The disturbing aspect of this story is that when Charles Philyaw was hired by St. Andrew Catholic Church in Verona, WI to be its full-time director of music liturgy in 2004, he didn’t hide his sexual orientation. In fact he lived monogamously with his partner, James Mulder-Philyaw, who also joined the parish and was active in the church.

This past June, five parishioners came forward to complain that Philyaws presence as an openly gay man “made a mockery of the Catholic doctrine” regarding homosexuality, and Bishop Robert Morlino’s office became involved and Philyaw was fired.

Philyaw said he was told by the parish priest, the Rev. Dave Timmerman, that he would no longer be retained because he was living an openly gay life. He was given two weeks’ notice.

…His firing has divided parishioners, pitting friends against friends and spawning a sharp debate over Christ’s teachings. More than 100 church members signed a petition – sent to Morlino – praising Philyaw and bemoaning his dismissal. But others say Philyaw’s firing was inevitable because his employment made a mockery of Catholic doctrine.

“Absolutely, Chuck lost his job because he’s openly gay,” said Jo Ellen Kilkenny, one of the five whose inquiries triggered Philyaw’s dismissal. She calls him a “wonderful music director” and said she feels horrible that he lost his livelihood, yet it became indefensible for him to be in a highly visible role as an active homosexual, she said. “We are all sinners, but when you hold a leadership position, you’re held to a higher standard than people in the pews,” she said.

The Wisconsin State Journal was not granted an interview with the bishop or Timmerman (the person who hired Philyaw and was told up front about the matter of Philyaw’s relationship), the paper was directed to:

the Rev. Monsignor James Bartylla, director of vocations, who is helping to coordinate locally a program called Courage, a national Catholic initiative that counsels people with same-sex attraction.

…As for parishioners who are sexually active homosexuals, Bartylla said the church would welcome them, then “begin dealing immediately” with the issue. “We’d encourage them and challenge them to come into conformity with church teaching, the same as with any parishioner dealing with sin.”

You have to read the entire article to see the rationalizations given by those who complained about Philyaw. Since he now is only in a temporary position without benefits, he and his partner face foreclosure on their home.

“It’s been devastating,” he said. “These five people didn’t think through how they were going to be impacting our lives.” Regardless of their motives, “their actions did not positively contribute to spreading the word of the Gospels or the love that Jesus taught us,” he said.

Also, there is an interview with Philyaw in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that’s worthy of a click.

Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding