BARNESVILLE, MN, November 16, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The parents of a 17-year-old boy in Minnesota are claiming that their parish priest denied their son the sacrament of Confirmation because he posted a photo in support of gay ‘marriage’ on his Facebook page – a claim that the priest, Fr. Gary LaMoine, has denied.
The story broke earlier this week on the Fargo Forum, and has since been picked up by numerous other media outlets, including the Associated Press.
The mother of the boy, Shana Cihak, told the Forum that she was shocked by what she says was the priest’s decision to bar her son, Lennon, from the sacrament.
“You kind of know the Catholic beliefs, but I never thought they would deny somebody confirmation because you weren’t 100 percent,” she said. “I guess that’s what shocks me.”
But Fr. LaMoine, the pastor of Assumption Parish in Barnesville, told LifeSiteNews.com that there were other concerns that contributed to the decision to delay Lennon’s Confirmation, and that the final decision was made by Lennon himself, not the priest.
According to Catholic teaching, Confirmation is a sacrament of initiation that confirms Catholics as “mature” Christians. It is usually administered to young teens.
Fr. LaMoine said that his conversations with the Cihak family began in early October, when he sent a letter to Lennon’s parents, Doug and Shana, encouraging them to start coming to church to support their son.
The priest told LifeSiteNews.com that he only discovered Lennon’s gay marriage post by accident on October 25, the day after having a two-hour meeting with the family. During that meeting the priest had brought up the fact that the Cihaks were not coming to church, as well as “other matters” that the priest said, “I can’t get into here.” No mention was made of Lennon’s views on marriage during that meeting.
The following day Fr. LaMoine’s secretary, who is Facebook friends with Lennon, chanced upon the controversial post and alerted the priest to it.
The priest says that he then telephoned Lennon, and in the course of that conversation the boy said he had chosen not to go forward with Confirmation.
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Lennon’s post came days before Minnesotans were slated to go to the polls to vote on an amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. It showed him holding a pro-marriage sign that he had defaced to express his support for “equal marriage rights.”
The priest admits, however, that once he knew that Lennon supported same-sex marriage, and was unwilling to retract his views, that he would not have been able to confirm him.
“You can’t have people out there saying things that are so contrary to the central teaching and doctrine of the Catholic faith, and going through Confirmation,” he said. “After he put it out in the public, we would have looked like a bunch of hypocrites in confirming him.”
Fr. LaMoine said that in the course of teaching the confirmation classes, he had addressed the Church’s teaching on marriage at significant length, including speaking to the Minnesota amendment directly.
At the moment, says Fr. LaMoine, his primary concern is for Lennon, who is now the center of a major media controversy. “I’m more worried about Lennon than I am about anyone else, because he’s so vulnerable and they’re sticking him out there.”
The priest decried the tone of the media coverage. “This is coming out as if I just kicked [Lennon] out in anger,” he says. “I don’t function that way as a pastor. I called him up and talked to him. And I’m not angry at him.”
In a statement which Fr. LaMoine plans to read to his congregation on Sunday, the priest says he is dismayed “that what should have been kept an internal Church matter has now become a public controversy.”
“To place this controversy into the public forum was the decision of the young man and his family,” he said. “It was not my intention or the intention of Bishop Hoeppner who was informed about the situation shortly after the young man withdrew from candidacy.”
Meanwhile Doug Cihak, Lennon’s father, has told media that he is not mad at the pastor, and understands that he is just being a “messenger” of the Church.
Lennon himself has said he doesn’t “want the church to be put down,” but expressed his concern that the priest is being “so strict. He won’t loosen up about things.”