Newsweek [New York NY]
November 29, 2023
By Billie Schwab Dunn
The Catholic Church is being criticized after a priest was stripped of his administrative duties for allowing singer and actor Sabrina Carpenter to film a music video in a Brooklyn church, with many accusing it of being a hypocritical decision.
In September Carpenter used Our Lady of Mount Carmel-Annunciation Parish—a part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn which oversees the Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens—as a backdrop for her “Feather” music video. The 24-year-old—who gained recognition for her leading role in the Disney Channel series Girl Meets World—was filmed dancing among pastel-colored coffins on the altar while wearing a short tulle dress and a black veil.
The day after the video was released the church issued a statement saying that proper procedures around allowing filming had not been followed and told the Catholic News Agency that it was “appalled.” A few days later Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, the pastor who approved filming, was relieved of his duties and his employment as the diocese’s vicar of development was terminated.
Now people online are calling out the church for the decision, saying it has the wrong priorities. Some are referencing the fact that there have been numerous cases of sexual abuse of children by priests over the years. One particular example of this they’re pointing to is that the Brooklyn diocese hid the names of multiple pedophiles, including James Lara, for 25 years.
Newsweek reached out to a representative for Carpenter and Diocese Brooklyn for comment via email Wednesday.
In November 2017 the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn revealed that 25 years prior a man known as James Lara, then known as the Reverend James Lara, was laicized by the Vatican for sexually abusing children.
According to the New York Times, the Brooklyn diocese hid Lara’s secret from the public but posted Lara’s name, as well as the names of seven more former priests, on its website, confirming that he had been defrocked for child sexual abuse offenses.
“There is no excuse for a supposedly moral institution to wait 25 years to release a pedophile priest’s name,” Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer portrayed in the film Spotlight, which is about sexual abuse by clergy, told the New York Times. He represented three people who claimed they were abused by Lara between the ages of nine and 11.
“Because of the church’s immoral behavior, dozens, if not hundreds, of children have probably been sexually abused by Father Lara, and their lives have been destroyed and their families’ lives have been destroyed,” he said.
People on X, formerly Twitter, are now referencing this on the social media platform while they slam the Catholic Church.
“Brooklyn diocese hid the names of multiple pedophiles, including father Jaime Lara, for 25 years. Lawyers stated that hundreds of children were sexually abused as a direct consequence of the church’s actions… glad to see they have their priorities in check,” one person posted.
“[The Catholic Church] need to be appalled by all the priests with child abuse allegations they move around,” said another.
“Pedophilia and sexual abuse they can tolerate but a harmless blonde pop star is where they draw the line,” a third person wrote.
A fourth added: “I feel like there are other, more pressing issues of clergy misconduct that the Catholic Church should prioritize.”
Others have praised Gigantiello for allowing the music video to be filmed in the church in the first place.
“He knew history had to be made and he wanted to be a part of it. I say free him,” one person posted.
“They can strip him of his duties but they can’t keep that diva out of heaven,” another wrote.
A different person said: “Why is this so funny to me…he was just doing the lord’s work.”
On November 6, Gigantiello apologized to parishioners in a post on the church’s Facebook page. He said the video crew had approached him in September about filming a music video for Carpenter in and around the church. He said he supported the idea because it was an “effort to further strengthen the bonds between the young creative artists who make up a large part of this community,” noting that an internet search for more information about the singer “did not reveal anything questionable.”
As of November 29, the music video, which was released on October 31, had received 12 million views on YouTube.