DECATUR, Ind. – A Bloomington man says his family’s church barred him from singing at his grandmother’s funeral last week, because he leads a "gay lifestyle."
Connor Hakes, 23, asked to perform at St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church after learning of his grandmother’s death on Nov. 21.
Hakes says he and his family have been longtime members of the parish, so he was saddened when Father Bob J. Lengerich denied his request in a lengthy letter that has since been made public.
In the letter, Lengerich said he was concerned that Hakes was living a same-sex lifestyle and openly advocating for LGBT rights.
"Anytime someone sins and then acts in the name of God, it causes scandal,” wrote Lengerich. “This is the main reason why you cannot (at this time) offer your gifts in service at St. Mary’s.”
The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.
The church suggested Hakes should perform his tribute outside of the church, saying “you are more than welcome to honor your Grandmother with a special tribute in song as long as it is outside of the Mass and outside of the Church, perhaps at the Funeral Home or Parish Hall during the viewing, at the cemetery after the committal and/or even at the luncheon.”
Hakes, who studied singing at Indiana University, says he’s performed at the church for several years, but he wasn't surprised by Lengerich's response.
“It was very clear that he had judged me and formed and opinion about me,” said Hakes. “There was no reason to believe I would be changing his mind.”
Hakes says the church’s decision was partly based on a photo that was posted on Facebook last year, which shows him attending a gay pride rally with friends.
Hakes says he believes his grandparents would be “disgusted” by the church’s decision.
“Their compassion and empathy was abundant, no matter who you were,” said Hakes. “They saw beyond race, religion, sexuality, and social class. They loved everyone. That is what it means to be a Christian. That is what it means to be Catholic.”
Hakes says his parents have plans to visit with a bishop to discuss the situation. Hakes himself says he’ll speak with the representative from the diocese that deals with abuse cases soon.
St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church issued the following statement:
“Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”