Friday, June 02, 2006
Taking Stock at St Agnes and the ChurchThe choir director recently let go from his position at St Agnes Church over on the other side of the state line has landed a church job to replace the one he lost. As I suspected, the issue for Joe Nadeau was making a living: Leaving St. Agnes was painful, he said. It was not that the chorus was more important than his church job or Catholic faith. It was that it was his main source of income. Nadeau was unwilling to do three things: quit a job that was the greater part of his livelihood, or to promise celibacy (something not asked explicitly of either clergy or laity), or to make a specific statement about some aspect of church teaching (another something not required of Catholic employees). So let's take stock of the whole situation piece by piece, and connect the dots. The Heartland Men's Chorus -- a single choir -- pays its music director more than a person who was responsible for both the parish liturgical music (five weekend Masses plus holy days and other events) and some school music interface. Check out the parish music site to note that Nadeau oversaw cantors, organists, the adult choir, the children's choir, and a handbell choir. Nadeau was neither closeted nor in-your-face like some seminarians (referred to earlier this week in the comment boxes): As he was quoted in the Star, “I never told anyone about my sexual orientation at St. Agnes. It was all assumed, based on my role with the men’s chorus. Nor did I ever once, in all my years there, challenge the teachings of the church.” A Lutheran Church has picked up a part-time music director, and a Catholic parish has lost one. St Agnes parishioners were unsuccessful with one pastor in getting Nadeau ousted, so they waited for the next one. Our VG was kidding a bit when he said he was glad that the other Kansas City diocese was getting some tough press for a change. So let's make some connections: The Catholic Church continues to lag behind other musical outlets in terms of the quality of its leadership, and what its parish entities are willing to pay to get that good leadership. A non-profit organization that sings a handful of times a year (but does make recordings) can outspend a 1500-family parish. Even discounting a small minority of homophobes, that's flippin' embarrassing. People deep in diocesan bureaucracy recognize this as a public relations black eye. The person who was supposedly in sin and asked to amend his life comes off as calm, polite, saddened, and wronged. The moral high ground is inhabited by people opting for "no comment." The petition drivers are nowhere in sight. When it comes to the Church's moral teaching, maybe it's not what you know, or what you do, but who's the boss. (Is there a catechism reference for that one?) Is the Church's moral teaching something of which to be proud? If so, why do most of the players involved here wish the attention would go away? I suspect that some embarassment is reserved for the parishioners who petitioned for Nadeau's removal. Not quite democratic, but a strong lay voice, nonetheless. Is that how parish personnel decisions are to be made? No wonder the hierarchy isn't touching the election of bishops or pastors. Some folks talk about sowing confusion amongst the faithful. I think there are a good number of confusing points in this sorry soap opera. Maybe some commentators can bring some clarity to it?