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Gay Canadian Sues Church

This commentary is the opinion of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

July 15th, 2009

Jim Corcoran is no doubt a valued member of the family at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Ontario. (National Post)

Mr. Corcoran, 50, began as an altar server just before Christmas. He said St. Michael’s did not have altar boys and he thought that creating a group of adult altar servers would help the priest during Mass. Many Catholic parishes have adult servers.

But he’s also an idiot.

Mr. Corcoran is a gay man married to his partner. He and his priest (and you, and I, and the neighbor’s cousin’s cat) all know that the Catholic Church has some pretty restrictive beliefs about the participation of gay men in the life of the Church. Mr. Corcoran cannot have thought that his efforts would be universally praised and appreciated.

And, as could be expected, several parishoners signed a letter to the Bishop and Corcoran was removed.

So he’s suing.

A gay man has filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against a Catholic bishop after he was removed from his volunteer job as an altar server because of his sexual orientation.

Now in the US, Corcoran would be tossed out on his ear. I hope that in Canada they do the same.

Don’t get me wrong. I think the decision of the Church was stupid. Corcoran probably isn’t even technically in violation of the Vatican policy; he and his partner are chaste. And the motivation of the parishoners appears to have been pettiness and spite and was primarily an attack on the priest.

But the issue isn’t whether the Church is right or wrong. The issue is whether the Church should be allowed to make its own policies, however stupid they may be.

And I come down on the side of self-determination and freedom – both for Corcoran and the Church. St. Michael’s should be entitled to deny liturgical authority to whomever they please for whatever reason they please, and Jim Corcoran should be entitled to cross the street to a church that operates more to his pleasing.

Comments

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David
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

I agree, that although stupid, the church should have the right to do what it did. What makes this bad is that those in the US (word net daily, etc) will pick up on it and use it as ammunition of what is next to come to america.

Burr
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

Exactly. I don’t endorse this, and I really hope Canada doesn’t entertain this nonsense and make this bigger news than it needs to be. The actions of one guy should not be confused for some phony “culture war.”

Burr
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

Speaking of Canada, didn’t they silence a priest from saying anything more about gay marriage citing some hate speech law? Goofy.

Alex
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

The Catholic church has been discriminating against women, protecting known child molesters, and exploiting ignorant and fearful people for centuries. Clearly the concepts of justice and equality mean nothing to them. Just let it go, Mr. Corcoran.

Pomo
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

Who wants to take bets about how long one of the conservative groups in America gets ahold of this and starts using it as examples of why gay marriage shouldn’t be legal.

I give it a few months…

Mike Airhart
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

The church may be entitled to certain rights to commit injustice against its members, but that does not necessitate that Corcoran simply walk away.

The church should be publicly humiliated and picketed until it treats gay Catholics equally. Did Corcoran seek support from any gay Catholic organizations?

Emily K
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

what a moronic decision. Does he really think this is productive?? Here come Dobson et al to lie their asses off about how this is what will happen when gays are given full legal equality. Lest we forget that their breed think the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon” mentioned in “John”s Revelation.

Elisabeth
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

What a stupid, selfish git.

I utterly despise the Catholic church but no private organisation should be forced to accept someone who explicitly flouts their rules. I do not want some rightwing hate-monger suing LGBT groups because we exclude them.

I really hope this suit is immediately tossed and this idiot is held liable for the church’s legal fees.

Josh
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

I happen to be Catholic, an altar server, and gay. I’m not an advocate of blanket celibacy for LGBT members of the Church, but I do believe that if someone feels called to the celibate life, they should strive to meet that calling and should be supported as much as possible.

Having said that, Mr. Corcoran could have appealed to the Apostolic Nuncio or even written the Congregation for Divine Worship in the Vatican. Just like we have a system of succession for courts, there’s always someone to appeal to. I have the feeling that if this couple is truly chaste, the Holy Father would probably overturn the local bishop on his decision.

Now the gentleman may not have known this. Still, it sets a very dangerous precedent to sue in secular courts over a religious matter. I hope this is thrown out. My church is not perfect. Like the humans it is made of, it has its imperfections. There are times when the secular courts must step in, such as in the sex abuse scandal, and I applaud such intervention. However in a matter of liturgical practice, no secular court should have the authority to intervene unless it can be proven that a crime was committed because of the liturgy.

Jim Burroway
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

I cannot even begin to imagine the basis for which Corcoran is suing. Does Canadian law really extend into liturgical and worship practices? I cannot even fathom that it does.

And besides that, being an alter server — I used to be one — is not a paid position. There’s no employer/employee relationship. There’s no crime alleged in connection with this. There is no guaranteed right to serve as a server. There is no right even to receive communion or any of the other sacraments.

Mike’s right. The church can and ought to be called out on its entrenched homophobia. But this is a severe mis-fire of the highest caliber. It doesn’t humiliate the church one bit, but it will make us look like a bunch of idiots when Focus On the Family to latches onto it.

This guy has got to be the world’s biggest, most self-centered fool that’s ever existed. It’s friends like him who make our enemies jobs laughably easy.

Lindoro Almaviva
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

Maybe the Episcopal church can send him a letter telling him that he and his husband would be welcomed no strings attached?

The Catholic church need to loose a LOT of parishioners (and a lot in $unday giving) for them to get the message.

Kristie
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms (section 15) guarantees every citizen equal rights and freedom from discrimination based on (but not limited to)several enumarated, emutable statuses. This was the basis of the argument which led to same-sex marriage being legalized in Canada & it has also been used in at least 1 case filed by a 17 year old student at a Catholic high school when he was prohibited from bring his boyfriend to prom.

So, there is precedent in Canadian law for this kind of suit. This kind of case would never fly here in the US, but in Canada they seem to be a bit more flexible on how far religious freedom goes before it starts infringing on someone else’s civil rights.

Vancity
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

“The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms (section 15) guarantees every citizen equal rights and freedom from discrimination based on (but not limited to)several enumarated, emutable statuses. This was the basis of the argument which led to same-sex marriage being legalized in Canada & it has also been used in at least 1 case filed by a 17 year old student at a Catholic high school when he was prohibited from bring his boyfriend to prom.” – Kristie

True; however, Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms only applies to government conduct. In the case of the Catholic high school, one must remember that this was a *publicly funded* Catholic high school (something that does not exist in the USA).

This lawsuit does not have a chance of succeeding; all it will do is give the American religious right more material for their fundraising letters and attack ads that they will be undoubtedly be running in Maine….

Here is a link to the court decision regarding the gay Catholic high school student:
http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2002/2002canlii49475/2002canlii49475.html

Lynn David
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

I was Catholic, was a Church organist from an early age (instead of an altar server) and was for a time the Scoutmaster of the Boy Scout Troop associated with the parish. I even wrote a history of our parish for a parish directory. Most Catholic parishes use a varient of “don’t ask, don’t tell” when it comes to whether someone is gay. If you don’t ‘flaunt it’ then the parish priest takes a neutral position to anyone who is gay. Marrying your partner is considered to be ‘flaunting it’ and allows the Church to invoke the Catechism and do some “just descrimination” against you.

Lynn David
July 15th, 2009 | LINK

*discrimination*… geesh!

Christopher Waldrop
July 16th, 2009 | LINK

The stupidity of this is unbelievable, and, like a lot of other commenters, I worry about how Dobson et al will use this. Speaking of them, though, something that I think every regular visitor to this blog knows is that Dobson and his ilk are not above distorting facts or even simply lying to make their point. Even if this were a legitimate case of discrimination Dobson et al would find some way to call it an attack on their right to discriminate.

That’s what makes this both frustrating and frightening. It undermines legitimate problems.

Timothy (TRiG)
July 16th, 2009 | LINK

Does this guy have a solicitor?

This is weird, and silly.

TRiG.

ravenbiker
July 16th, 2009 | LINK

In the quest to have the church remove themselves from civil law, we, as GLBT, need to learn to leave alone the churches.

I cringe at this suit.

Jason D
July 16th, 2009 | LINK

someone had on their bad idea jeans that day.

This is like the e-harmony suit. Some people really don’t quite understand the concept of “merit” within a case, and there are far too many lawyers eager to make a name for themselves by taking on controversial cases even when there is clearly no merit.

And count on Dobson, et al, to not only bring this up, but to add spice to it like say “He’s suing the church to force them to let him hang out with the altar boys, have his wedding at the church, and coupons for tacos!!!!”

CLS
July 16th, 2009 | LINK

The altar server is in the wrong. Freedom of association means the church should be able to associate with whomever they wish and shun those they don’t. And we have the same and equal right to shun them if we wish.

Coercive state power is not the friend of the gay community. For every real crime it prevents there are hundreds of rights violations against gay people that are perpetrated by the State.

Saturday Free Speech Roundup | Popehat
July 18th, 2009 | LINK

[…] Box Turtle Bulletin, which devotes substantial coverage to same-sex marriage and related issues, offers a strong and principled argument against Canadian litigation seeking to force a church to accept an openly gay man as an alter server. The […]

Timothy (TRiG)
July 23rd, 2009 | LINK

Slap is not impressed.

TRiG.

July 27 roundup
July 27th, 2009 | LINK

[…] Complaint by gay altar server to Ontario Human Rights Tribunal menaces church’s autonomy [National Post via Box Turtle Bulletin] […]

Family Research Council Thinks Vaughn Walker Was a Sleeper Agent | Popehat
August 5th, 2010 | LINK

[…] for commentary on gay rights issues, thanks to thoughtful analysis and principled stands like opposition to attempts to censor anti-gay speech), I see that the Family Research Council has decided that Vaughn Walker is a sleeper agent. It […]

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