Blog Post

Court Sides with Church in Controversial Firing Case

Holy Family Parish, Inverness, Illinois Holy Family Parish, Inverness, Illinois

A district court judge in Illinois has ruled in favor of the Archdiocese of Chicago in a lawsuit brought against the church by a homosexual man who was fired from his position as music director in a parish after he publicly announced his engagement to a man.

The Daily Herald is reporting on the case involving Colin Collette who worked for 17 years at Holy Family parish in Inverness, Illinois before he was fired in 2014 after announcing on Facebook that he intended to marry a man.

Collette filed suit against the Archdiocese, claiming that he was improperly fired and that the diocese had violated numerous laws, including the federal Civil Rights Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. He was seeking reinstatement of his position, back pay, and compensatory and punitive damages.

At the time of the filing of the lawsuit, lawyers representing Collette said the main issue is that same-sex marriage is legal under Illinois state law and that the Church was unlawfully discriminating against their client by firing him.

In a letter published in the parish bulletin in October, 2014, the late Cardinal Francis George countered with a statement saying that Collette was dismissed for his "participation in a form of union that cannot be recognized as a sacrament by the church."

Although lawyers representing Collette hoped the case would eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court, they were disappointed when U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras ruled in favor of the Church, saying that they were within their rights to fire a “key ministerial employee” who was responsible for conveying the church’s message. The court considered Collette’s position as music director, a person responsible for conducting the music at Masses and other church ceremonies, to be a key position.

Collette's attorney Kerry Lavelle, who had argued that Collette's role was not ministerial, said in a statement Wednesday that the Catholic Church has "chosen to stand behind its ministerial exception to discriminate against members of the gay community,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

"That someone of (Collette's) commitment and ability is prevented from pursuing their career in this day and age is a sign of how far some institutions have to go in accepting all members of society, and demonstrates that there are still many individuals who are not granted equal rights in the workplace," Lavelle said.

What Lavelle doesn’t seem to understand is what Catholic League president Bill Donohue points out – that Collette knew what the Church taught on homosexuality before he announced his "engagement" to his boyfriend in 2014, so he should not have been surprised when the parish he worked for fired him.

Church teaching commands the faithful to respect homosexuals and to avoid "unjust discrimination" against them (CCC No. 2358). The Church does not condemn persons who experience same-sex attraction. It only condemns homosexual relations. Therefore, when Collette announced his engagement, he revealed an intent to openly violate Church teaching, which is why he was fired.

As Donohue points out, “it is one thing to maintain that all children of God are entitled to be loved and accepted, quite another to say that no distinctions should be made in policy and law regarding sexual orientation.”

Civil society “discriminates” all the time, Donohue writes. Minors are denied the right to vote and drink alcohol. People under a certain height can’t ride rollercoasters. Men can’t get the same discount on “Ladies Night” as women. Only veterans can receive veteran’s benefits, etc.

“The Catholic Church, unlike civil society, sees marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. So has the rest of the world—throughout all of history—until recently. Accordingly, the Church has every right not to acknowledge gay marriage any more than it is required to accept polygamy,” he says.

But, Collette argues, the district court ruling "flies in such contradiction to the wonderful things that are coming out of Rome. The pope is speaking about unity and love, and here we are creating a church of fear and division."

It might make a good sound bite, but it’s a completely inaccurate statement. Regardless of his off-the-cuff statements, and how the media chooses to spin them, Pope Francis has made it quite clear that he supports Church teaching on homosexuality. People with same-sex attraction, whether they act upon it or not, are to be treated with respect and dignity because all are children of God. At the same time, however, the Church considers same-sex relations to be “intrinsically disordered” and teaches that “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

Scripture tells us that we must “proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient” (2 Tim 4:2) which is precisely what the Church has done in the case of Colin Collette.

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