The Catholic Church’s purge of anyone who supports marriage equality, and anyone who is gay goes unabated even as Pope Francis I urges Catholics to focus on other issues such as helping the poor and the needy. This time, it is Nick Johns, the organist for St. Brigid church in Johns Creek, GA.
The son of a deacon, Johns was an altar boy growing up and even pursued a degree in music specializing in the organ at Georgia State University. He says of his love of the organ that “It’s very lifting for me and very spiritual for me.”
For a long time, Johns also denied who he was. He noted that “When you grow up Catholic, there’s always that teaching being gay is wrong and not natural. It’s the devil working inside of you.” Johns came out at 25.
The now 27-year-old was hired last October at St. Brigid’s, which has close to 5,000 families attending. Soon after, an unnamed parishioner went to the head pastor, one Monsignor David Talley, and handed something to him. According to Johns, “They printed out something that was on my Facebook wall. They were pictures, I support marriage equality or something like that.”
Monsignor Talley talked to Johns, and “He asked me to be cautious around here and make my profile private,” which he did. Unfortunately for Johns, Talley was raised to Atlanta’s Auxiliary Bishop, and the new head priest, one Father Joshua Allen, called Johns up and said “And he said ‘I hate to do this over the phone but you’re under suspension facing possible termination due to your Facebook account being in moral dissension with the teachings of the Catholic church.’”
Johns resigned in the end rather than face termination. Those were the only things that Allen offered to him.
Ironically, St. Brigid of Kildare was romantically linked to a woman named Darlughdacha during her life, and Darlughdacha took over the Kildare community after St. Brigid’s death. This is something that appears only in the earliest records of St. Brigid’s history as it was later purged by the Roman Catholic Church.
Allen has long proven himself to be anti-gay including criticizing the recent US Supreme Court rulings regarding DOMA and Prop 8 saying that “Homosexual activity is just another sin. It’s not like we have a problem with this one over another one. And the church is never going to stand by idly as society tries to turn it into something that is not a sin.”
Of course, the list of what is considered a sin in the Bible is rather long, and most are no longer considered sins even by the most hardcore Catholics.
The Atlanta Chapter of the American Guild of Organists has demanded mediation with St. Brigid’s, but so far that has not happened. According to the AGO, no guild member may seek employment there until the matter has been resolved, and noted that members “should be treated with dignity regardless of their beliefs and stances on social issues.”
The Catholic Church, of course, has every right to fire Johns, and that has even been backed up by the Supreme Court; however, it comes at a time when Pope Francis is signaling a move away from focusing on hot-button political issues like same-sex marriage and abortion and focusing more on alleviating poverty and helping those in need.
As for Johns, his days as a Catholic may be behind him. He is now the interim organist at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church. There, they do not care that he is gay, that the Catholic Church fired him, or that he supports marriage equality. Johns said that “I’ve never felt more welcome than I have here.” As for the Catholic Church, “The Catholic church was my home for my whole life. And this is them telling me that I’m not wanted.”