Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gay altar server files human rights complaint against bishop

Just in case anyone thought I was exaggerating when I suggested in my previous post that gay people are being excluded from the Catholic Church ...

Peterborough bishop faces human rights complaint
Written by Michael Swan,
The Catholic Register,
July 9, 2009

Peterborough Bishop Nicola De Angelis and 12 parishioners at St. Michael’s parish in Cobourg, Ont., face an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (not the 'Commission', as previously reported) complaint that could cost the parishioners $20,000 each and the diocese of Peterborough $25,000 plus legal fees.

Jim Corcoran brought the complaint after he was asked to give up his position as an altar server at Sunday Masses. Corcoran was dismissed from all duties on the altar after 12 parishioners wrote a letter to De Angelis questioning the presence of a gay man serving at the altar of St. Michael’s.

“There are laws in Ontario,” Corcoran told The Catholic Register. “Those laws say that it is unlawful to discriminate against people for a number of reasons, one of which is sexual orientation.”

“There’s no evidence at all to suggest that we were trying to be discriminatory or that we have some sort of distaste for people of same-sex orientation, or any of this,” said Gerry Lawless, one of the 12 who complained to De Angelis about Corcoran’s presence on the altar.

De Angelis has forwarded a copy of the complaint and the parishioners’ letter to his lawyer.

De Angelis and the 12 parishioners have until July 28 to respond to Corcoran’s complaint. Both sides have opted for mediation. Sixty-five to 70 per cent of Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaints are resolved through mediation, avoiding the tribunal process. Only if mediation is unsuccessful will the complaint go on to a tribunal hearing.

Corcoran claims the 12 parishioners have misinterpreted entries on his blog ( to draw false conclusions about him.

“I’m a chaste homosexual and practise my faith,” he said.

While Corcoran does live with another gay man, they are devout Catholics who refrain from sexual activity in accordance with church teaching, he said.

“Unless I’m actively flaunting my sexual preference in the Catholic Church to recruit other homosexuals or to promote homosexuality — I can see how people might take offence to that and how that might fly in the face of what the Pope is trying to do in terms of the priesthood — but just serving on the altar as a man?” said Corcoran.

By complaining to De Angelis about Corcoran the 12 parishioners had intended to express their unhappiness with St. Michael’s pastor Fr. Allan Hood, said Reg Ward, one of the authors of the letter to De Angelis. They blamed Hood for inviting Corcoran and his roommate to become altar servers.

“It was just one more way of Fr. Hood saying he’s boss and to hell with everybody else, like what the church is saying and everybody else,” said Ward.

Hood refused to speak with The Catholic Register on the record, citing diocesan policy against priests speaking to the media.

Ward and Lawless have written a series of letters to De Angelis complaining about Hood since he was appointed to St. Michael’s in July 2008. Ward claims the dissatisfaction with Hood runs deeper than just 12 parishioners in one of the Peterborough diocese’s larger parishes.

“Dorothy (Ward’s wife) and I know personally 25 or 30 who have left the church, are going to church elsewhere,” Ward said. “We know some of them who aren’t going to church at all.”

For Corcoran, his time as head altar server prior to Easter was spiritually enriching.

“For me spiritually, in terms of my spiritual development, I was just full of joy come Easter Sunday. Holy Thursday, I’ve never been so moved,” he said.

While Corcoran did have a brief conversation with De Angelis about the decision to remove him from the altar, he has not spoken to any of the 12 who complained about his presence.

The 12 parishioners did not consider speaking directly with Corcoran before complaining to De Angelis, said Lawless.

“We were simply responding to the situation. We didn’t know exactly what was the policy, or anything. We weren’t in a position to talk to him,” he said.

Corcoran said De Angelis urged him to take his dismissal from the altar in the spirit of Paul’s advice to the Romans on the issue of meat sacrificed to idols (Romans 14:13-23) — refraining from scandal. Instead the bishop should have confronted the 12 parishioners and their prejudice, as well as their attempts to get rid of their pastor, Corcoran said.

“This is a man (De Angelis) who needs some help in understanding how to deal with confrontation in his diocese. The Human Rights Commission helps people do that,” he said.

The monetary penalties aren’t the major issue, according to Corcoran, who employs 150 people as owner of St. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ont.

“I’m not in it for the money, but I think that if there weren’t some penalties then these people wouldn’t take it seriously,” he said. “I just think that the bishop has to make things right in this diocese. He has to stand up for his priests, and he has to stand up for all his parishioners.”

“We have not discriminated. We have simply asked the bishop to act on a situation which we had been informed on very good authority was in violation of church policy,” said Lawless.

The 12 will seek a dismissal of the complaint, he said.

1 comment:

  1. What is sad to me, is that well meaning Catholics, like yourself, look only at the discrimination of Jim Corcoran as the problem. I agree that what was done to him is wrong. I have 3 blog posts about his case already, and many more about the HRCs as well, written from my perspective as a Catholic Christian.

    Jim Corcoran was asked by the Bishop to stand down. The biblical response to the sin against him was to obey his Bishop. He has now defied his own Bishop, and has entered into litigation against him in so doing, and you think this is right.

    Although it is not particularly biblical, 2 wrongs do not make a right.

    There is no possibility that this can end well for Jim Corcoran, and here is a man who probably until this time had a vocation to help young people who struggle with their sexuality in the Church as he has. He has blown it at least temporarily with his disobedience.

    The HRC is not a place for justice to be done for the Catholic Church. Read my posts if you care to see what kind of justice they do in our country.