Colin Collette, left, and his partner Will Nifong in Rome, where they became engaged. | Photo courtesy of Will Nifong
Catholic choir director fired after same-sex engagement
Colin Collette’s heart went from racing from elation to worry when his same-sex partner of five years proposed last week in Rome on the scenic Bridge of Angels.
A joyful moment he’ll never forget would soon cost him a job as director of worship at Holy Family church in Inverness.
“Before I said yes to him I thought, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God. What’s going to happen?” said Collette, of Rogers Park.
Collette, 52, was fired Monday after working for the Archdiocese of Chicago for 23 years, first at St. James Catholic Church in Bronzeville.
The Archdiocese of Chicago released a statement stating, “worship ministers are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the church.”
Collette told the Chicago Sun-Times someone sent to Cardinal Francis George a Facebook image featuring the couple after their engagement. The cardinal then sent the church’s pastor an email calling for Collette’s resignation, he says. When he refused to resign, he was fired.
“This voice inside of me said, ‘No, wait a minute. Well, no. I didn’t do anything wrong.’ I said, ‘I’m not going to resign. God brought me to this moment and God is saying this is why I created you. You are here to live and love.’”
Collette said the church’s pastor knew he was gay, and had attended dinners with the couple. He also helped him walk down the aisle during his mother’s funeral two years ago.
“He made it very clear that he was getting pressure from above,” Collette said.
George waged a losing battle against the state’s legalization of same-sex marriage. “Marriage is what nature tells us it is and ... the state cannot change natural marriage,” the cardinal wrote in a letter published in parish bulletins last year.
Collette said countless parishioners have reached out to show their support. But two days after the firing, Collette said he’s still trying to cope with what happened.
“I’m not angry. The closest way to describe how I feel is if you’ve ever lost anyone that you loved, your mom or dad or grandmother,” Collette said. “That feeling you get in your stomach that your life is never going to be the same. That’s what I’m feeling. Only instead of losing one person, I just lost 3,000 people.”