Minnesota Teen Denied Confirmation; Family Denied Communion Over Marriage Equality

Lennon Cihak is 17 and lives in Minnesota. A life long Catholic, he has been preparing for his Confirmation – a sacramental rite of passage in the Church.

Lennon does not identify as gay, but he did post a photo on Facebook indicating that he supports marriage equality – or at least opposed the since-then-defeated amendment that would have restricted marriage to a man and a woman. In response Lennon’s priest has forbid him to be Confirmed, a decision supported by the diocesan Bishop.

Photo credit: Grand Forks Herald

They’ve also decided to deny Lennon’s parents Communion.

Lennon said fellow students in his confirmation class “liked” the photo on Facebook, but they were still allowed to be confirmed.

“I just thought it was wrong to single him out,” Shana said.

Her husband, Doug Cihak, agreed.

“(LaMoine) was talking about ‘God doesn’t believe in this.’ Well, God created Lennon,” said Doug, adding that he was baptized and raised in the same church.

But now the family is not allowed to participate in Communion there, Doug said, and he’s worried as to how far the sanctions will go, expressing concern about being able to be buried alongside his parents.

Still, Doug insists he’s not mad at LaMoine, calling him just a “messenger” of the church. The same could not be said for his wife, who said she doesn’t plan on returning to the church ever again, her son nodding in agreement.

Lennon shows a maturity about the entire situation – he is the new Catholic Church which tolerates dissent and recognizes that the individual actions of priests does not reflect the Church – the people.  But I find his father’s insight equally true – that Father LaMoine does reflect the Catholic hierarchy.

What a sad situation. The inference that one must 100% embrace the Catholic teaching is one thing, but to suggest that one must embrace the Catholic Church’s stance on things political is absurd. One can be a Catholic who in good conscience does not believe secular constitutions should be amended to promote religious agendas.

In less than 4 days, 2,000 people have liked a support page on Facebook for Lennon. Please note that this page is not connected to Lennon’s family.

So here’s what I wonder:

  1. Who brought the photo to the priest’s attention? And why?
  2. Why aren’t the youth who “liked” the photo held to the same standard? They expressed their support.
  3. How can the Bishop say there’s nothing to be done? He is the one who actually confirms the kids.

Lennon is certainly getting an unfortunate lesson in the ugly side of the Catholic Church – intolerance, bigotry, judgement, unfairness, and a general desire to control the lives and thoughts of their members.

And Father LaMoine isn’t backing down. In an article published Saturday on the Park Rapids Enterprise website, he blames Lennon for not changing his views and for bringing shame on the Church!

LaMoine said the church does not make a habit of scanning Facebook pages of confirmation students and instead prefers to “assume the best,” that all their students are following the church’s beliefs.

 “If he hadn’t publicly stated his opinion at that particular time on Facebook, he would’ve been confirmed I’m sure,” he said. “Nobody would’ve known about his attitude.”

 However, a woman in the church office has access to “a lot” of the students’ Facebook pages, LaMoine said.

 “So she naturally is able to approach – to go in there and see what they’re doing,” he said. “We’re curious about what people are writing about the situation. That’s natural that we’d be curious.”

 LaMoine said he’s concerned for Lennon based on what he’s seen on the teen’s Facebook, and that he wished the media blitz would stop. He added that he hasn’t spoken to Lennon in person since before the story hit the media.

 “My secretary Googled his name. That’s not so good what came up,” he said.

Really? Lennon’s personal Facebook page is not public. Yes, it is true he has to accept the consequences of posting things on Facebook, but church secretaries should not be tattling on teenagers. Lord knows that I’m sure there is PLENTY of unseemly things posted on Facebook timelines of the other students – do they intervene when kids bully? make sexualized comments? That’s just an inappropriate relationship IMHO.

LaMoine claims that Lennon withdrew from Confirmation after conversations about the post, but only after an ultimatum that he had to renounce his views. So that’s pretty much the same thing. One of Lennon’s friends has since voluntarily withdrawn from the Communion class in solidarity with him.

Father LaMoine is a piece of work. Sad.

Kudos to Lennon for standing up for his beliefs, for his right to make his own decisions and for his faith.