By all accounts, Colin Collette is a wonderful choir director. And for 17 years, he led the choir at Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness.
This week he was fired. Not because he did anything wrong as a choir director. Apparently not because he is gay. Indeed, his employers and others in the church have known he is gay the entire time he worked for Holy Family. He was fired because he had recently become engaged to another man and posted that news on Facebook.
"Those that serve as ministers of the Church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the Church," said a statement released this week by the Archdiocese of Chicago.
It's a sad time for Collette and for those who know him, as evidenced by comments left on dailyherald.com.
As a secular business, we find his firing hard to understand. And that's why laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or one's views of same-sex marriage are important to support and protect.
However, the decision by Holy Family's pastor, the Rev. Terry Keehan, is one he is entitled to make. Churches have that right and we, while strongly supporting same-sex marriage, also appreciate the notion that the civil right to marriage does not mean churches have to change their long-held beliefs.
The firing of Collette does provide another opportunity, however, for Catholics and non-Catholics to assess where they stand on the issue of same-sex marriage and gays in general. It highlights the divide between the devout and the questioning in the Catholic Church. It highlights the divisions among different denominations -- some gay welcoming and some not.
What we would hope is that locally it sparks conversation and understanding. Colin Collette deserves to be happy -- in his personal and professional life. That's something we all deserve. Collette is understandably upset and sad about having to choose between his faith-based job, and the person he loves. Even the pastor acknowledged that getting married was something that Collette had "been longing for a long time."
Is there room for compromise? Should the church do more to recognize that the world is changing in this regard? We believe so, but that's something for the church's leaders and parishioners to debate and decide. Pope Francis has opened the door for that kind of debate -- not on gay marriage but on being more welcoming to gays in general. "Who am I to judge?" he said famously last year.
We are not judging Collette or Holy Family. We encourage others not to judge as well.