A priest who allegedly denied the sacrament of Confirmation to a student said the teen chose not to be confirmed in the days before the ceremony due to the Church's teaching on marriage.
“A couple of candidates chose not to enter into full communion with the Catholic community because of their disagreement with the teaching of the Church concerning marriage,” Fr. Gary LaMoine said in a statement provided to EWTN News Nov. 16.
Lennon Cihak, a 17-year old member of Assumption Parish in Barnesville, Minn., gained national attention after The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead reported Nov. 14 he was denied Confirmation due to a Facebook post contradicting the Church’s teaching on marriage.
Fr. LaMoine, pastor of Assumption Parish, said that Cihak’s absence from the ceremony was the teen’s own decision because he said he does not believe in the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage.
“Intending to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation, while rejecting a central belief, is an absolute contradiction,” the priest said. “One cannot embrace the faith of the Church in Confirmation while rejecting it at the same time.”
The post at the center of the controversy features a photo of Cihak holding a defaced political sign urging voters to approve an amendment to Minnesota’s state constitution which would have upheld the traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman, but was defeated Nov. 6.
The sign which Cihak holds in his photo, originally read, “Vote YES, Marriage; One man, One woman,” was altered with black marker to read, “Vote NO! Equal Marriage Rights!” with “Man” and “Woman” crossed out.
Concerns surrounding the young man’s participation in the sacrament arose before the Facebook post, however.
“It is to my dismay that what should have been kept an internal Church matter has now become a public controversy,” Fr. LaMoine said.
In early Oct. 2012, a letter was sent to Cihak’s parents, Shana and Doug, encouraging them “to come to church and support their son in his quest for confirmation,” he said.
The priest met with Cihak’s parents Oct. 25 before he was aware of the photo to express his concern over their “absence from worship” and “other matters.”
The next day, a member of the Assumption staff who is “friends” with the teen on Facebook discovered the photo and brought it to the pastor’s attention.
When Fr. LaMoine called Cihak the morning of Oct. 26 to discuss the issue, the teen said he was no longer interested in being confirmed.
“When I challenged the young man as to why he was doing this when he knew he was rejecting a central teaching of the Church, he affirmed his rejection of the teaching for personal reasons and said that he no longer wanted to be confirmed,” the pastor said.
Under the circumstances, Fr. LaMoine pointed out that he would have “had no choice but to remove him from consideration given his rejection of marriage as (Catholics) understand it.”
The matter was discussed with Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner of Crookston, Minn. before he made the trip for the parish’s confirmation, Fr. LaMoine said.
Since the story broke Nov. 14, the priest said both he and the bishop have been “harassed by the media,” even to the point where a newspaper reporter came to the parish’s rectory at 9:30 p.m. requesting an interview with Fr. LaMoine.
Fr. LaMoine said he is “willing to continuing the conversation” with Mr. and Mrs. Cihak, but “not in the public forum.”