Homophobia in the Catholic Church

A choir director leaves after priest suggests anti-gay therapy

As the Catholic church faces scrutiny around the country over its horrific mishandling of child abuse and sexual assault, at a church in New Jersey, the gay choir director is the one being treated like a criminal. Robert Russell has been the music director for 22 years at St. Joseph’s Parish in East Rutherford. That was until the pastor Joseph Astarita showed up spewing anti-gay remarks from the pulpit that was previously held by a liberal sect of the Franciscans.

After the priest made political comments about same-sex marriage, the music director met with him to discuss his concerns, and the fact that he’s been living with his partner for 15 years, according to The Record. The priest expressed concern, suggesting that Russell may not be fit to run the children’s choir and, says the music director, created a hostile work environment. The priest reportedly even suggested that Russell should seek reparative therapy to turn him “straight.”

Russell has sought legal counsel – and he’s apparently not the only one feeling disenchanted by the parish. Longtime members have also been leaving the church after it converted to a more conservative, hardline stance on issues. Previously, the church was served by Mychal Judge who died during the Sept. 11th attacks.