'Gifted Musician' Fired From Catholic Church

A popular church musician was fired by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., after marrying his partner.

BY Michael O'Loughlin

April 09 2014 10:06 AM ET

As the Roman Catholic Church comes to terms with widespread acceptance of same-sex marriage, employees of Catholic institutions are often casualties. A report this week in The Washington Post profiles one of them, a music director who was fired from a Catholic parish in northern Virginia after married his longtime partner.

Mike McMahon had spent 30 years working at parishes in the Diocese of Arlington, Va., before being fired as music director at St. Agnes Catholic Church last summer, after the pastor was notified about McMahon's wedding, notes the Post. The 62-year-old musician holds three graduate degrees in theology and had been president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.

McMahon told the Post that he was called into a meeting with the pastor, Rev. Lee Roos, and was told he could either resign or be fired. He chose to be fired.

“He called HR and asked them to walk him through what he had to do. Then we walked over to the church where my stuff was. We walked to the parking lot, [Roos] gave me a hug and that was it,” he told the paper.

While gays and lesbians work in many Catholic churches, schools, hospitals, and other institutions, marriage often brings the issue of sexual orientation to the forefront, changing what had once been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” type of relationship, the Post notes. The response from spokesman for the Arlington diocese, standing by the decision to fire McMahon because of his marriage, provides a case in point.

“This public act is unmistakable and verifiable and serves to cause scandal in the church and confusion among the laity,” said spokesman Michael Donohue. “The church can’t let a diocesan employee, especially one who has a significant and public role in the liturgy of the Mass, and other ceremonies, to stand in open defiance of church teachings.”

McMahon is now a musician at a gay-affirming Protestant church in D.C., but he said he still feels Catholic. He said his firing was a blessing because he is free to be himself, but told the Post, “Serving in the ministry of the [Catholic] Church has been my identity my whole life. This placed me outside of that. I now think of myself as not able to serve in church ministry. I know I’m Catholic, and I know I belong, but I can’t do part of what makes me me.”

Follow Michael O'Loughlin on Twitter at @mikeoloughlin.

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