Nicholas Coppola was a very active member of his local Catholic parish, carrying out a variety of services such as being a religious education teacher, lector (a person who reads aloud scriptural passages as part of church service), altar server, and visitation minister for shut-ins, i.e., people who are unable to attend mass in church.
He is also gay, a fact that he had revealed to his parish priest many years ago and which had not prevented him from being allowed to do all these things.
But last October he got married, after the state of New York legalized such unions. Several church members attended the wedding. But then someone sent an anonymous letter to the bishop of the diocese saying that Coppola was unfit to serve as a church teacher. The bishop then sent a letter to the parish priest who then told Coppola that he could no longer serve the church as he had done.
What struck me about this story was not that Coppola had been shunned by his church. After all, merely being a supporter of gay rights or being the children of gays is enough to make you second-class in the church.
The children of gay couples have been barred from church schools, supporters of same-sex marriage have been denied the sacraments, and openly gay Catholics like Coppola have been barred from church posts.
It seems weird that it was considered acceptable for Coppola to ‘live in sin’ with his gay partner but the sin somehow got worse when he got married, the exact opposite of the case with heterosexual couples. This is the kind of bizarre logic that bigotry results in.
But it was the anonymity of the letter that stood out. I can understand wanting to be anonymous if one fears retaliation from one’s superiors (as in the case of whistleblowers) or physical harm (if one is dealing with dangerous people). But what could this person be fearing, other than being called mean and petty? In one sense, this is a hopeful sign. If anti-gay Catholics feel unable to express their views openly within the Catholic Church, even though those views are perfectly congruent with official Catholic doctrine, then anti-gay sentiment is truly on the ropes.