Friday, November 24, 2000 [?]

Charlie Gillis

Church stifles concert — choir includes sex activist

An amateur choir has cancelled its Christmas concert in downtown Toronto after Roman Catholic authorities refused the group access to its church, citing the presence of an advocate of intergenerational sex in the singers' midst.

Kammermusik Toronto, a 35-member secular choir, has been told it is no longer welcome at St. Basil's Church at the University of Toronto as long as it includes Gerald Hannon, a journalist and former university instructor who has repeatedly challenged standards of public decency.

Mr. Hannon was suspended four years ago by Ryerson Polytechnic University after telling students that he sometimes moonlights as a homosexual prostitute, and that he condones sex between adults and youths.

Ryerson refused to renew Mr. Hannon's contract as a journalism professor but gave him an undisclosed settlement.

Suzanne Scorsone, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, said the Church cannot be seen to condone such views by providing a public venue for the speaker — even if he is singing rather than proselytizing.

"The Church clearly opposes the sexual abuse of children and prostitution, just as it opposes other abuses of humanity," she said in an interview yesterday.

"If the public position taken by someone is in diametric opposition to values the Church holds very dear, then it is incompatible for that person to fulfill a public role in Church space."

Ms. Scorsone said the pastor at St. Basil's, Father George LaPierre, banned the choir, and his superiors upheld the decision.

Mr. Hannon was out of the city yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

But after learning last week of the archdiocese's position, he complained to a local entertainment newspaper that the Church was contradicting its own teachings.

"What drives me nuts is the smallness of this," he said. "I thought sinners were supposed to be welcomed into the Church."

Ms. Scorsone dismissed that argument, saying that anyone seeking worship, solace or counsel is welcome in a Catholic church.

"We're all sinners and we all need help," she said. "But that assumes we know [we're sinners]."

Mr. Hannon's presence in the choir came to light on Oct. 27, when the group performed to a packed audience at St. Basil's. An audience member recognized the journalist's name on the program and later complained to Fr. LaPierre.

The consequences for Kammermusik Toronto were complicated and acrimonious.

The director and founder of the choir, Keith Muller, yesterday cancelled the Dec. 2 performance at St. Basil's and has moved a Dec. 15 concert to a nearby chapel at Victoria College. But he remains in an awkward spot, because he serves as musical director of St. Basil's when he is not directing the secular choir.

Moreover, Mr. Hannon — a former Catholic himself — is actually the composer of one of the liturgical pieces that the choir was to perform, The Kyrie.

Mr. Muller did not respond yesterday to repeated messages to his office at the church and his home, and Mr. Hannon's position with the choir remains unclear in the wake of the cancellation.

Ms. Scorsone said Mr. Muller and the pastor "agreed" that going ahead with the concert was a poor idea, despite Mr. Hannon's voluntary withdrawal from the choir.

Either way, Mr. Hannon stands little hope should he file an official complaint.

François Larsen, a spokesman for the Ontario Human Rights Commission, said protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation does not extend to intergenerational sex.

"That," he said, "is a criminal matter and it is not recognized under our act."

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Created: December 21, 2000
Last modified: January 21, 2001
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