Teen Won’t Be Confirmed because He Supports Gay Rights

Rose French of the Star Tribune reports:

A Catholic priest in northwest Minnesota is refusing to administer the sacrament of confirmation to a 17-year-old after the teen posted a photo on Facebook condemning the [Minnesota] marriage amendment, according to a newspaper report.

The decision by the priest at Assumption Church in Barnesville, Minn., to deny confirmation to Lennon Cihak last month has surprised the teen’s family, The Forum reports:

“The Facebook post in question was a photo of Lennon in front of an altered political sign. Originally reading “Vote Yes” on the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, which would have changed the state’s constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman, Lennon scribbled out the “yes” and replaced it with “NO!”

The teen’s mother says she was “called into a private conversation with the priest soon after the photo was discovered and was told her son wouldn’t be allowed to complete confirmation.”

The newspaper also reports that the family is being denied communion. Church officials made no comment for the story.

Aimed at banning same-sex marriage in Minnesota, the proposed marriage amendment failed to win a majority vote on the Nov. 6 ballot. The state’s Catholic bishops and clergy were among the most vocal supporters of the amendment and called on the Catholic faithful to vote for the measure.

via Report: Minn. Catholic teen denied confirmation after pro-gay marriage Facebook post | StarTribune.com.

  • Curtis

    Okay. We get the message. We know who the church does not welcome. So the next question is, who is left who the church *wants* to welcome through their doors?

  • Christian

    I’m pretty sure the Catholic church has the right to withhold sacraments (such as confirmation and the eucharist, aka communion) from those who are in apostasy, which may be the parish’s perspective on the matter right now. The article makes it sound as though the parish may not have done its homework as to whether or not Cihak and his family were “aware of and obstinate in” their error, but it certainly seems like a distinct possibility, especially given the private conversation between the priest and the mother. It’s possible that the parish might’ve handled the matter with greater tact, but there’s no denying that Cihak and his family seem to be in opposition to the teaching of the church.

    The Catholic Church holds very specific stances on various moral issues, and this happens to be one of them. I’m sure many readers of this blog will disagree with the Catholic Church’s perspective or not consider it a moral issue in the first place, but the Catholic Church is remarkably consistent in its stances and I sincerely doubt it’s about to budge on this. One can call the Church “bigoted” and “intolerant”, but the fact is that nobody tolerates absolutely everything- you wouldn’t “tolerate” a convicted felon on the run hanging out in your house. Am I saying that people who are sexually attracted to the same sex are equivalent to convicted felons? Not at all. However, we have to acknowledge that “tolerance” is not an intrinsic good and that we all have certain things we won’t tolerate. The Catholic Church just happens to draw different lines than many people.

    Curtis is both right and wrong to say “we know who the church does not welcome”. The Church does not welcome absolutely anyone into the number of its sacrament-receiving faithful, just as you wouldn’t allow absolutely anyone into your house. The Church desires that everyone be welcome in its community, but it draws the line on apostates receiving sacraments.

    (For the record, I’m not actually Roman Catholic; I just happen to understand the teachings of the Catholic Church better than most folks.)

    • Craig

      Is anyone questioning the Church’s “right” to do this? If we’re talking about legal rights, this should be obvious.

      • Christian

        By the authority claimed by the Catholic Church (which isn’t known to intersect with state law, except maybe in the Vatican), the Church has the ability to determine how sacraments will and will not be distributed in Catholic churches. I’m not sure what the point would be of trying to get state or federal law involved in this case, though I’d be open to your thoughts.

        No person has the “right” to be given the Eucharist in a Catholic parish, but Catholic churches aren’t known to withhold sacraments from persons who are baptized Catholic unless those persons are known to be apostate. As an Anglican, I don’t have the “right” to be served the Eucharist as consecrated by an ordained Roman Catholic priest.

    • Curtis

      “it draws the line on apostates receiving sacraments” Nobody is saying the don’t have every right to do what they do. But who among us is certain that we will not be declared “apostate” at some point? Someone who never speaks? Why would anyone want to join a church like that? Why would someone choose to surrender their mind and their voice, forever, to a church?

      This does not sound of God’s Kingdom to me. But that is just my opinion.

      • Christian

        Well, it sounded for a moment like Craig might’ve been wondering whether or not Catholic churches “have every right to do what they do,” so I thought it was worth clarification.

        According to canon law (or at least my best understanding of it), one will not be declared “apostate” and denied the sacraments unless it’s clear that he or she is aware of the teachings of the Church and remains obstinately opposed to said teachings. And it’s not as though the teachings of the Church are like a giant game of Minesweeper, where saying the wrong thing causes one to be denied the sacraments but one can only guess as to what things are acceptable. The teachings of the Catholic Church are pretty well-defined in a number of sources, such as the Catechism.

        Hey, speaking of the Catechism, check this out:

        “2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”

        Yes, I understand that most folks who read this blog will probably not agree with the Catholic Church’s position on marriage and homosexuality (marriage is a sacrament defined as being between one man and one woman; those who are sexually attracted to the same sex are called to celibacy), but it’s hard to construe the Church as being filled with unjust discrimination and/or burning hate in the matter. If a Catholic knowingly and obstinately acts toward those who are attracted to the same sex in a way not in accordance with the above Catechism passage, they’re disobeying the Church. If a Catholic protested with the Westboro Baptist Church, he or she would be equally liable to be deemed “apostate” as someone who denies the sacramental nature of marriage.

        Why would anyone want to join a church like that? If one believes that the Catholic Church is the Church which Christ established and that it is guided in its teaching by the Holy Spirit (as the Church believes is established in Scripture), it makes perfect sense.

        Here’s a parallel situation: as I know very little about physics, I’ll happily believe what an accomplished physicist has to say about physics because I believe him to have a teaching authority on the matter that I don’t. Even if he says something which doesn’t seem right to me, I’m willing to accept that I’m probably the one in error, not him. Similarly, if one believes that the Church has a divinely-instituted teaching authority on matters of faith and morals, it would be silly to persist to disagree if a disagreement comes up. “Why would someone choose to surrender their mind and their voice, forever, to a church?” For the same reason that I choose to surrender my ideas about physics to an actual physicist.

        I know the idea of a Church actually having the ability to be right about such a thing flies in the face of the “I get to say what’s true about God” zeitgeist which seems so prevalent in the emergent church, but it’s actually not so insensible if one is willing to accept that their personal understanding of something may be untrue.

        • Craig

          I should have been clearer: I don’t think anyone is questioning the Church’s legal right in this matter; nor do I think anyone should. The grounds for criticism lay elsewhere.

        • Sundown

          “And it’s not as though the teachings of the Church are like a giant game of Minesweeper,”

          Except in this case, they are. The fact that the priest went behind the back of this young confirmand, rather than addressing him directly and trying to convince him to change his opinion, speaks volumes about the character of this priest.

          Also, regardless of the actual teachings, the fact is that this issue is a political matter, not a church doctrine issue. It’s not as though the confirmand didn’t believe in God or something that’s actually a core doctrine of the church; he didn’t believe that a particular ballot initiative is worthy of support; and the priest wants to retaliate against someone who doesn’t share his politicial views.

          Furthermore, Christian, what is your view on the priest’s other action (denying communion to people who are in this kid’s family, since apparently it’s a sin to be related to someone that the priest doesn’t like… or something stupid like that.)?

          • Christian

            I maintain that the teachings of the church, particularly on this matter, are pretty darn clear. I think what you’re more likely meaning to say is that the priest/parish in this case acted in an unpredictable and/or inappropriate way, which could potentially have been true in this case, and the initial news blurb sort of makes it sound like this is the case.

            I’m not sure that I agree with you on what constitutes a “core doctrine of the church”, and I’m not sure that either of us has the power to define what does and doesn’t fall that categorization. However, given that marriage is one of the sacraments in Catholicism, I’d say it actually is pretty important. The church perceives American culture as being increasingly supportive of a definition of marriage which is a distortion of the sacramental nature of marriage, and it urges its faithful to stand for the Church and its sacraments.

            I happen to think that the wisest decision for the Church at this point may be to cease administering marriages which have any connection with the law and keep its own definition of sacramental marriage while trying to avoid interfering with the legal/political realm. It looks, by some accounts, like this may be in the works, so we’ll see how things play out.

            As to your last bit, I encourage you to check this out: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2012/11/that-teenager-who-was-denied-confirmation-theres-more-to-the-story/

          • Sundown

            ” I think what you’re more likely meaning to say is that the priest/parish in this case acted in an unpredictable and/or inappropriate way.”

            Absolutely. I could be wrong in this, but there does not seem to be any precedent for denying Confirmation to a confirmand who has gone through all of the steps. Also, I think I need to emphasize this again: Having a particular position on a ballot initiative has nothing to do with the doctrine of the church. It’s not as though the kid was arguing that the papacy is illegitimate or something like that; he was disagreeing about ONE particular ballot measure.

            And that link you sent only makes the priest look worse. His logic is “Oh, they’re not going to church often enough, so my response is to… ensure that they’ll come even less often!”, which is one of the stupidest actions I’ve seen from a member of the clergy. As to the kid deciding not to go through with Confirmation, it still isn’t clear if this was a purely voluntary action on his part or if it was more a case of picking his battles and not wanting to spend his life in a shouting match with a priest… either way, the last bit of that news story basically confirmed that the priest had an ax to grind.

        • Curtis

          “if one believes that the Church has a divinely-instituted teaching authority on matters of faith and morals, it would be silly to persist to disagree if a disagreement comes up”

          I agree. And I don’t believe that. And I don’t understand why someone would believe that. That is what I said.

      • Ed

        One does not surrender one’s mind and voice to a church; one does so to God who works one into the one body of the Church, and to His own glory, not ours.

        • Curtis

          No church has a monopoly on God.

          • Christian

            When you say that “no church has a monopoly on God,” what exactly do you mean by that? Do you mean that multiple churches, teaching and preaching different and exclusive things about God, can somehow all be right? Do you mean that no church actually teaches what is true about God? Do you mean that humans actually have no ability to know anything about God?

            To say any of these falls squarely against any historic confession of Christian faith. These only really becomes a possibility in the zeitgeist of “I get to decide what is true about God and what it means to be a Christian and therefore I’m right” that tends to be particularly present in modern “progressive” Christianity. Just as I might acknowledge my ignorance about physics and would turn to a physicist for truth, one might turn to the Catholic Church for truth because they understand that they aren’t individually going to get the truth about God right. As Dwight Longnecker puts it (and this is a paraphrase), “there’s no such thing as ‘Sola Scriptura’. Everyone interprets the Bible in some way. I became Catholic because I realized I didn’t trust myself to get the Bible right, and I thought the Church was much more likely right than I could ever be on my own.”

            Further reading from someone who addresses these things much more adequately and eloquently than me: http://fallibleblogma.com/index.php/what-is-a-christian/

  • Ric Shewell

    Well that’s ridiculous and really stupid for this church to do this. I wonder if this local parish realizes how it is painting a disturbing picture the greater Catholic Church. The Catholic Church doesn’t need this little church’s help in making enemies.

    I’m not Catholic and I don’t know what they go through for confirmation, but to with hold confirmation and communion because of a political stance that has Catholics on both sides of the issue is stupid for them. There are probably no basis to deny him these sacraments solely on the political opinions of gay marriage.

    Maybe this kid was also a jerk. That’s what I hope really went down. We shouldn’t confirm jerks.

    • Ed

      This is not a political issue, and this little church is doing nothing more than being of the greater Catholic Church.

      • Sundown

        It most definitely is a political issue.

        This is what gets me most about this controversy; you can have any opinion that you want about what the church is doing, but it’s extremely unethical to lie about the facts of this case.

  • Frank

    Shocking how someone who denies Gods perfect plan is prevented from an event declaring their faith in that same God.

  • Evelyn

    Someone should tell this kid that most gays are flamboyantly defiant and can’t fathom the concept of self-respect. The gays wouldn’t have any respect for the institution of marriage so it really isn’t worth it to give up his faith for that cause.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Evelyn, can we agree on a *sarcasm emoticon* to differentiate your snarky comments from your earnest comments?

      Honestly. I think new readers are confused by you.

  • pokey

    God’s perfect plan is the passage of the Minnesota Marriage Amendment, obviously. It’s such a blessing that faithful clergymen like this priest are willing to use religious coercion to sway the opinions of voters in hopes of passing God’s perfect plan through the Minnesota state legislature. What a beautiful reflection of Jesus! If only the rotten kid would follow the example of the Lord: forsake the homosexuals and their AGENDA and accept the teachings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Then, he might be SAVED!!!

  • Chuck

    As no one is tolerant of everything, as has been pointed out, perhaps this event raises a question as to whether or not Catholics should be tolerated in public office. Can decent people tolerate Roman Catholics in their neighborhoods? Would anyone with any taste want a Roman Catholic in their house knowing that they can be coerced into anything it seems. Maybe they might have been told it is a proper act to make off with the good silver.

    Intolerance is often its own reward.

    • Ed

      The Catholic position has been consistent and open to public scrutiny by decent people for just over two thousand years. It seems to be holding up just fine. The decent people that Chuck talks about view decency as an interpretation of their own desires; one that should be tolerated by all others, or else.

  • Sven

    And Catholics wonder why their church attendance is falling so quickly. Maybe they should stop kicking people out for daring to have opinions.

    • Ed

      Opinion: 1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty. 2. a personal view, attitude, or appraisal.

      I’m not sure one’s opinion should be running anything, let alone God’s Church.

      • Sven

        Who said anything about Lennon’s opinion “running the Church”?

  • Nick Jackson

    This is scary. What no one has mentioned yet is the consequence (according to catholic theology) of this action. Banning the family from the Eucharist is equivalent to shutting the gates of heaven on them. I don’t know the details of why they would ban his family from communion as well, but this priest has made a huge decision. This priest now believes, as things stand, that this family will burn in hell. Horrifying.


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