Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Gay Employee at Catholic Church Resigns Due to Harassment Campaign

Aaron Bianco

A gay employee at a Catholic church in San Diego has resigned after enduring two years of harassment that included death threats and vandalism.

Aaron Bianco, a pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, said the final straw came when right-wing Catholic sites posted photos of his family and revealed where he lives.

He submitted his resignation Friday “out of fear for my family and myself,” Bianco told the National Catholic Reporter.

Bianco had come into the church Monday to find “no fags” spray-painted on an office wall, marking the first time the inside of the church had been vandalized. During the two years he has worked at the parish, he had received threatening notes on his car, emails, and phone calls, had seen his tires slashed, and had been physically attacked.

Then Wednesday, a far-right Catholic group called the Lepanto Institute published an article on its website with pictures of Bianco and his husband, whom it called his “sodomitical partner,” and Bianco’s late mother. It also revealed the location of Bianco’s home. The Advocate will not link to the article, which was also carried on the right-wing site LifeSite News. LifeSite, the Lepanto Institute, and a group called Church Militant had all campaigned for Bianco’s dismissal.

Pastoral associates in the Roman Catholic Church can be male or female, married or single. This differs from the priesthood, which is open only to men, who are expected to remain celibate. The church does oppose same-sex relationships for anyone. But the St. John the Evangelist parish prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive. The bishop of San Diego, Robert McElroy, has been supportive of Bianco and for that has drawn the ire of right-wingers as well.

Bianco plans to address the congregation at Mass Sunday night, and that is the only time he plans to appear in public before his resignation takes effect October 31, according to the Reporter.

In his resignation email, which was published by the Reporter, he said he “will be looking at hiring legal counsel to stop the slander against me.” He likened the groups that attacked him to “organized crime.”

“They have gone after me relentlessly hoping to bring me to my knees,” he continued. “These groups, and those who act on their rhetoric must be stopped! We cannot allow this to continue in a Church that was founded on Jesus' message of love and acceptance.”

Watch the Reporter's video interview with Bianco below.

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