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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Organist walks out on priest's anti-gay marriage appeal.

Today's Boston Globe tells the story of a brave Roman Catholic cantor and church organist who lost their jobs for challenging an archdiocesan official's anti-gay marriage pulpit appeal. Maria Cramer reports:

At the pulpit of St. Gabriel Church in Brighton, an official from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston was telling parishioners how to sign a petition to ban same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.

As he looked on, said Patrick Kilduff, the church's organist for 28 years, he grew angry that the archdiocese had chosen a Saturday Mass to make what he considered a political statement.

So before he was supposed to play the closing hymn of the Mass on Oct. 8 , Kilduff walked away from his organ in protest. His cantor, Colleen Bryant, stood in front of the congregation and told them that they did not have to sign the petition if they did not want to.

Moments later on that rainy Saturday afternoon, the church pastor fired Bryant, and Kilduff resigned in a fury.

In an interview yesterday, Kilduff recalled telling the priests of the parish: "'I'm done. I can't believe what you guys have done.'"

I'd be surprised if a few more church musicians don't discover that the church's campaign against gay rights creates an irreconcilable conflict for them on a personal level. After all, many talented and faithful church musicians are gay, and it would be hard to be a church musician who doesn't know, care about, and deeply respect gay colleagues.

Here's to Kilduff and Bryant's courage.

("Two Sidelined after Protesting Altar Call on Ban on Gay Marriage," Maria Cramer, Boston Globe 10.27.05, reg req'd)

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 27 October 2005 at 10:17 PM

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Robin Edgar:

October 28, 2005 02:23 PM | Permalink for this comment

Well I am glad to see that the Roman Catholic church organist did the responsible thing and simply resigned in protest against what UUs would call this "perceived injustice". In 1986 the talented transexual organist of the Unitarian Church of Montreal, Wilhelmina Tiemersma, burned the church to the ground in "fury" as it were. The reasons for Wilhelmina's "fury" were never clearly explained but does seem possible, even highly probable, that Wilhelmina's "fury" resulted from "perceived injustices" related to her being a transexual.

It is my understanding that Wilhelmina is completely unrepentant for razing the Unitarian Church of Montreal to the ground even though two Montreal firemen lost their lives fighting the fire. I can't help but wonder what "perceived injustices", presumably perpetrated by Montyreal Unitarians, could inspire such "fury" in Wilhelmina and such an unrepentant attitude for her criminal act of arson that left two Montreal firefighters dead.

[Editor's note: I have been in communication with Wilhelmina Tiemersma and with the Rev. Charles Eddis, who served as minister of the Unitarian church in Montreal during Tiemersma's ten years as the church's organist. They have convinced me that Robin Edgar's comment misrepresents her, although Edgar, who has an unrelated and longstanding grievance with the Montreal church, tells me he didn't intend any misrepresentation.

Wilhelmina Tiemersma was convicted of setting the fire that destroyed the church building and she served a prison sentence for criminal negligence causing death. She and Eddis attribute the arson in part to a mental illness and a strong reaction to the prescription drug she had been given as part of her treatment.

They strongly reject Edgar's suggestion that she has expressed no regrets. Eddis told me that Tiemersma "feels guilty to this day, especially about the deaths of the two firemen." Tiemersma wrote to me: "My life is dedicated to repairing, as far as I am able, the damage I caused all those years ago." Shortly after her release from prison in 1991, Tiemersma offered an organ recital in another Montreal church at the beginning of the penitential season of Lent. They have recently been interviewed for a documentary film about the fire; I'll post a link to more information about the film as it becomes available.

It's worth noting that Eddis has remained in touch and on friendly terms with the organist who was convicted of burning down his church. That certainly doesn't line up with Robin Edgar's version of the story. —Chris Walton,, October 2007]

Bill Baar:

October 31, 2005 08:07 AM | Permalink for this comment

How much bravery does it take to walk out of Church?

I wonder about someone who can play the organ in the Catholic Church in Boston through the abuse scandels and then walk out over gay marriage (Church's rules on marriage hardly new news) because it's a "irreconcilable conflict for them on a personal level"; particularly when, as you note, so many of their colleagues in the Church are gay.

I think this persons ethics are skewed.


October 31, 2005 03:35 PM | Permalink for this comment

In response to Bill Baar's comment: I imagine this was a "last straw" sort of thing. I guess that the previous scandals he mentions contributed to the walk-out.
Also, it is a matter of opinion what sins are more severe. Many Christians have claimed that all sins are equal (I have trouble with that one, but, then, I'm not Christian....) Personal Issues are often, well, more personal....

judy b.:

November 7, 2005 12:37 AM | Permalink for this comment

If, during mass, a priest had asked parishoners to sign a petition supporting the Vatican's lax stance on the child sexual abuse scandal, perhaps the organist would have walked out as well. He was responding to a specific act on a specific day. Had he simply left on any regular Sunday, it would not have been clear what he was protesting or that he was protesting at all. For all we know, he's voiced his concerns on both issues in other ways.

I don't follow how you arrive at saying his ethics are skewed. I don't see how his action even indicates exactly what his ethics are - beyond showing that he stands - and walks - for what he believes in. Maybe you mean his show of support for gay marriage is skewed. If so, I disagree with you.


February 3, 2006 07:50 AM | Permalink for this comment

The article isn't clear on all points, so I can't make a thorough commentary. Please, if I'm unlear or you want a particular point addressed, tell me.

All U.S. Catholics, including clergy, are citizens and, therefore, may propose, present, write, and sign petitions on any political issue.

What the Vatican has done is only to state to the world it's opposition to what it believes is wrong, and to remind the members of the Church what its stance is. It has reminded them of their responsibility, as citizens of the U.S.--clergy included--to actively oppose motions within their government (by the people, for the people) to do things contrary to their moral sensibility. To try to talk down their right to do so is wrong.

What responsible bishops have done is to direct the priests according to Church doctrine. What priests have done is to direct their people, their flock, according to Church doctrine. What each responsible individual of the Church has done is to follow Church doctrine, according to his conscience.

To try to talk down a Catholic's right to disagree with Church policy or doctrine is wrong; but those who disagree can't be aloud to mislead other Catholics. To say that one does not have to sign a petition presented by a clergyman concerning U.S. legal issues is absolutely correct, but potentially misleading regarding Church teaching if, in addition to that comment, it is not made clear that it is a moral action, according to the Church, to sign such a petition. As I understand, the priest was informing the congregation about the petition at the back of the church, not coercing them to sign it. He wasn't, according to the article, preaching eternal damnation to anyone who didn't sign. Announcments before or after the celebration of Mass is a common practice, and it is legal in the Church to make announcements at the pulpit during a homily. A homily can address any issue concerning the Church, directing the people, based on scripture, spiritual teaching and Church doctrine.

A priest makes a vow of obedience to the pope, his superiors and the Church's teachings, so "eradicating from public ministry priests who disagree with its teachings" is nothing extraordinary, if their superiors are concerned that they may teach contrary to Church doctrine. Clergy and laity have full rights to disagree with policies, and teachings, but they should confront clergymen and other laymen concerning the issue. If the circumstances make such an action impossible or difficult he should write to someone further up in the heirarchy, or prepair a petition to the vatican concerning any problems.

The concerns the people of that parish seem based on ignorance of Roman Catholic Catechism. Catechesis is something in need of improvement.

From the information given in the article, I find the reactions of the preists irresponsible. They appear to have pushed away members of their flock.

Any homosexual Catholic is chaste, so whether he is allowed to marry in the U.S. does not apply to him.

A minor point: "church" is only capitalized in the sense, "the community of all Catholics," not when speaking of an isolated Christian religious ceremony or the building in which it is conducted.

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