You are reading

Music Teacher at Astoria Catholic School Fired for Marrying His Longtime Boyfriend

Matthew LaBanca explained how he was fired from a Catholic school and a Catholic parish for marrying his boyfriend in a video he posted Friday (Matthew LaBanca via Youtube)

Oct. 26, 2021 By Allie Griffin

A beloved music teacher at an Astoria Catholic school was fired from his teaching position earlier this month after the diocese learned he married his longtime boyfriend.

Matthew LaBanca was let go from both his teaching position at St. Joseph Catholic Academy and his position as the music director at Corpus Christi Church in Woodside on Oct. 13. He had worked in both communities for more than a decade.

LaBanca said someone tipped off the Diocese of Brooklyn, which oversees Catholic academies and parishes in both Brooklyn and Queens, to his August wedding.

“I’m stripped of both of my jobs — all of my employment, my health insurance and most importantly stripped of the communities, the daily community life that has meant so much to me,” LaBanca said in a heartfelt video statement posted Friday. “Not because of my work performances, not in the slightest, but because I’m gay.”

A Diocesan committee of high-ranking officials met for nearly six weeks to discuss the fate of his employment and ultimately decided to terminate him from each position, he said.

The principal at St. Joseph Catholic Academy defended his employment, but the decision was the Diocese’s — and ultimately Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio’s — to make, according to LaBanca.

The music teacher was offered a severance package, but it contained a gag order as a term of acceptance, according to his account.

“Obviously, I have not signed it because I realized that no price could be placed on my personal integrity, on my voice,” LaBanca said.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, in a statement on behalf of LaBanca’s former employers, said LaBanca failed to comply with church teachings and was terminated as a result.

“His contract has been terminated based on the expectations 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,” a spokesperson said. “In his case, it has been determined that he can no longer fulfill his obligations as a minister of the faith at either the school or the parish.”

While same-sex marriage is legal in New York and nationwide, the Catholic Church doesn’t approve.

“Despite changes to New York State law in 2011 legalizing same-sex marriage, Church law is clear,” the spokesperson said. “We wish Mr. LaBanca only the best in his future endeavors.”

Both city and state laws prohibit employers from discrimination based on sexual orientation, although the law makes exceptions for religious freedom.

“Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right,” LaBanca said.

Since the news of his firing became known, LaBanca has received an outpouring of support and the Diocese, in turn, a tirade of anger.

Council Member Daniel Dromm, chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus of the Council, denounced the Brooklyn Diocese and Bishop DiMarzio.

“Every Catholic like me who believes Love is Love should express their disgust at Bishop DiMarzio’s firing of this wonderful gay teacher,” Dromm, who is gay, wrote on Twitter.

A petition in support of LeBanca that demands his reappointment to both positions at SJCA and Corpus Christi has garnered more than 2,000 signatures in just two days.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer shared the petition on social media and urged more people to sign it.

As a gay man raised in the Catholic Church I’m outraged at the firing of @BrooklynDiocese teacher @MatthewLaBanca,” Van Bramer tweeted. “He’s by all accounts a beloved teacher. His crime? Marrying the man he loves. This is disgraceful, discrimination.”

Parents of students at SJCA have also signed the petitions and left notes of support.

Many parents of students at the school said the students miss their music teacher.

One mother said she was honored to know LaBanca and that there is no place for hate in the community.

“Mr. LaBanca made my child’s life better,” Colette Conlon said. “It’s an honor to know him. The Church will change, or die.”

Another parent said her two daughters at the school have lost an amazing mentor.

“Mr. LaBanca is the sweetest soul and a brilliant teacher,” Alessandra Kucic said on Facebook. “The real tragedy here is losing him as our teacher. Please sign the petition and maybe the Catholic church will start practicing what they preach instead of this hateful discrimination.”

She added that the students are hurting without him.

“Because of this decision the music has stopped.”

email the author: [email protected]

2 Comments

Click for Comments 
Eric

Such hypocrisy. This is the same Diocese that announced starting an initiative to teach Social Justice in their schools. What could their students possibly learn about Social Justice when their leadership doesn’t understand what that means?

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Popular places where you can watch the Super Bowl in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force investigating vandalism at Forest Hills church that has been targeted in the past

The NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating a case of criminal mischief at a Forest Hills house of worship in which a vandal threw a rock to intentionally damage its glass front door, according to authorities.

Police say that just before 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29, police from the 112th Precinct were called to Grace Lutheran Church, located at 103-15 Union Tpke., after a man threw a rock and damaged the church’s front door.

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.

BP launches new advisory panel for youth to become civically engaged in the future of Queens

In an effort to get more young people involved in civics, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has created a new advisory panel known as the Youth and Young Adult Council to introduce the “youngest and fiercest” community advocates to both community service and organization.

Members of the advisory body will advocate concerns through means of community engagement by participating in one of two cohorts. The first will be made up of high school representatives between the ages of 13 and 17, while the second cohort will be comprised of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.

These Queens eateries are participating in the upcoming NYC Restaurant Week

NYC Restaurant Week is underway, so nix that skillet and bring family and friends to your favorite neighborhood spot, or get inspired and break bread somewhere new and different. During this special citywide culinary event, food-lovers will enjoy curated menus and prix-fixe prices that are easy on the wallet.

Bookings began on Jan. 17 and are available until Feb. 12, and you can reserve a table at 30 participating Queens restaurants, along with hundreds more across the five boroughs.