Catholic Church fires music director over plans to marry same-sex partner

Colin Collette, left, and Will Nifong, in Rome where the couple got engaged. Family photo

Colin Collette, left, and Will Nifong, in Rome where the couple got engaged.Family photo

Colin Collette, left, and Will Nifong, in Rome where the couple got engaged.

INVERNESS, Ill. — The longtime music director at a suburban Chicago Roman Catholic church says he was fired after posting on social media plans to marry his same-sex partner.

Colin Collette says his partner proposed to him last week in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

After leading the music on Sunday at Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness, Collette says Pastor Terry Keehan asked for his resignation. He said he left without resigning, but was fired Monday.

Collette told the Chicago Sun-Times someone sent to Cardinal Francis George a Facebook image featuring the couple after their engagement. The cardinal then sent the church’s pastor an email calling for Collette’s resignation, he says. When he refused to resign, he was fired.

Collette said the church’s pastor knew he was gay, and had attended dinners with the couple.

In a written statement Wednesday, Archdiocese of Chicago officials said they were aware of the action taken by Keehan. After pointing out it doesn’t comment on individual personnel issues, the Archdiocese said those serving as ministers, including worship ministers, are “expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the church.”

Collette is not the first layperson fired by the Catholic Church in retaliation for marrying a same-sex partner.

Earlier this year, Brian Panetta was forced to resign from his job as band and choir director at a Catholic school in Sandusky, Ohio, after officials learned he and his boyfriend became engaged to be married. In May, Flint Dollar, a band director at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, Ga., was also fired after announcing plans to marry his partner.

And in Missouri, Colleen Simon, a parish food pantry worker, is suing the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph for firing her after her same-sex marriage was mentioned in a local article; Simon said she told the church of her marriage before she was hired.

New Ways Ministry, a Catholic gay rights group, has found more than 15 cases since 2010 of U.S. teachers, school administrators or parish musicians who lost jobs or resigned after expressing support for gay marriage or going public with their own same-sex relationships. Several of the former employees have sued.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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