This past weekend has indeed witness the perfect sacramental and ecclesiastical storm.
The name of this storm is Lennon Cihak, a young Catholic lad from Barnesville MN enjoying the fun of youth, living a private life and born with a conscience.
As with the overwhelming majority of Americans, Lennon Cihak has a Facebook account. Just before the November elections Lennon decided to exercise his constitutional right of free speech and thought by posting his support for marriage equality in our country. Mr. Cihak's support on this matter is just one of millions in this country who are supporting the very same cause. In most cases, Lennon Cihak's support would be considered one in several million and his name would never emerge from the millions who also support this issue.
Lennon Cihak has been in preparation to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption in Barnesville, MN - that was until the pastor of Assumption, the Reverend Gary LaMoine came across Lennon's Facebook page and saw Lennon supporting marriage equality and expelled Lennon from his confirmation preparations. Father LaMoine informed Lennon that his support of marriage equality runs "contrary to Roman Catholic teachings that states that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman." Father LaMoine also informed Lennon that if he would "stand before the congregation of Assumption and recant his heretical beliegs, he might be permitted to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The matter of Lennon Cihak has, of this date, become an international topic of conversation, thrusting a family from a small town in Minnesota into a media storm. Father LaMoine is upset that this story is out in the open, if you will pardon the expression. The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Crookston has been officially "unavailable."
This story was forwarded to me by another of the bishops of the Evangelical Catholic Church, Bishop Joseph Ryan of Ireland and for the record I wish to state that I have reached out to the Cihak family to offer the Sacrament of Confirmation to their son, if they so desire.
But what I wish to attempt to discuss in this essay is the topics of rights, obligations and obediences of individuals and institutions.
The Roman Catholic Church, just like the Evangelical Catholic Church and all other institutions of faith has the unconditional right to enact any laws, regulations or norms binding ALL of its members to adherence. The Roman Catholic community has been and continues to be very clear regarding their theology on marriage. When preparing candidates for the Confirmation, jurisdictions of faith make very clear to the candidates that the time for them to embrace the totality of their faith as adults has now come and when a candidate says "yes" to this responsibility - then their Church should count on their obedience to ALL aspects of the faith. Obviously on the matter of marriage equality, young Lennon Cihak and the Roman Catholic Church holds two opposing opinions which gives the Roman Catholic Church the right to refuse the Sacrament to the young man.
So why did I stick my episcopal nose into the matter by offering to bestow upon the lad the Sacrament of Confirmation? Because of conscious, faith and the Holy Spirit.
No matter which of the Catholic jurisdictions one belongs to, the expectations of the People of God is that their Church will take seriously its obligation to care for the souls of the faithful. The actions of Father LaMoine and the Diocese of Crookston has abdicated their obligations to the soul of Lennon Cihak. Because this young man has chosen to express his catholic faith inclusively, he paid the price of having the might weight and wrath of the institutional Roman Catholic Church pounce upon him. One would think that young Mr. Cihak is the first and only Roman Catholic to hold a view that different from the institutional church. Maybe the institutional Roman Catholic Church felt that they could make an example out of a 17 year old high school lad from Minnesota. I guess going after a 17 year old youth might not cause any blowback had the institutional Roman Catholic Church decided to excommunicate all adult women who hold active prescription for birth-control pills in their purses. Is not the doctrine found in Humane Vitae just as important to uphold and police as their policies on marriage? Was isn't the Roman Catholic Church denying the Sacrament of Marriage to couples who have been living together for years or have elected not to have any children? I guess it just comes down to the fact that a 17 year old lad is easier to go after.
Now that Lennon Cihak is now recognized as an adult with the gift of adult reasoning - I hope that this young adult might ask himself "is this jurisdiction of faith the one where I belong?" Maybe this is a question that many of us should be asking ourselves.
There is no question that the Roman Catholic Church has the right to enforce their laws. They won the argument. Too bad God and Lennon lost.