An instrument of change, or accompanist of Satan?
In a surprise move that reopens the long-simmering debate over the sexual orientation of Church keyboards, Pastor Roman Haywood has hired an openly gay piano to accompany the choir during services at St. Tarcisius Catholic Church in Green Lake.
â€œOur new piano, though controversial to some, will help us glorify Jesus through music,â€ Fr. Haywood told parishioners in a letter published in last weekâ€™s church bulletin. â€œI am proud to welcome the piano to our church.â€
The piano, a black baby grand built in 1973 by Wegman Pianos of Berkeley, California, was married to a spinet for several years, but the union ended when the piano came out at a glee club concert in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year.
Fr. Haywoodâ€™s letter did not explicitly mention the pianoâ€™s homosexuality, which angered many in the parish. Diane Hamilton, a local surgeon and St. Tarcisius parishioner for all of her 68 years, described her reaction as â€œhonked offâ€¦ that piano has as much business in a house of God as I do cutting people up for moneyâ€¦ er, wait, hold on.â€ Critics more articulate than Dr. Hamilton expressed their own concerns. Dan Teagnan, 42, said â€œCall me old-fashioned, but I heard that piano lived with a male synthesizer in New Orleansâ€¦ I donâ€™t want it anywhere near my kids Sunday morning.â€ Those against the hire quickly organized a protest outside the church to coincide with a â€œmeet the pianoâ€ night inside St. Tarcisius last Wednesday.
While Catholic doctrine takes no position on gay musical instruments, experts believe that Pope John Paul IIâ€™s increasingly vocal stance against issues such as gay marriage and celibacy of priests is a clear indicator that Green Lakeâ€™s church is more liberal than its mother church in Rome, though Archdiocesan officials, when contacted for comment, were surprised to hear that the parish even existed. â€œSt. Tarcisius? In Green Lake?â€ exclaimed Monsignor Joseph Denmore. â€œWow. I thought we tore that dump down in the 80â€™s. Figures theyâ€™d have a gay piano. But, see, this isnâ€™t about tolerance or discrimination, itâ€™s about whatâ€™s right, and we know what weâ€™re supposed to do as a church.â€
Associate pastor Fr. Antoine Carlo downplayed any conflict with the archdiocese, joking that â€œRoman Catholics here at St. Tarcisius and around the world have nothing to fear from the piano, unless they donâ€™t like Mrs. Brownâ€™s rendition of â€˜On Eaglesâ€™ Wingsâ€™!â€ While about 200 protesters circled the church, holding signs like â€œThe Key Is A Sharp, Not Gay Sharpâ€ and â€œSome Pianos Shouldnâ€™t Whip Out Their Keys,â€ a smaller group prayed inside, expressing their solidarity with the piano. â€œTo me this is about love and fellowship,â€ said George Banks, 46. â€œWasnâ€™t it Moses that taught us that music soothes the savage beast? Ok, maybe not. My mistake. But with a little understanding, people will come around about the piano like I just did about Moses not saying about music soothing the savage beast.â€ Banksâ€™s son, B.J., 12, laughed to friends that â€œman, it wouldâ€™ve been even cooler if weâ€™d gotten a gay pipe organ! Get it? Organs! Awesome!â€