The cowardly pettiness of some religious people

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.


  1. CaitieCat says

    Well, in many cases, because belonging to the club brings benefits unavailable otherwise. See the golf world, stock exchanges, legislatures, holders of suffrage, et c., et c..

  2. atheist says

    Good question, Marcus, but literally millions of people do! Basically, I guess it comes down to humans and their deep need for a sense of connection or belonging.

  3. Didaktylos says

    I suppose that as long as he and his partner were only living together, the church could take the line that they were only “housemates”.

  4. poxyhowzes says

    Oh Wow! a simple anonymous letter can result in the drumming out of the Roman Catholic Church any folks who do not adhere fully to dogma?? Oh Wow!

    Folks I’ll happily take on, through an anonymous letter, Bishop Murphy of Rockville Centre, and his chief assistant, but after that I’m going to need help! Massive help!

    There are too many priests who violated children and who therefore are apparently unworthy of membership in the RCC, too many Bishops who excused those priests and lied for them, too many Archbishops who got there by being the Bishops who excused and lied, too many Cardinals who believe that to save the church, one must violate its every principle.

    There’s also Joey Rat-zinger. An anonymous letter to Papa “fix my church” Francis shouldn’t be amiss, should it?


    So let’s get on with it, folks. Anonymous letters will get anyone you want expelled from the RCC, despite that Church’s claim that all sins but one can be forgiven by G-d.


  5. thisisaturingtest says

    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.

    Maybe what’s happening here is that, in the case of the heterosexual couples, the marriage is a formalization of the relationship that results in an agreement between the Church and the state, so there is no conflict between authorities; with the marriage, the Church got what it approved of. But with gay marriage, the formalization of the relationship resulted in a direct conflict, because what the Church could ignore before, when it contradicted their teaching, is now thrust in their faces when it’s recognized by the same authority that endorsed their stand before. It’s not so much the “sin” itself, but the challenge to the Church’s authority.

  6. steve oberski says

    I suspect that Nicholas Coppola “joined” this club as a child and was not in a position to make an informed or voluntary choice in this matter.

    That combined with early childhood indoctrination and a lifetime where most of your social interactions take place within the cult would make it very difficult to leave.

    This is really one of the most despicable aspects of organized religion, first forcing a dependent relationship upon it’s members and then using this to enforce adherence to dogma by threat of expulsion.

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