Priest: Barnesville teen not denied confirmation -- Family stands by story that boy's gay marriage support led to denial
BARNESVILLE, Minn. - The priest at a Catholic church here is denying that a 17-year-old boy was not allowed to be confirmed after publicly supporting same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Gary LaMoine told The Forum on Thursday that he didn't deny Lennon Cihak confirmation at Assumption Church on 307 Front St. N., but he said he wouldn't talk about the situation in depth.
"They're my parishioners, and so when the press comes after me from different points of view and asks me all types of questions about their situation, I hesitate very much because I owe them, I owe that family confidentiality," LaMoine said.
Lennon's parents, Shana and Doug, both of whom have lived in Barnesville their entire lives and attended the same church for just as long, told The Forum on Wednesday that LaMoine denied the religious sacrament to their son in mid-October.
This came, they said, just a day after LaMoine was shown a Facebook photo of Lennon with a political sign encouraging people to vote against the Minnesota amendment on the ballot earlier this month that would have changed the state's constitution to define marriage as explicitly being between one man and one woman - a measure that ultimately failed.
Despite LaMoine's denial, Shana held her ground on Thursday, saying again that LaMoine wouldn't allow her son to be confirmed.
"He said 'I cannot, cannot confirm him.' And why is Lennon not confirmed now if he could be confirmed?" Shana said. "Father would not confirm him, and they won't confirm him unless he changes his views."
The mother did say that Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston informed her that if Lennon stood before the church and denounced his support of same-sex marriage claims, he could be confirmed.
It was an option the family wasn't willing to pursue. "That's lying," Lennon said Wednesday. "And that's not right, to me, at least."
The Barnesville boy was starting to draw support on social media Thursday. An "I Support Lennon Cihak" page on Facebook was created Thursday and had 291 "likes" as of 11 p.m. Lennon, who said online that he is not responsible for the group, took to Twitter to show his gratitude.
"Thank you to everyone who's been sending me tweets," he wrote. "It means so much to me!"
Monsignor David Baumgartner at the regional diocese, who a receptionist said was acting as a spokesman for the incident, couldn't be reached by email or phone Thursday.
It's not the first incident of gay marriage support causing issues in the Crookston Diocese. A St. Joseph's Catholic School teacher in Moorhead was also let go earlier this year after she expressed concern about Hoeppner preaching to children about the marriage amendment.
LaMoine said he is planning to broach the issue at Assumption on Sunday.
"We'll probably issue something to the parish during Mass this week because I need to talk with them about this," he said.
The family says LaMoine was unjustly singling out their son, claiming they know other members of the church who hold beliefs that run counter to the Catholic teachings but who have not received any sort of sanctions. The family also said they are no longer allowed to take Holy Communion at Assumption.
"He wasn't being vicious," Shana said. "He was just saying what he thought."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518