Beliefs Culture Institutions

Catholic bishop returns petitions to ousted gay man

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

NEW YORK (RNS) The story of a Long Island Catholic ousted from his parish jobs for marrying his male partner generated headlines, outrage and an 18,000-signature petition to Bishop William Murphy to have Nicholas Coppola reinstated.

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

But now the tale has an odd coda: Murphy, who heads the Diocese of Rockville Centre, mailed the petitions back to Coppola with a one-line cover letter on the bishop’s stationery that reads: “FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP.”

No signature, nothing else.

What’s more, instead of sending the package to Faithful America, one of the liberal advocacy groups that has taken up Coppola’s cause, Murphy’s office sent it to Faith in Public Life, a social justice lobby based in Washington. Faith in Public Life forwarded the package to Faithful America, which said it received it on Tuesday (April 23).

“I really don’t understand what sort of message Bishop Murphy is trying to send,” Coppola said in a statement provided by GLAAD, a gay rights organization that has also been promoting his case. “Is he no longer listening to the voices of the faithful? I have more questions than anything now.”

Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for Murphy, on Thursday confirmed that the bishop had sent the 300 sheets of paper with the signatures back to Coppola.

In a statement, Dolan said the petition and the way its delivery was staged for the media “was designed to misinform the press and the intended recipient,” and was “only designed to promote the organizations behind this spectacle.”

“All legitimate correspondence sent to the Office of the Bishop either by email or regular U.S. Mail is responded to,” Dolan said in a statement. “Online petitions of this nature lack legitimacy (and) are not considered correspondence and therefore do not warrant a response.”

Coppola’s dismissal in January resulted from an anonymous letter that was sent to Murphy complaining that Coppola had married his partner last October under New York’s new gay marriage law.

Earlier this month, after New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan said the church had to be more welcoming of gays and lesbians, Coppola went public with his story of being ousted from his roles as a religious education teacher, lector and altar server at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Oceanside.

A week later Coppola delivered to Murphy’s office a petition with 18,000 signatures requesting that he be reinstated. A new petition, which has some 21,000 signatures, is seeking a get-to-know-you dinner between Cardinal Dolan, Coppola and his husband.

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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  • Since the church is FOLLOWING GOD’S LAW a million signatures wouldn’t matter!

    Anyone signing this petition follows SATAN.

  • This bishop is more willing to rely on anonymous informers than the Roman emperor Trajan, who told provincial governor Pliny the Younger not to act on anonymous allegations that certain people were Christians. The standards of the Roman Catholic episcopate are now lower than those of the Roman Empire!

  • In a statement, Sean Dolan, a spokesperson for Bishop Murphy, said the petition and the way its delivery was staged for the media “was designed to misinform the press and the intended recipient,” and was “only designed to promote the organizations behind this spectacle.”
    How on earth (yes, earth) can Bishop Murphy, the intended recipient of the petition, be misinformed when the petition reads: ‘Bishop Murphy, please let Nicholas Coppola resume volunteering at his parish.’? The language in the petition is clear. Did Bishop Murphy read the petition? There is no mention of the organizations who assisted Mr. Coppola in the petition itself. It appears Bishop Murphy did read the anonymous letter sent to him complaining that Coppola had married his partner. What ‘misinformed’ man considers an anonymous letter legitimate, but offhandedly dismisses a document with 18,000 (presumably verifiable) signatures?

  • The “Church” follows its own man-made rules. The “Church” interprets God’s law. Consider that the “Church’s” interpretation of God’s law might be wrong.
    I stress “man”-made rules, since women in the “Church” have no official voice.
    It is a grand and misleading assumption that “Anyone signing this petition follows Satan.”. Have you spoken with any of the signers of the petition? Do you know their stories? Do you know their religious beliefs and backgrounds? Do you know what good deeds they may have done and are doing now? Let the person without sin cast the first stone.

  • True, only a fool would think a popular vote would change the will of God, but, that is not the case here. The “popular vote” in this instance is intended to change the mind of one earthy man, namely, the ‘misinformed’ Bishop Murphy. It is idolatry to think that one bishop and one bishop alone knows God’s will. Consider Mr. Coppola’s service to his church community referencing Mark’s gospel chapter 9 verses 38 – 40. Why should one bishop and one anonymous letter writer prevent Mr. Coppola from openly serving God in his church community?

  • what has happen to us,as christians we must not judge others, of course as clergy men / women we must let a sinner know what the word of God is telling us, God said he hates the sin but love the sinner,then who are we?Yes all have sin and fallen short to the glory of God.There was a young man in my church who had hiv what shall i do with him? Save His Soul? Push Him Out of the Church? I told him how, what has happen to him is wrong and sinful, and where it is in the bible, how if he wants to live he must put God first in his life turn from his wicked ways, except him as his savior believe,have faith,be baptise for his sins and while on the mourning bench asked the lord to heal him from hiv .Today he is cured,yes he is still fighting to try hard to worship the Lord.why ? because he is in the flesh(body) which is constantly going to sin but he is trying hard not to do evil.He said to me,it is a hard struggle but because he once had hiv and the Lord cured him he don’t want it back so he must try not to sin.As a child he was mulasted and this behavior never stopped and now he is grown,he was shown in the word why he has to stop,He is the Temple of the Lord.A city who’s light must shine because of the powr of the Holy Ghost thats in him which has no sin,GBY All

  • I like that weirdo group that calls itself “Faithful America.” Reminds me of the time Count Dracula renamed his castle “Community Blood Bank.”

  • I feel for the guy, but 18,000 signatures on a petition is almost meaningless. First off, verifiable how, against voter registries? This is the Catholic Church, not the local government, and there is no way to check that these signers are members of the parish, diocese, let alone even if they are Catholic. I believe most parishes register membership by household, which basically amounts to a mailing list.

    Sending an anonymous letter was a cowardly act. At least have the conviction to sign your name. But as it turned, it was true and easy enough to check out. How long has Mr. Coppola been in ministry? Surely in that time he’s has a positive effect on a few people who he can have write letters of testimonials to the bishop on his behalf. He shouldn’t really even need to ask. That would have been the more obvious and meaningful course of action, and according to the office of the bishop, the sort of this sort of thing that will get a response.

  • But this is a problem with faith-based thinking in general. When you just believe what you want to believe (almost always, based on what you were raised to believe), then the truth of what you believe doesn’t matter.

    Note that Christians are night and day in their beliefs, despite the fact that they all supposedly use the same holy book to figure out what ‘God’ wants. That’s because they don’t have a good reason for believing in the first place. It’s just personal preference, like all fiction.

    If you CARE about what’s true and what isn’t, then you’ll require evidence – good evidence – to back up your beliefs. In fact, you’ll look at the evidence first and make up your mind from that. You’ll be evidence-based, rather than faith-based.

    And that’s the whole problem with religion. OK, you want to change Catholic Church thinking about homosexuality. I sympathize. But you’d be far better off abandoning religion entirely. You won’t convince believers who don’t WANT to be convinced, because their entire religion is about what they want to believe.

    True, liberal believers are a lot easier to get along with than fundamentalists, evangelicals, and the celibate old men who control the Catholic Church, but they’re no more right. Rather, if you get it right through faith, it’s just an accident, just coincidence. It’s not an accident when science gets it right – or rational, evidence-based people in general – because they actually CARE about what’s true and what isn’t.

  • Homosexual behavior is a sin. Sin has consequences both here and now and throughout eternity. No petition is going to change the reality of sin or the consequences as they are God breathed.

  • If a heterosexual working for a church institution gets divorced and re-marries contrary to the teaching of the Church, he knows that he will probably lose he job. Why should it be any didferent for a gay man?

  • Murphy’s stubbornness is just compounding the problem. There is a need for dialogue about this in a way that respects the individual and the Church. Murphy has a terrible reputation in the region, he is known as mansion Murphy. Situations like this just aggravate the problem. At a recent conference on evangelization at Fordham University, the Church’s lack of pastoral ministry and outreach to gay people was cited as one of the major reasons people, regardless of their orientation, are leaving the Church.
    And Murphy wonders why collections are down in his diocese.

  • Dude! The Catholic church doesn’t want you. Get a clue.

    And return the favor. Leave. Any religion constrained by the blog of a tribe of people 3000 years ago is useless.

  • I know! That’s why not a single person engaged in ministry in the Catholic Church exhibits sinful behavior! No divorced people serve, or people who have stolen, or lied, or cheated on their spouse, or covered up child molestation from the authorities. Only those non-sinning people get to serve.

  • First off we are 2000 yrs old not 3000 These are the rules if you dont want to follow find another church plain and simple.I am proud of the Bishop for enforcing the rules. No harm no foul Go where you want We dont hate you just do what you choose elsewhere, You are wrong and tempting Gods wrath by your disobidence

  • Perhaps we should show charity to Homosexuals and invite them into the Church only if they repent of their sins! Sodomy and the other perversions are not to be tolerated as also permiscuity which is the Homosexual Culture! Homosexual marriage is against God and the Holy Church! To allow Married Homosexuals into the Holy Church is an abomination to the Holy Spirit! For any Catholic who allows Married Homosexuals in the Church they should cease and go to Holy Confession at once before receiving the Eucharist!
    Homosexuals are welcome only if they cease their perversions and not to promote their dirty deeds in the Holy Church! There are people who would like to circumvent the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church but their efforts will fail in due course as the Holy Spirit has in the past! Amen!

  • The Holy Spirit has stopped this in the past! Homosexual priests in the Church is an issue! Well as long as the priest is celibate he can yes it’s not a given he’ll be celibate especially if we know the nature of the Homosexual Culture! This is asking for trouble in the Church! A Homosexual priest who falls is committing sodomy in God’s Church and is the result of allowing him in the clergy in the first place under the disguise of Charity and Love! That we all sin which is wrong we are not to sin and stay away from sin and prudence of not hanging around with people who sin lest they shall be tempted by the devil which is a terrible experience! Prudence is very important and discerning which is of Sanctity and Holy and what is of the World which is ruled by the prince of darkness! Disbise the sin but don’t condone the action of the sinner!

  • Be obedient to the Chair of Peter the Pope! If one is not obedient to the Pope, they are not members of the Holy Catholic Church! It’s that simple! It is a Mortal Sin! To be reconciled to Almighty God is to have the Sacrament of Confession with a local Catholic Priest! Until then that immortal soul is in the gravest danger of perishing into the lower parts of hell and darkness!
    We Catholics do not accept Head Hunters or Canniblism in the Holy Church and that is a Culture! Just because there is a social acceptance of Homosexual Culture instigated by Satin himself, is not by all means the reason for acceptance in the Holy Catholic Church! No Bishop can justify it, no Cardinal or no Pope can justify it!

  • That would be a favor if you were to inspire the Culture of Homosexuality in the Holy Catholic Church! The Church would say Good Ridence! Catholics do not need to be subjected to un-truthes and heresies! You repent and cease in your Homosexual ways, be celibate and promote Holiness in Prayer and actions and obedience to the Pope you are most

  • There is no need for dialogue! Obedience to the Authority of the Church in this case the Archbishop! The Holy Catholic Church is not a Democracy! It does not function by Polling results! Read a stupid poll that said about 80% of American Catholics support gay marriage! Hard to believe but to say it is true, those Catholics are not Catholics that are in good standing with the Holy Catholic Church and their souls are in grave danger of losing the graces to enter Heaven! If the Holy Catholic Church gets persecuted to the point of torture and death, Almighty God and His Holy Catholic Church still would not allow practicing gays and gay marriage or abortion or contraceptives in the Church! That is it and that is final. There is no discussion or dialogue! he may go to a heretic church but you won’t find true salvation perhaps acceptance but one can get that at a satanic cult meeting!

  • The Holy Catholic Church is a spiritual body, the Body of Christ Jesus! The Holy Church knows the Teachings of devorce and remarrying of a normal relationship between a man and a woman! The abnormal and perverted state of Homosexuality will never be accepted in the Church which is Christ’s Body Resurrected!

  • There are no old men in the Holy Catholic Church, just young old men who pray alot and make sacrifice for repreation for the sins of the world, for your sins by the way! The Holy Catholic Church is not an evangelical church, or Protestant or fundamentalist! It is Eucharistic and Apostalic Church that has survived for 2000 yrs during which it faced very severe persecutions of torture, death and survived everyone and flourished with more conversions! Yes, the Holy Spirit is wonderful in all good things! No one can change the Holy Church! Ceasar tried, Hitler tried, the Jews tried, Nepolian tried in the Reign of Terror, the Chinese Communists tried, the Soviets tried to change the Holy Church! So you are right it is useless to attempt to! It is for you to change for the Holy Church for your own salvation of your immortal soul! It is through Almighty God’s love Ge gave us the Holy Catholic Church through His Son, Jesus Christ! His Mother the Ever Most Blessed Mary encourages us to be humble and she is the Mother of the Holy Church and our Mother! She teaches us to be obedient to the Holy Catholic Priest, the Bishops, and the Pope! Follow the Pope Francis and his teachings of the Holy Gospels!

  • My friend, come back to reality and seek your salvation through the Holy Catholic Church! Time is short and no time for fictional characters made of human imagination! Dracula never existed but Jesus Christ did and His Most Sacred Blood redeemed you! Satin can take souls away from Christ through the fairy tales like Dracula! You have fallen but you can restore your faith through repentance and prayer! Reconciliation is around the corner down the block at your neighborhood Catholic Church! The Priest there will hear your confession with the Sacrament of Holy Confession and renew your spirit and Baptism! Do it for saving your immortal soul for death and darkness! Come live in Christ’s Sacred Heart!

  • There are to be no Homosexual Marriages in the Holy Catholic Church! What more does one need to know! If you are not happy with the declaration then promptly leave the Holy Church! Plane and simple! It’s not complicated at all! The Act of Homosexuality is the same as Beastiality! There is no difference in the severity of the Mortal Sin!!!

  • If someone celebrated any of those other sins or publicly claimed they were not sins they would be unable to serve as well.

  • 54321, you are 100% correct in your assessment of the “church” following their own man-made doctrines, laws, rules, all that… BUT God’s commands and laws NEVER CHANGE (Malachi 3:6) because HE is perfect and so are his requirements. (Deut.32:4) states, ”The Rock, perfect is his activity,
    For all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; Righteous and upright is he.” As for anyone who does NOT adhere to GOD’S laws, verse 5 goes on to say, “They have acted ruinously on their own part; They are not his children, the defect is their own. A generation crooked and twisted!”. There you have it, not ALL are “God’s children”…. so then who does a person belong to if it’s not to God? There’s only TWO camps.

  • Oh, AMEN!!!! you are SO SO correct! I believe in ONLY what the scriptures say. NO “take it on faith” for me! You got to SHOW ME what the BIBLE says and explain in no uncertain “mumbo-jumbo”, “just believe” BS…. That’s why there are so many different “religions” in the world. The Bible has a very clear viewpoint on that too. Jesus said, “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.  Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’  And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew YOU! Get away from me, YOU workers of lawlessness. (Matthew 7:21-23)

  • No faith for you? Heh, heh. So why do you believe what the scriptures say? Do you believe what every religion’s holy book says, or just the one you were raised to believe?

  • “God’s commands and laws NEVER CHANGE,” huh? So slavery is still good? You should kill disobedient children, homosexuals, ‘witches,’ heretics? You should never wear clothing woven from two different materials, or hybridize cattle? Women should shut up and obey men? Rape victims should be forced to marry their rapists?

    You seem to know an awful lot about an invisible, immaterial ‘God’ whom no one has ever seen – and you claim not to use faith, either. So how do you know all that? In particular, why should we believe YOU, when religious believers can’t even agree among themselves?

  • I am trying to understand this,Why must a priest hear a confession and relate to God what God already know of us and what he is.I’ve had Jesus to be my guide since I’ve taken him as my Lord and savior.The only thing I can tell you is I’ve mourned like the prophets of old,yes like Daniel 10 chapter speaks of visions.and Ezekiel 1,2,3,4 chapter.I am sure as a Catholic Priest you should know,for what i am saying is true.Why is this Priest doing the things of the world? Romans1;24-32 tells us what has happen to him,and those who have choice to follow the otherside, (SATAN)

  • How many men and women have lost their jobs with the church because they have divorced and remarried? Name them.

  • Let’s take a step back here. The petition asks Bishop Murphy to allow Mr. Coppola to resume serving in his voluntary positions at his parish. Please cite chapter and verse of ‘God’s law’ which states that Mr. Coppola should not serve his community.

  • Mr. Coppola’s marital status has no bearing on his love, ability or devotion to serve his fellow parishioners. Focus more on the good that Mr. Coppola has done for his parish and might continue to do if Bishop Murphy allows him to.

  • What are the presumably dire consequences of Mr. Coppola’s ‘sin’? The consequences of Mr. Coppola’s ‘sin’ are that his parish has one less person to teach religion to the young, one less person to serve as Eucharistic minister, one less person to minister to shut-ins. Who is really hurt here? Is it Mr. Coppola or his parish community?

  • How can YOU-claiming to be a SOUTHERN BAPTIST- (as I am) POSSIBLY support ANY action of a high-ranking Official of an “Church” PROVEN so INCREDIBLY WICKED, especially when it DENIES someone needful employment, all BECAUSE of WHOM THEY LOVE?







    I Will Pray For you my Fellow Southern Baptist believer in Christ!

  • Correction: Mr. Coppola, obviously a FAITHFUL, yet spiritually DECEIVED CATHOLIC, was WRONGFULLY TERMINATED from performance of VOLUNTARY Church-related functions by Bishop Murphy, who did so apparently on the SOLE basis of Mr Coppola’s LAWFUL Marriage to his MALE partner.