Church employee says he was fired after getting engaged to same-sex partner

INVERNESS, Ill. (WLS) -- A suburban Roman Catholic church employee claims he was fired from his position because he plans to marry his same sex partner.

Colin Collette says he's been on an emotional roller coaster since he got engaged last week, and fired this week. He was let go as the director of worship at Holy Family Parish in Inverness.

"The first thing that went through my mind wasn't bliss. The first thing that went through my mind was 'oh my God, what's going to happen," said Collette.

Collette and his partner got engaged in Rome last week, just outside St. Peter's Basilica. As congratulations messages mounted on Facebook, Collette also received word the pastor of Holy Family parish wanted to meet with him.

"He said, 'I know this is something you've longed for your entire life.' I said yes. He said 'in light of that, I'd be happy to accept your resignation,'" said Collette.

Collette refused and says he was fired the next day. He had worked at Holy Family as director of worship for nearly 17 years and he says his sexuality was no secret. His partner has been to mass at the church, and even read scripture on special occasions. What changed was his intent to get married.

"Don't ask, don't tell is the policy in the Church. So I guess as long as you're willing to live the lie, you're safe. Actually, you're never safe. You live in fear every day someone is going to call the Cardinal or someone is going to turn you in," said Collette.

The Archdiocese of Chicago doesn't dispute Collette's version of events, saying in a statement: "Those that serve as Ministers of the Church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the Church."

Joe Offenburger is a mass coordinator at Holy Family, a place many describe as a progressive parish.

"It's like a dagger in your heart for this parish," said Offenburger. "To me, I think the Church needs to step into the 21st century, not stay back and I think the hierarchy is the last do that."

"It's a place for Catholics where we had hope, until now," said Collette.

Collette began playing the organ at a Catholic church when he was 12 years old. He once considered enrolling in the seminary to become a priest. He has a masters of divinity and a lot of supporters at Holy Family- but now, no job.

Despite his recent engagement, he says there's no way he can even think about planning his wedding just yet.
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