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.

“Our new piano, though controversial to some, will help us glorify Jesus through music,” Fr. Haywood told parishioners in a letter published in last week’s church bulletin. “I am proud to welcome the piano to our church.”

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. Haywood’s letter did not explicitly mention the piano’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 “honked off… that piano has as much business in a house of God as I do cutting people up for money… er, wait, hold on.” Critics more articulate than Dr. Hamilton expressed their own concerns. Dan Teagnan, 42, said “Call me old-fashioned, but I heard that piano lived with a male synthesizer in New Orleans… I don’t want it anywhere near my kids Sunday morning.” Those against the hire quickly organized a protest outside the church to coincide with a “meet the piano” night inside St. Tarcisius last Wednesday.

While Catholic doctrine takes no position on gay musical instruments, experts believe that Pope John Paul II’s increasingly vocal stance against issues such as gay marriage and celibacy of priests is a clear indicator that Green Lake’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. “St. Tarcisius? In Green Lake?” exclaimed Monsignor Joseph Denmore. “Wow. I thought we tore that dump down in the 80’s. Figures they’d have a gay piano. But, see, this isn’t about tolerance or discrimination, it’s about what’s right, and we know what we’re supposed to do as a church.”

Associate pastor Fr. Antoine Carlo downplayed any conflict with the archdiocese, joking that “Roman Catholics here at St. Tarcisius and around the world have nothing to fear from the piano, unless they don’t like Mrs. Brown’s rendition of ‘On Eagles’ Wings’!” While about 200 protesters circled the church, holding signs like “The Key Is A Sharp, Not Gay Sharp” and “Some Pianos Shouldn’t Whip Out Their Keys,” a smaller group prayed inside, expressing their solidarity with the piano. “To me this is about love and fellowship,” said George Banks, 46. “Wasn’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.” Banks’s son, B.J., 12, laughed to friends that “man, it would’ve been even cooler if we’d gotten a gay pipe organ! Get it? Organs! Awesome!”

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