A public outcry has erupted in a tight-knit Catskills community over a local interfaith council's reluctance to allow an independent Catholic church to join as a member. The dispute has prompted the council's pro bono lawyer to resign in protest, and stirred up local tensions about same-sex marriage and religion.
Bishop Francisco Betancourt, a founding pastor of the independent Catholic Holy Innocents church in Halcottsville, said that his church has been trying to join the Margaretville Interfaith Council for 12 years, ever since the church was established. Throughout that time, Betancourt said, his efforts have been met with a resounding silence -- a response that was never quite clear enough to be 'no,' but never a welcoming 'yes.'
The reason his church has not been welcomed, Betancourt says, is Holy Innocents' willingness to perform same-sex marriage, an issue that Interfaith Council leaders acknowledge is deeply controversial among their members.
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