Gay church volunteer ousted from Oceanside church to demand reinstatement

Nicholas Coppola, right, stands with spouse David Crespo,

Nicholas Coppola, right, stands with spouse David Crespo, left, after attending service at St. Anthony's Church in Oceanside. (April 7, 2013) (Credit: Steve Pfost)

A parishioner ousted from volunteer duties at a Catholic church in Oceanside because he is gay plans to formally demand reinstatement Thursday from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Nicholas Coppola said he plans to deliver petitions signed by 18,500 supporters Thursday morning to the offices of Bishop William Murphy. The nationwide online petition drive was organized by Faithful America, a Washington, D.C.-based group that opposes "right-wing extremism."

In January, Coppola, 47, was removed from his duties at St. Anthony's parish as eucharistic minister, religion teacher and visitor for the homebound sick after the diocese received an anonymous letter complaining that he is gay.

Reinstating Coppola is "a major opportunity for Bishop Murphy and for Catholic bishops across the country to begin practicing Christian love when it comes to their gay and lesbian parishioners," said Michael Sherrard of Faithful America.

But William Donohue of the conservative Manhattan-based Catholic League said the church made the right decision. "Just as it is the right of a yeshiva to insist that its employees abide by Judaic strictures, it is the right of a Catholic school to insist that its employees respect Catholic teachings," he said.

Coppola has been openly gay at the parish for years. Last October, he married David Crespo, 47, under New York State's same-sex-marriage law.

The diocese has said the decision to remove him was made by St. Anthony's pastor, the Rev. Nicholas Lombardi, but that Lombardi made the correct move. Diocese spokesman Sean Dolan has said that anyone in public ministerial positions in the church must take public positions consistent with Catholic teachings.

Lombardi did not respond to messages.

Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City, have made statements recently that the church, while not abandoning its teaching that marriage should be between a man and woman, should be more welcoming to homosexuals.

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