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DECATUR, Indiana, December 1, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – An Indiana Catholic priest is facing criticism after barring an open advocate of the LGBT agenda from singing at his grandmother’s funeral.

Connor Hakes said it was a picture of him attending a gay pride rally shared on his Facebook page last year that prompted Father Bob Lengerich, the pastor of Saint Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur, to deny his request to sing at the funeral.

The Bloomington man’s grandmother passed away November 21. He made the request to the Decatur parish to sing the following day.

Father Lengerich explained in a November 23 letter to Hakes, shared by Hakes with the media, that those serving in liturgical roles at Mass are public representatives of the Catholic Church and therefore the Church forbids individuals who openly defy tenets of the Catholic faith from serving in these positions. He listed various examples, including those divorced and remarried without an annulment, open supporters of abortion, and anyone openly participating in unchaste same-sex relationships.


“Anytime someone sins and then acts in the name of God, it causes scandal,” the letter said. “This is the main reason why you cannot (at this time) offer your gifts at St. Mary’s.”


“The Catholic Church upholds the dignity of those with same-sex attraction,” it continued. “At the same time, it does not permit same-sex relationships or openly advocating for them because it causes scandal.”

The priest's letter goes on to explain that there are many ways that individuals with same-sex attraction can participate with full communion in the Church, such as by exercising chastity, praying and attending Mass, and that there are other parishioners who are not permitted to serve at Mass due to circumstances in their lives. Hakes was also informed he could offer a solo for his grandmother outside the Mass and the church.

The following day Hakes posted the letter on his Facebook page and condemned it, stating:

I can no longer sing at my Grandma's funeral, because I attended a gay pride rally and a picture was posted publicly (years ago). The priest's reasoning is by attending such event, I am opposing the Catholic Church's fundamental marriage belief. Both my Grandma and Grandpa would be disgusted by their parish. Their compassion and empathy was abundant, no matter who you were. They saw beyond race, religion, sexuality, and social class. They loved everyone. That is what is means to be a Christian. That is what it means to be Catholic. Please SHARE!

Hakes and his parents complained to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which provided the following statement to LifeSiteNews:

Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.

Diocesan Director of Communications Stephanie Patka told LifeSiteNews that Bishop Kevin Rhoades met with Hakes’ parents Wednesday and that he looks forward to meeting Hakes, reiterating that the diocese and the bishop desire to bring healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. 

Father Lengerich apologized in the letter for the additional grief caused by the conversation and for not addressing “this issue when it was first to my attention.” The priest said he had not considered that Hakes, who lives some three hours away, would be returning to the parish so soon after.

“You are loved by your Heavenly Father and by your Church community,” he stated in the letter. “We want you here. And we do want to enter into a real dialogue and conversation. It’s because we love you that we are concerned for you. We do hope that you will continue this conversation so that we may all benefit from the beautiful gifts God has given you.”