Institutions Politics

Gay Catholic delivers 18,000 signatures to bishop asking to be reinstated

Nicholas Coppola delivers 18,603 signatures through Faithful America, asking to be active in his Roman Catholic parish. Photo courtesy GLAAD

NEW YORK (RNS) A gay man ousted from posts at his Long Island parish after a critic complained that he had married his partner delivered a petition with more than 18,000 signatures on Thursday (April 11) to Bishop William Murphy, asking to be reinstated.

“Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish – and make it clear that faithful gay and lesbian Catholics are welcome to participate fully in parish life in your diocese,” reads the petition. Murphy is longtime head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre.

Nicholas Coppola delivers 18,603 signatures through Faithful America, asking to be active in his Roman Catholic parish. Photo courtesy GLAAD

Nicholas Coppola delivers 18,603 signatures through Faithful America, asking to be active in his Roman Catholic parish. Photo courtesy GLAAD

According to gay activist network GLAAD, which has been assisting Coppola, a security guard at the diocese agreed to deliver the petition but said that neither Murphy nor diocesan officials would meet with Coppola and representatives of the activist groups who accompanied him.

The diocese later released a statement saying that it “respects those who may have signed a petition” but said that it cannot change church teaching against gay marriage and expects others to respect that position as well.

Catholic doctrine “is not discrimination against homosexual men and women” and “no one has a right to discriminate against persons because of sexual orientation,” Murphy said in the statement.

But “all church institutions and teachers of the faith are bound to support this teaching, particularly by their public action,” the statement added.

In January, the pastor at St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church in Oceanside stripped Coppola of his jobs as a religious education teacher, lector and visitation minister. A top aide to Murphy had conveyed concerns to the parish after the bishop received an anonymous letter pointing out that Coppola wed his partner under New York’s new gay marriage law.

The case came to light last week after top Catholic officials, led by New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the church needs to do a better job welcoming gays and showing that the institution is not “anti-anybody.”

GLAAD responded by promoting Coppola’s story to show that the church’s actions were not matching its words.

The petition drive, organized by the group Faithful America, was another effort to put pressure on the hierarchy, which is facing a sea change in public opinion on gay rights as well as the prospect of state laws and even the Supreme Court opening the door to same-sex marriage.

nicholas coppola

Nicholas Coppola, the gay man who was stripped of his involvement with his local Roman Catholic parish, delivered 18,603 signatures with GLAAD to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, requesting to be restored to full engagement with his local parish. Photo courtesy GLAAD

“The best part about telling my story is that it has reminded me that I’m not alone,” Coppola said Thursday, according to GLAAD. “I have been given so many words and signs of support and love by my fellow parishioners at St. Anthony’s parish. I’ve been stopped during my routine day by people who are letting me know that they care for me.”

While many Catholics have voiced support for Coppola, church conservatives have blasted his cause as an example of liberal intolerance and “bullying,” as the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue put it on Thursday.

“The American people respect the autonomy of religious institutions to craft their own rules and regulations, and they do not look kindly on bullying,” Donohue said in a statement.

“How ironic it is that those who have been screaming the most about the evils of bullying are the very ones who are its greatest practitioners – against Christians, no less. It’s time they learned the virtue of tolerance.”


About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.


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  • An ACTIVE gay is as much a “christian” as an ACTIVE child molester since BOTH follow deviant sexual desires.

    You won’t go to hell for the desires but you will go to hell if you willfully indulge in them.

  • A petition is useless. He is not excommunicated, that is good, but there’s no way he can be allowed to be “a religious education teacher, lector and visitation minister”. Most of the world’s catholics would agree with that–which is anyway besides the point, the bishops are the bishops for a reason.

  • Outstanding. That type of post is the reason that we who support gay rights are dominating the culture war so thoroughly. Please, by all means, expand on your comparison between gay people and child molesters. Shout it from the rooftops. You’re giving us what we want, my friend. Really lay it on thick…do you think you could work in a comparison to incest, or talk about how the government is going to make us all get the Mark of the Beast?

  • Oddly the more counter-cultural the Catholic Church becomes, the stronger she becomes.
    As our Western culture more and more endorses, promotes, and protects what for thousands of years have been considered decadent practices, the more appealing the Church will appear to those who want no part of such practices. It is similar to Ireland where the people rallied to the Church rather than give in to British oppression. Or Poland where the people rallied to the Church rather than be “Sovietized.”

  • Gladly:

    NORMAL desires are adult male to adult female.
    ABNORMAL desires are adult to child or adult to their own gender!

    BOTH are against the teachings of the Bible and God’s laws thus you CAN NOT practice these desires and be a REAL Christian! ANY CHURCH that includes active gays or molesters have left God’s side and joined Satan.

  • Hmmm. I wonder if the Rockville Center Diocese will also kick out all those that are divorced or use birth control. Or those who support the death penalty. Or who lived with their boyfriends or girlfriends before marriage. Etc.

    Somehow I think not. The Catholic hierarchy has a particular hatred of gay men and lesbians, despite what Dolan says, since gay liberation has emptied the priesthood and nunneries of willing fodder. So many priests are closet cases that they just hum with outrage at the thought of someone else living a full life.

    Sad, really.

  • Birth CONTROL is not condemned by God or his Bible (that is a Catholic myth just like praying to a dead woman named Mary).

    The death P\penalty is JUSTICE for those who take lives and is also not condemned by the Bible.

    NINETY PERCENT of kids molested in this “church” are MALE and ONLY GAYS go after males! THe Priesthood has been the perfect hiding place for gays for 2 thousand years!!!


  • “The Free Exercise Clause [of the First Amendment of the Constituion of the United States] prevents [the government] from interfering with the freedom of religious groups to select their own [ministers].” That is from a decision by the US Supreme Court in the Hosana Tabor v. Equal Employment Commission case. While it doesn’t directly relate to this particular instance, I believe it gives us an important insight. The Catholic Church and any other faith denomination has the right to determine who ministers in their respective churches. That’s the bottom line.

  • Would the “good” bishop remove from their position a catholic who practiced birth control, which the Church teaches as unnatural? Would the “good” bishop remove a divorced Catholic? Would the “good” bishop remove a Catholic who is a strong defender of the death penalty? Seems the “good” bishop is being highly selective as to who should be removed. Smells like bigotry, discrimination, and prejudice to me

  • There is very big difference between committing public sins and private sins. If the person using birth control was vocal about her use of birth control and openly advocated for the use of birth control in public, then yes, the priest or bishop would step in and say you can’t minister in the Church.

  • This is just about the most unChristian and inhumane statement I have ever heard. This is really pathetic.

  • According to Bill Donohue at the Catholic League, this is a fraud, in that of the three boxes of “petitions” Coppola delivered, two were empty and the third just had a few sheets of paper that would fit into a large envelope. Commercial news outlets just cannot be relied upon for truth. They simply parrot what is PC — especially on warmongering and the homosesual agenda — and never check out even the simplest thing.

  • Agreed…it’s comments like that, Southern Baptist, which give all Christians a bad name.

  • You do not understand either the Church’s teaching or her discipline. Birth control goes to the “internal forum.” A bishop would have no way of knowing if someone practice artificial birth control, unless it was part of their sacramental confession. Further, priests (and a bishop is one) are forbidden from allowing what they hear in an internal forum to be used against a person. It is in the external forum, where the world can see, where violation of Church teaching become manifest, “notorious,” if you will. This man claimed to be married to a man and made it manifest to the world at large. He is, by definition, not a faithful Catholic. Is someone a faithful Catholic who uses birth control? No (unless it is perscribed for a medical condition and the prevention of conception is not the primary goal), but no one has any way to KNOW that! It becomes a matter of the external forum if the person goes around advocating for artificial birth control.

    It is not a sin to be civilly divorced. It is a sin to remarry while one’s civilly divorced spouse is still living without seeking a declaration of nullity by the Church. There would be no problem with a civilly divorced Catholic being in the ministrys this man was involved in.

    It is not against Church teaching to advocate for the death penalty. The past two popes have urged that the death penalty be discontinued, that the state has other and equally efficacious measures that it can take to protect its citizens, but they’ve never attempted to make binding on the consciences of individual Catholics that the death penalty is, in every circumstance, morally wrong…and they never will, because the permissibility of the death penalty has always been apart of the Church’s teaching. You don’t have to like that, but that’s Catholic teaching.

    You should inform yourself what is and is not Catholic teaching before you go spouting off what you BELIEVE to be Catholic teaching.

  • And yet, the Southern Baptist churches (and I was one), like all Protestant Churches, taught against artificial BC up until the early 20th Century.

    As for the Blessed Mother, she was venerated in the Patristic Church (the Church of the period of the disciples of the Apostles). Learn to read a little history.

  • Biologists have determined conclusively that every species of animal (insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals) have members that are “gay”. This study was so conclusive—that the book containing the research, was used to PROVE before the Supreme Court in the case of Lawerence vs. Texas (2003)—that homosexuality between humans was NOT Unnatural. The Supreme Court agreed.

    Homosexuality is not chosen. It is in one’s genetic code.

  • You could say the same thing about craving children sexually!
    Just because you have “natural”, born-that-way” urges don’t make those urges good or decent!

    GOD CONDEMNS GAY ACTIVITY over and over in the Bible and the Catholic church is correct in not allowing such deviants to be part of their church if they don’t stop the sinful activity.

    Gayness has been a sickness for thousands of years and will always be. Just let a sexual deviant couple try to rent from me! I don’t allow freaks on my property!

  • In my opinion John Kirk’s comments were soundly researched and accurately presented . Sometimes it is hard to find such on some web site’s comboxes.

  • Now there is a completely erroneous and bigoted statement if there ever was one. Would you please then explain why you aren’t out here condemning those who eat shellfish, or wear clothes of mixed fibers, or women who are in positions over men, or married persons who are unfaithful to their spouse, or wedded couples who have sex during the women’s mestrual period, or when a man dies childless his widow is ordered by Biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn so that she can bear her husband a male heir, or that it is permissible by Biblical law that sex with a prostitute is acceptable for a man but not for a woman, etc. All of that – and much, much more – is held as “abominations” in the Bible. So, in the interest of fairness, how about you start a crusade of equal application of Biblical law, and see how far that gets you. I am sure you will be very busy persecuting every Christian church, including y’all Southern Baptists, who are selective in their “Biblical Truth.” You are a hypocrite, and therefore what you have to say on this matter of the dignity of other human beings is ignorant at best. I see no dignity in any of the things you have written here.

  • Normal? Since when is “normal” the only thing correct? Have you studied biology to learn that some of the most beautiful and beneficial plants are developed from “sports,” those abnormal “freaks” that appear in plant life now and then?

    You distort “normal” only to match your own orientation. That makes you comfortable because ignorance is a terrible upset to equilibrium. Normal is not only a matter of numbers. Your normal is not the normal of everyone else. Different normals have always coexisted in the universe of life.

    As a so-called Christian, what is normal about your charity, your charitable acts toward others? Was Jesus normal when he declared that charity was the greatest of the three virtues he named? Would Jesus consider that honesty was even greater than charity if it had been included in that list? You totally neglect culture and its influences.

    You have a desperate need to recognize the evil that is frequently included in your holy book of mythology just as much as you need to learn some biology and hopefully recognize the abnormality and evil of your thinking that numbers are the only thing that matter.

    While you’re at it, study cultures and their changes over time also. Learn how terribly ignorant the older cultures were in what they knew about their world compared to others. And, like us, they absolutely nothing about cultures yet to develop. It all depends on the ways that people can distort virtues and facts and conditions by simply relying on numbers. You make religion and Christianity nothing more than a numbers racket! That’s a gamble in which you are guaranteed to be the loser.

  • If the “good” bishops did such things, they would be preaching to empty cathedrals and sending their letters to be read at empty churches!

  • No incontrovertible evidence about the genes yet, but humans and other animals are a good bit more than their genes. One’s “natural” need not match another’s “natural”. And since the Supreme Court has distorted so much, like money as speech and corporations as people, do we really need to rely on people like Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Alito, or John Roberts, even Anthony Kennedy for anything scientifically rational.

    An added observation: The five conservatives who dominate our federal Supreme Court just happen to be Catholic! Add to that, the weird fact that three of those five Catholics share the same given name: Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and Anthony Alito. As Willy Shakespeare put it, “What’s in a name?” Don’t answer that.

    Please, Barack, if you have the opportunity to nominate another justice, make sure that justice’s given name is no version of Anthony! Not even Ann. And make sure that justice’s legal thinking in no way resembles the Catholic distortions of our current Catholic Supreme Court. (That group does not include Justice Sonia Sotomayor!)

  • Study, learn, and think for yourself. You don’t need to rely on a bunch of clerics. Also, if you knew the many and vast differences among theologians, you would never rely on so-called church teaching.

  • The current and continuing status of the Catholic Church is a living, breathing contradiction of your claim that it becomes stronger as it becomes more “counter-cultural.” The opposite is also true of your claim about thousands of years of “considered decadent practices.” Your “decadence” is not my “decadence.” And the widespread practices of many things like birth control, homosexual practices, even abortion for good reasons, is living proof of the reasons that churches are so empty on Saturdays during former “confession” times.

    Heck, many, many churches are half empty during the main ritual, the Holy Communion, compared to earlier times because people now think for themselves, understandably influenced by the sex sins of the clergy. They’re walking out, not walking in! They’re also doing their own thinking about sex.

    I hope you did not study, pass your exams, and were ordained only to preach the party line like an automaton. No one should leave their mind outside any church door when they enter. Religious seekers do not need to depend on the preaching of clerics inside the churches to form their thinking. They can study for themselves, just as you did–if you did.

    You know, there are two awful distortions about the permanent diaconate. Deacons, by and large, are the clerics with the least religious study and learning, yet they preach and are not allowed to read the Holy Communion service. It seems that those with much more study, usually priests, should be doing the preaching. In short, most deacons are little more than glorified altar boys. Altar boys should not be preaching.

    Also, the preclusion of another marriage if a permanent deacon’s wife should die is just one more distortion of sex and human life by the church, and the cause of its biggest problem. It always has been, ever since celibacy was required.

  • Yeah, and look at the horror of the sex scandal in Ireland. And consider the brazen nerve of Polish bishops who dared to publicly proclaim that it was their sole right to manage the sex crimes of their clergy. That only meant doing it’s cover-up with no intrusion from the government. We know how that works right here in the United States.

    It would be even worse than the rotten hands-off practices of our justice systems regarding the rape of our kids by clerics. Only one bishop in this country has even been charged. He was eventually prosecuted and found guilty of a simple misdemeanor for which he was given the proverbial “slap on the wrist,” bad boy. That was Robert Finn of Kansas City. No wonder it all continues.

    Our justice systems are as guilty as the raping priests and bishops and the covering bishops of all those horrific sins and crimes against our young people!

    The people who continue to warm the pews are equally guilty. They continue to drop their dollars in the collection baskets so the bishops can use that money to hire sleazy accountant and lawyers to hide the crimes or money from court-ordered awards.

    Just as with all the corruption of our government at all levels, it’s the fault of the people, the pew warmers, the lazy and ignorant voters, that our youth are destroyed so freely by “holy,” celibate, unchaste men. Is that really what is meant by “freedom of religion?”

  • Hidden non-public acts are evidently ok: don’t ask and don’t tell. You can secretly do many things and remain in good standing but being honest about your monogamous gay marriage is not one of them.

  • Now you’re twisting my words. Either way they are still sins and you have to answer for them on judgment day. The difference I was pointing out was that some who openly live in sin and in some cases even publicly advocate for such sins to be committed by others are the ones that cannot and should not volunteer to represent the Church. If they publicly oppose Church teaching, why would they want to be a representative for it anyway? No church has to allow someone to volunteer; there is and should be a screening process in place. The church has the right, guaranteed to it by the Constitution, to be able to decide who ministers in that church. If a person doesn’t subscribe to the teachings of that church, they should not be chosen to represent it. End of story.

  • All you people talking about needing to read a history book read the Bible. That is history. You would understand why true Christian people do not support gay marriage. A true Christian would also treat gays as normal people and not try to deny them the rights to a sinful life. Its their choice to live in sin so let them be. You cannot control their lives for them. They will be judged for it some day.

  • Niccola and his supporters are insane. Their doctrine or action are not of Christian and the only reason they appear to be involved with Christianity is to subvert, pervert and undermine Christianity and others. My position keeps me from filing complaint against these clowns in court for: criminal sexual harassment, stalking, forgery, interfering with the affairs of the church, sedition, insanity, hate, etc.

  • Yea who have no sins cast the first stone. Judge yea not. Gay is not in the 10 commandments. Cutting your hair on the sides will get you to hell also. To tell gay people not to be intimate is stupid. I am Gay and will not stop having sex just as the straights have sex. I never in 48 years had a desire for a woman and never will. I have a supportive family and have been partnered for 11 years. I love being Gay as I have no screaming kids bills to pay for. I can travel and do what I want without being worried about College tuition bills either. Gay is Great!!

  • Stupid Baptists are always preaching hatred. Jude yea not and look into the mirror as you are not sinless. There is no such thing as normal. Your normal is different from others. I think you should go back to your hole dear.

  • You make some good points. While I am personally against gay marriage, I will admit the Church picks and chooses the battles they want to fight.
    75% of Catholics would be thrown out on the birth control issue.
    And the divorce thing.. omg, annulments? you have to be kidding.
    But no, this guy is not going to be re instated.

  • That the bishops “oppose discrimination” is an outright lie. When decriminalization is and was considered, the Roman church always preferred that we continue to go to prison. When discrimination is considered, the Roman church always oppose legislation against it. When marriage (or anything else) is considered, the Roman church always opposes it. In fact, the Roman church has never, ever, anywhere, supported any legislation that benefited homosexuals. I guess that, being religious, they can tell themselves and others any silly fabrication and expect to get away with it.

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