US: Catholic diocese backs out of mansion sale on gay wedding fear

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An estate agent acting for a Catholic diocese in the US state of Massachusetts accidentally revealed to a gay couple that their purchase of a 44-room estate had fallen through on the anti-gay concerns of the priests.

James Fairbanks and Alain Beret had a $1m offer for Oakhurst, a 24-acre complex which includes a 1920s mansion, accepted by the Catholic Diocese of Worcester.

But the Worcester Telegram reports that when priests discovered the couple intended to turn the house into an events venue where gay weddings might be held, they chose to back out.

When they were told an expensive sprinkler system needed to be installed, the married couple offered $550,000 for the main house and five acres of land. They were told “other plans” were being pursued by the Diocese.

Monsignor Thomas Sullivan told the Worcester Telegram there was no issue with the couple’s sexuality or intentions for the property.

However, the paper has revealed that the diocese’s agent, LiSandra Rodriguez-Pagan, had accidentally forwarded Mr Beret an email she received from the priest which said: “I just went down the hall and discussed it with the bishop.

“Because of the potentiality of gay marriages there, something you shared with us yesterday, we are not interested in going forward with these buyers. I think they’re shaky anyway. So, just tell them that we will not accept their revised plan and the Diocese is making new plans for the property. You find the language.”

The Telegram pointed out that Oakhurst was once a home for rehabilitating paedophile priests, the House of Affirmation.

The couple’s lawyer called the situation “reprehensible” and pointed out that it is illegal in Massachusetts to discriminate against a home buyer because of their sexual orientation.