DECATUR, Ind. (WANE) – An Indiana man said a priest told him he wasn’t allowed to sing at his grandmother’s funeral because he attended a gay pride rally. The whole thing stemmed from a picture shared on Conner Hakes’ Facebook page, which was uploaded by a friend last year.
Hakes said he and his family have been longtime members of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church in Decatur. His grandmother lived nearby, and generations before her have been a part of this church.
So when his grandmother passed away last Monday, Hakes contacted the church Tuesday to get permission to sing at her funeral. Father Bob J. Lengerich denied that request, concerned that Hakes was living a same-sex life and openly advocating for LGBT rights.
“This Priest had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me,” said Hakes.
Hakes maintains that Lengerich never came to him to discuss if he was participating in a gay lifestyle or not, and said he sang numerous times for the congregation previously.
However, the letter states that if Hakes were to sing at the funeral, that would scandalize the church and the congregation. The letter goes on to say that any person who serves in the church or as a representative of the church must uphold the church’s values.
“This was coming from a man, a priest out of my home Parish that I have always felt very loved and welcomed in,” said Hakes. “All of a sudden I felt very ostracized.”
The letter explained that the Catholic Church forbids people who defy the rules of the church, including people who are divorced and remarried without having the marriage annulled, those who support abortion rights, and openly participate in unchaste same-sex relationships.
Lengerich said that Hakes is allowed to honor his grandmother with a tribute song, only if it is outside of the Mass and outside of the church.
“It was very clear to me that he was very set in his mindset,” said Hakes. “He did not want me to participate in my grandmothers funeral.”
Hakes took his frustration to social media; posting the letter and condemning its message. It was shared nearly 850 times with more than 420 comments. Hakes said he doesn’t blame the church members for what happened, but he prays that Father Lengerich will change his ways.
“I pray honestly for the softening of his heart and that he becomes a better leader for the Catholic Church,” he said.
In the meantime, St. Mary’s Parish issued this statement:
“Having become aware of the painful situation at Saint Mary’s Parish in Decatur, the diocese is working on fostering healing and reconciliation between the pastor and the Hakes family. We encourage all to move forward with genuine Christian love and mercy and with respect and prayer for one another.”
Hakes and his family have filed a formal complaint with leaders of the Diocese. His family is planning to meet with leaders there.