YouTube post with a message to supporters, stating:
“I love you all so much, I miss you. I’m still your friend, I’m still your colleague, I will always have been your teacher and, of course, I’m still your neighbor. I hope that I will be seeing you. I hope that you’ll be on the look out for me too.”
More than 100 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes that went public in the last decade. To view the full listing, click here. For resources on how Catholics can act to protect LGBTQ church workers, including implementing non-discrimination policies, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 27, 2021