UPDATE 7/1/09: I think it's important to give equal time. For those who don't click on the comments, Nicole Neroulias has an excellent interview with Rev. Capretta on Religious News Service. And Big Mama's got a new Lord's Prayer Dance Mix:
I've been trying to resist blogging about this story but it keeps buzzing around cyberspace like an annoying little gnat. I first heard about it in an article with the eye-catching headline 'Big Mama' Homosexual 'Drag Queen' is NOT a Roman Catholic Priest that made a good faith effort to slap at the gnat. Unfortunately, author Randy Sly, who was an Archbishop in the Charismatic Episcopal church before converting to Catholicism and becoming an editor at Catholic Online, doesn't really do full justice to this story so we are going to fill in the gaps.
The buzz got started when drag performer "Big Mama" Capretta decided to give herself a publicity boost by issuing a press release titled Ohio Catholic Priest Comes OUT as a Drag Queen with a Billboard Dance Hit. According to the release: "In celebration of Gay Pride Month, Big Mama Capretta reveals the surprise truth about her identity. By day, Capretta is none other than Father Anthony (aka Vincent Capretta), a proud practicing Catholic priest from Columbus, Ohio. By night, Big Mama Capretta is one heck of a fun drag queen performing for her minions!"
"It's Big Mama y'all! And, I am no longer afraid to come out of the closet as a gay Catholic Priest!" shouts the 'out-and-proud' Big Mama Capretta aka Father Anthony Capretta. "Thank you everyone for buying, playing and charting 'Big Mama's House.' I am living proof that a person can do anything they set their mind to. We have to love and enjoy ourselves in this world. And, I am enjoying my life being who I am and who God intended me to be! Now, let's DANCE y'all!"
The news release immediately got picked up by the gay and celebrity gossip blogs with a large measure of anti-Catholic gloating and without anyone doing one iota of investigation. About the only thing that is on the level in this press release is that Capretta's "Big Mama's House" (see video below) is currently No.25 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart. Now it's time to tell the rest of the story and "out" Capretta completely.
Capretta the Performer:
Here is Capretta's basic biography as offered on the good "Reverend"'s Website:
Capretta began his music career at the age of seven studying music theory and classical guitar at the renown Cleveland Music School Settlement. Winning radio talent contests at the age of twelve led Capretta to vocal scholarship in the Opera Department of the prominent Cleveland Institute of Music. In additon to serving as lead tenor for the Cleveland Civic Light Opera for two seasons, Capretta has held several leading roles in professional and community theater.
Capretta was featured at the New Music Seminar in New York City in 1986 in response to his first music video "Fallin Again". In 1987, Capretta hit the national Eurobeat charts in the United States on LSA Records with his covers of the disco classics "I Will Survive" and "Turn the Beat Around" and again in 1990 with "Never Knew Love Like This Before". Capretta hit the European dance charts in 1992 on Loading Bay Records with his rendition of the classic "It's My Party" and his featured on the Best of Loading Bay High Energy Volume I.
Topping the Playboy Cable Channel Hot Rock's chart in 1993 with his #1 steamy music video "Puerto Rican Sex", Capretta is also known for his successful music video "Stormy Weather" on ETV and RockAmerica in 1996.
Now Capretta resurfaces in 2009 on Carrillo Music Records with the huge dance floor anthem "Big Mama's House" produced by International dance music producer Rod Carrillo.
See any reference to Capretta's religious career? I don't. For most Catholic priests I know, their ordination date and pastoral assignments are front and center in their official biographies.
Capretta the Priest:
Capretta's press release is deliberately misleading and would have one believe that he is a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. He isn't. In fact, Rev. Capretta is rector of The Columbus Community of Charity, an "Independent Old Catholic Church", established in 1999 in Columbus, Ohio. The congregation meets at the historic Manor of Lady Jane Grey, which also serves as Capretta's residence and the Sunday morning service is only open to members of the community, not the general public.
The story of this building and its dedication (version by "Sonja Marie" of the "Lady Jane Grey Internet Museum") is bizarre as well:
"Dedication of The Historic Mansion, at 392 Rhoads Avenue, at the farthest east intersection of the Bryden Road Historic District, in the City of Columbus, the The County of Franklin, in the State of Ohio, the The Country of The United States of America, to the everlasting memory of Her Royal Majesty Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England 1553, commences on Sept 28th, 2003...Robert James Carter II and The Reverend Deacon Vincent-Anthony James Capretta, curate the fifteen year restoration process of the one hundred year old Tudor English Manor, beginning in the year 1998...An invitation to the public to participate in the dedication ceremony of The Manor to Her Majesty Lady Jane Grey will promptly commence at 7:30 in the evening upon the west lawn following a regal procession from the Franklin Park symbolizing Her Majesty's last walk to a gruesome death at the block in the year 1554 as punishment of Her Majesty's unwillingness to relinquish Protestant beliefs to those of the fanatical Mary Tudor I...Leading the procession is The Most Reverend Kimo Keawe, Primate of The United Reform Catholic Church International in Honolulu, Hawaii [Ed. note: That would be the bishop who ordained Capretta]. Following His Excellency, a horse drawn carriage exhibiting the symbol of Tudor Royalty, a single red rose and crown, upon a satin white pillow, recalling Her Majesty's succession to The Throne of England by the will of His Majesty King Edward Tudor VI and the blood Her Majesty shed upon beheading in defense of religious freedom..."
Anyway, you get the idea. And now for the less romantic version:
The property at 392 Rhoads Avenue was purchased on July 7, 1999 for $117,000 and the so-called "historic mansion" was built in 2003. It is currently valued at $82,950 according to the Franklin County Treasurer's Office which lists its owner as Little Eagle Properties LLC. Now you might well ask: Who or what is Little Eagle Properties? But you already know: Robert Carter and Anthony Capretta are the principal partners (see Little Eagle Properties v. Ryan, 2004-Ohio-3830) and 392 Rhoads is also the company's main business address. The partners own several additional properties in the metropolitan Columbus area, including one at 414-416 Rhoads Ave. on which they currently owe back real estate taxes.
Now about "Reverend" Capretta. He has a B.A. in Sociology from Excelsior College in New York (1995) and an M.A. in Administration from Central Michigan University (1997). He was ordained a deacon in November 2002 by Bishop Craig Martin Davis. Then he put himself under the United Reform Catholic Church and its then presiding bishop Kimo Keawe who ordained him a priest in September 2004 (The Columbus Dispatch, 12/31/2004). URCCI and a couple of other independent Old Catholic groups merged to form what is now the United Ecumenical Catholic Church in 2005. Capretta moved on and, according to The Community of Charity Web site, it is now under Bishop Charles Leigh of The Apostolic Catholic Church in Florida. The Apostolic Catholic Church says of the Community of Charity: "This Old Catholic community is under the protection of our bishop on an experimental basis for the next 18 months. During the 18 month time period it will either seek full membership in the ACC or explore other relationships to enhance its ministry to God's people."
If you are confused at this point, join the club and hold your breath. It gets worse. On the Community of Charity Web site you will notice that Capretta has added "OFM" after his name. This has confused a lot of people who are used to this being the abbreviation for "Order of Friars Minor", aka the Franciscans. So where did Capretta get it? According to the Dispatch, he was a religious brother within the Old Catholic movement and went by the name "Brother Anthony" before becoming a priest. It is possible that he is a member of the Franciscans of the Holy Cross, an Old Catholic order under the UECC, but in that case he should be using "OFC", not "OFM". Since there is no evidence that the man has had any formal theological formation (seminary, divinity school, etc..) it is possible that he is using the wrong initials out of ignorance rather than intent to deceive.
The Community of Charity follows a pre-Vatican II liturgy except that it is in English (again according to the Dispatch). They believe in Transubstantiation and offer the same sacraments as Catholicism except that confession is optional, communion is offered to non-Catholic Christians, and the priesthood is open to all including married people, women, and gay people. A statement of their creed can be found here. Dagmar Celeste, the former first lady of Ohio, who was ordained in 2002, participated in Capretta's ordination.
To sum it up: Capretta is not a Roman Catholic priest so the fact that he is also a drag queen is nothing to get excited about.
Capretta the Ex-Con:
Back in the late 1980s when he was living in Cleveland and was by turns a rock singer named Vincent Capretta and a "religious brother" named Brother Anthony, Capretta was convicted of mail fraud. From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (11/28/1989):
"One of the most outrageous deceptions perpetrated on the public recently was a man who described himself as Brother Anthony of the League of St. Anthony of Padua. The purpose of his group, he said in direct mailings, was primarily to help the poor and hungry. He often claimed the brothers of his friary faced a financial crisis and couldn't pay their utility bills.
Brother Anthony's appeal netted him more than $270,000 from people across the nation until he was arrested. He pleaded guilty to 32 counts of mail fraud last July. In reality, the "priest" was Vincent Capretta, a Cleveland rock singer who used the money to pay for recording fees, costumes, hairstyling, college tuition and living expenses, postal inspection agents say."
Capretta served three years in the federal penitentiary on these charges. Persons wishing to corroborate this story can check out the Cleveland Plain Dealer archives at the Cleveland Public Library.
I wish that the gay blogs in particular would stop elevating this man and making his "coming out" announcement into some great revelation in their battle for acceptance by the Roman Catholic Church. Capretta is NOT Roman Catholic. He is an ex-con who is barely even functioning as a priest in his own denomination. He is a successful musician and drag performer and can rightly be honored for these achievements by those for whom they are meaningful.
To my fellow bloggers: By elevating guys like Capretta, you are doing a disservice to the thousands of real gay Catholic priests who faithfully honor their celibacy vows and serve gay and straight Catholics every day of their lives without fanfare.
To "Reverend" "Big Mama" Capretta: Enjoy your success in the music industry and leave serving God to those who care enough to train for and dedicate themselves to that ministry. Please.
Photos: The many faces of Big Mama Anthony Vincent Capretta