Minn. Teen Denied Confirmation, Family Refused Communion Over Marriage Equality Support

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday November 16, 2012

A Catholic priest in Barnesville, Minn., denied a 17-year-old boy confirmation after he discovered the boy posted a photo on Facebook where he made it clear that he supports gay marriage, the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune reports.

The Assumption Church's Rev. Gary LaMoine told Lennon Cihak's family that he would not be receiving his confirmation, a rite of passage for Catholic youth, even though he has been preparing for event, which was scheduled for later this year.

Not only did LaMoine prohibit Cihak from receiving the sacrament; he also banned the teen's entire family from participating in communion at the church.

"You kind of know the Catholic beliefs, but I never thought they would deny somebody confirmation because you weren't 100 percent. I guess that's what shocks me," Shana Cihak, the boy's mother, told the newspaper.

Although Cihak is too young to vote, he made it clear that he supports same-sex marriage. The Facebook post that LaMoine is upset over shows the teen holding up a sign for Minnesota's marriage equality question, which was put on the Nov. 6 ballot. The sign originally read: "Vote Yes" on the state's marriage amendment, which would define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. But Cihak altered the sign to read, "Vote No! Equal Marriage Rights!"

After the results of Election Day were announced, those who supported marriage equality came out on top as the amendment was not struck down.

Once the photo was discovered, however, the priest talked with the boy's mother and told her that Cihak would not be allowed to complete confirmation.

The teen pointed out that several of his classmates "liked" the photo but were allowed to receive confirmation.

'You kind of know the Catholic beliefs, but I never thought they would deny somebody confirmation because you weren't 100 percent'

"I just thought it was wrong to single him out," his mother told the Tribune. Cihak's father, Doug Cihak, pointed out the priest's having banned the entire family from receiving Holy Communion. The father added that he was not mad with LaMoine, whom he called a messenger of the church.

His wife doesn't agree. She says she will not return to the place of worship. "You should be able to go to a church for support, help," the boy said. "He pushed me away."

A similar incident occurred earlier this year when another Roman Catholic priest, Rev. Marcel Guarnizo of St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Gaithersburg, Md., denied communion to Barbara Johnson at her mother's funeral service because she is a lesbian. Johnson said that the priest told her, "I cannot give you communion because you live with a woman and that is a sin according to the church."

After the incident, Johnson urged the archdiocese to remove Guarnizo. In March, he was put on administrative leave from the ministry because he was "engaging in intimidating behavior toward parish staff and others that is incompatible with proper priestly ministry." In July, the archdiocese announced that he was no longer with the archdiocese.

"Fr. Marcel Guarnizo is a priest of the Archdiocese of Moscow, Russia, who was given a temporary assignment at St. John Neumann parish," Chieko Noguchi Scheve, director of media and public relations at the Archdiocese of Washington, said. "That assignment period has ended and Father Guarnizo is no longer in ministry in the Archdiocese of Washington."

Just before the presidential election, Newark, N.J., Archbishop John J. Myers made headlines after he wrote a letter stating that Catholics who support gay marriage should not receive communion. Pro marriage-equality Catholics, should, he wrote, "in all honesty and humility refrain from receiving Holy Communion," and "to continue to receive Holy Communion while so dissenting would be objectively dishonest."

The 16-page letter harshly criticized same-sex relationships: "We cannot define and redefine marriage to suit our personal tastes or goals," the archbishop wrote.

Also just before the November election, Life News reported that Michael Sheridan, Bishop of the Catholic Dioceses of Colorado Springs, said Vice President Joe Biden should be denied communion from the Catholic Church because he supports abortion.