As the Catholic Church continues to flounder in the rapidly changing world, struggling to overcome scandal and maintain relevance in a culture that values independent thought over blind obedience, a story emerged today that further demonstrates the institution’s growing disconnect from the very people it seeks to embrace.
A Barnesville, Minnesota 17-year-old was denied the right to attend his Confirmation because he’d posted a picture of himself on Facebook that so offended the Church they refused him participation. The picture? Him drinking, doing drugs, having sex, abusing animals? No. It was a picture of a smiling boy holding an anti-gay marriage placard with the word “NO!” scrawled over with the word “YES.”
Sinful, isn’t it?
The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead reported on the family’s reaction to this stunning decision:
The decision by the Rev. Gary LaMoine to deny the religious rite of passage for Lennon Cihak in mid-October shocked his mother, who said her son has gone to church every week and volunteered around the community in preparation for his confirmation this year.
“You kind of know the Catholic beliefs, but I never thought they would deny somebody confirmation because you weren’t 100 percent. I guess that’s what shocks me,” Shana Cihak said.
It’s particularly ironic when one considers the ceremony in question. The Catholic “Confirmation” is a rite of passage that signifies a grown child’s active commitment to the church. While baptism sanctifies an infant, the Confirmation ritual, typically done at 13-years, specifically addresses the moment a child comes of age to cognitively decide on his or her desire to be a Catholic. It is sacred and ceremonious, a major step in a Catholic child’s life, much like the Bas or Bar Mitzvah for Jewish children.
Which makes it all the more confounding that Assumption Church in Barnesville would reject a young adult at the very moment he’s stepping up to make that commitment. But the Catholic Church has, in many instances, shown stunning disregard for logic and compassion in contemporary Catholicism, dismissing the social and political concerns of its parishioners in lieu of rigid, antiquated doctrine that promotes a strong agenda of sexism and intolerance. This attitude is particularly counterproductive at a time when membership is declining, scandals and litigation have roiled the Church from small parishes to the Vatican, and social politics have become the dividing line between liberal and fundamentalist Catholics in how they view their Church’s involvement in the world, as well as their personal lives.
Shana Cihak and her husband, Doug, are outraged by the singling out of their son:
“(LaMoine) was talking about ‘God doesn’t believe in this.’ Well, God created Lennon,” said Doug, adding that he was baptized and raised in the same church.
But now the family is not allowed to participate in Communion there, Doug said, and he’s worried as to how far the sanctions will go, expressing concern about being able to be buried alongside his parents.
Still, Doug insists he’s not mad at LaMoine, calling him just a “messenger” of the church. The same could not be said for his wife, who said she doesn’t plan on returning to the church ever again, her son nodding in agreement.
The priest in question, Rev. Gary LaMoine, who originally refused to speak to The Forum about the matter, later did speak up, denying that he’d refused Lennon the right to participate in Confirmation but stating he didn’t want to say much more because, “I owe the family confidentiality.”
Most would say he owes the family much more than confidentiality, with tolerance, acceptance, and compassion being at the top of the list, but according to Shana, even his show of concern is a pretense, maintaining “that LaMoine wouldn’t allow her son to be confirmed.” They were, however, given an option:
The mother did say that Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston informed her that if Lennon stood before the church and denounced his support of same-sex marriage claims, he could be confirmed.
It was an option the family wasn’t willing to pursue. “That’s lying,” Lennon said Wednesday. “And that’s not right, to me, at least.”
It seems young Lennon has a clearer grasp of honor and integrity than those in authority seeking to control and contain him. Which suggests he doesn’t really need Confirmation to enter into his adult life as an honorable man…he’s already there.