Father Francesco Francese was appointed pastor at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Providence this summer.
After learning that the parish music director, Michael Templeton, had contracted a so-called "marriage" with his gay partner, he met with him privately to inform him that Church policy doesn't allow people to publicly represent the Church while living a public life in contradiction to Church teaching.
After Templetom stepped down Monday, September 19, a small group of parishioners protested the affair by sporting rainbow garb at Mass on the following Sunday and singing "All Are Welcome" during the recitation of the Nicene Creed.
After the incident, as well as backlash from the media, Bp. Tobin issued a statement defending Fr. Francese:
A priest of the diocese of Providence, who requested to remain anonymous, spoke with ChurchMilitant.com. He believes the focus should be on the disrespect shown by parishooners who retailiated against their new pastor by disrupting the Mass he was offering.Any person who holds a ministerial position in the Church, as an employee or a volunteer, is expected to live in a way that is fully consistent with the teachings and faith of the Church. If an individual deliberately and knowingly enters into a relationship or engages in activity that contradicts the core teachings of the Church, that individual leaves the Church no choice but to respond.
"The real story is the parishioners protesting like they did," he told ChurchMilitant.com. "I think that really shows a lack of the sense of the sacred on their part. He's the new pastor. He's only been pastor there for like two and a half months. This was his first parish. I felt bad for him."
"The bishop and pastor made the right decision in firing the music director, though," he added. "I felt sorry for Fr. Francese when his parish reacted the way they did at Mass."
Bishop Tobin also addressed the media's wrongheaded portrayal of the firing as contrary to the mindset of Pope Francis.
"When Church leaders have to respond to situations involving persons living an openly 'gay lifestyle' these days, we're often scolded and told that we should be 'more like Pope Francis,' presumably the 'Who-am-I-to judge' Pope Francis."
Bishop Tobin went on to make the following points:
Pope Francis said same-sex marriage is destructive of families and is the work of the devil.
Pope Francis is supporting the Mexican bishops' campaign to oppose gay marriage in their country.
Pope Francis rejected the nomination of the French ambassador because he is openly gay.
Pope Francis' administration immediately fired and disciplined a priest working in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on learning he is openly gay and involved in a relationship.
"They ought to have a sense of the sacred," he emphasized. "I'm concerned that they have been malformed in the Faith. They think that this is actually the Christian faith."
"I saw in one news article that tolerance is a Christian value," he continued. "Tolerance of evil, tolerance of sin is not a Christian value."