As an openly gay man, Steav Bates-Congdon (right) might’ve have wanted to pick a better employment option than music director at a Catholic church. But everything seemed fine until Bates-Congdon married his longtime partner, Bill, in New York State. That’s when St. Gabriel Catholic Church in South Charlotte, NC, fired him.
From all accounts, St. Gabriel’s clergy and parishioners were well aware that Steav, 61, was gay when he began working at the church in 2004 and never really made any bones about it. But when he returned home from an emergency hospital stay for a ruptured appendix in January, he was handed a note by Rev. Frank O’Rourke, which read “Employees of St. Gabriel … are expected to live within the moral tradition of the Church. Your civil marriage stands in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, therefore ending your employment with us, effective today.”
Wow, firing a senior citizen who just got out of the hospital? There’s some good Christian compassion right there.
Diocese spokesman David Hains told The Observer:
“Mr. Congdon’s ‘civil union,’ is a public statement in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as a lifelong, exclusive covenant between one man and one woman.”
Bates-Congdon had told O’Rourke about his plans to marry and didn’t foresee any fallout.
He recalls O’Rourke’s response: “Congratulations, I’m very happy for you. But I can’t give you my blessing.” “I wouldn’t ask you to,” Bates-Congdon says he replied. More than six months passed before he was fired.
Sadly, Steav seems to be suffering from some kind of religious Stockholm Syndrome, rolling over and accepting the Church’s bigotry. He tells writer Michael Gordon that if anyone had raised an objection beforehand, “Bill and I would have pulled the plug [on the wedding] and postponed it until some time when it wouldn’t have mattered, like in retirement.”
He even goes on to praise the man who canned him:
[Bates-Congdon] says O’Rourke was one of the best bosses he ever had, and while he still doesn’t understand the timing of his firing, he appreciates that the priest “told me why.”
…Only once, he says, did his sexual orientation become a parish issue. It occurred in 2006, after Bates-Congdon started a youth choir, which was a goal of his job description. A parish member wrote to then-pastor Ed Sheridan expressing discomfort that Bates-Congdon was leading the youth group while also serving as artistic director of the city’s One Voice Chorus, made up of gay and lesbian vocalists… [A] priest asked Bates-Congdon to end his affiliation with One Voice, which he did.
We hate to think what would’ve happened if O’Rourke had asked Bates-Congdon to recant his marriage.
In one last sad twist to this pathetic parable, Steav is now facing surgery for Parkinson’s disease. His salary and health benefits from St. Gabriel will continue through June.
Photos: One Voice Chorus