ASTORIA, Queens (WABC) -- A Catholic teacher in Queens is speaking out after he was fired by the church because of his same sex marriage.
At St. Joseph's Catholic Academy in Astoria, they say teach the gospel values of character and excellence. Not everyone is sure that's the school's most recent lesson.
"I thought now, in 2021, we were moving forward and that this was not something I had to be concerned about," Matthew Labanca said.
Labanca was, until recently, a joyous and dedicated teacher at St. Joseph's and the committed music director at nearby Corpus Christi Church as well.
He's gay, and people at both parishes knew it.
"I wasn't closeted," Labanca said.
"Why would anyone care? Why would it be an issue," parishioner Mary Ann Daly said.
Except it became an issue. After Labanca and his partner Rowan were married in August, someone called the Diocese of Brooklyn. Six weeks later, Labanca was fired and told to sign a gag order. He refused.
"I couldn't live like that, I couldn't have my voice be silenced," he said.
Eyewitness News reached out to the diocese to find out why they fired Labanca, and a spokesperson released a statement that said, in part, "Matthew's contract has been terminated based on the expectation that all Catholic school and academy personnel, and ministers of the church comply with church teachings as they share in the responsibility of ministering the faith to students."
But Labanca knows plenty about ministering the faith.
"We're put on this earth to thrive, to create, to manifest all the wonderful things god has in store for us and that includes the joy of loving and being loved," he said.
Labanca's friend, Mary Ann Daly wonders what has become of the church she loves.
"It's just so hypocritical -- we know it's been going on, so why do you make him a victim? It doesn't make any sense," she said.
"The people on the ground in these communities are more wonderful than I ever knew ... they have reached out to me, students, parents, parishioners, my family," Labanca said.
He has not decided yet if he will sue the diocese but he misses his job and misses the students and wonders just what kind of moral and spiritual lesson the church is teaching its youngest members.
"Especially anyone who is a young person or about to come out or even an adult who has never come out," Labanca said.
Submit a News Tip