Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service That Is and Isn't Taking Place

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: as spin doctor for the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Dennis McGrath must have the job from hell.

No, really, I feel bad for the guy whenever I hear or read of his attempts to defend the impoverished sexual theology of the Roman Catholic Church. And with the appointment of John Nienstedt as archbishop, McGrath seems to be doing a lot of defending.

Recently, the chancery has got itself into yet another mess by dictating to parishes who they can and cannot pray for. Seriously.

As you may or may not have heard, the organizers of the annual [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT)] Pride Prayer Service at St. Joan of Arc Church have been told that this service can now no longer take place on church property – despite the fact that that’s exactly where it’s taken place for years.

“People who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to receive the sacraments or be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle,” McGrath said in an article published in today’s St. Paul Pioneer Press (see below). Yet what exactly does McGrath mean when he says “the GLBT lifestyle.” And how exactly would the St. Joan of Arc prayer service endorse this lifestyle? McGrath failed to elaborate.

As Paula Ruddy notes in a previous Wild Reed post, “lifestyle,” as used by the Catholic hierarchy, is a “propaganda word, meant to carry distasteful overtones,” a “pejorative word used to denigrate gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons.”

Now, if the Church means “sexually active LGBT persons” when they say “lifestyle,” then they should just say that. And if they’ve got such a problem with LGBT folks having sex outside of marriage, then they should allow them to marry - or at least fess up to the terrible bind in which they place LGBT people: “No, you can’t have sex because you’re not married. And no, we won’t ever let you marry.” Well, thank you very much.

After the chancery’s intervention, leadership at St. Joan of Arc agreed to change the focus of tomorrow night’s prayer service. It’s now going to be a “peace prayer service.” A member of the parish shared with me that the words “pride,” “gay,” and “lesbian” will not be allowed at this new service. For the folks at the chancery, “peace” seems to be another word for censorship, and the only LGBT people they welcome are those who stay silent, like good little boys and girls, in the closet.

I commend the members of St. Joan of Arc for the many years they’ve held the Pride Prayer Service. I understand yet lament why they’ve been forced to discontinue it. I’m happy to announce, however, that the leadership and members of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) agreed last night at CPCSM’s Annual Community Meeting to take up the reins of this particular Pride Prayer Service. And to honor the good work that the community of St. Joan’s has done in relation to initiating and hosting this service for many years, CPCSM’s inaugural Pride Prayer Service will take place at the entrance of the parish (4537 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis) at 6:30 p.m., tomorrow, Wednesday, June 25.

This service will include, songs, prayers, and readings. Those who gather will do so not only to keep alive the tradition of a Catholic prayer service to mark the beginning of LGBT Pride celebrations in the Twin Cities, but to express their pride in their LGBT loved ones and to give thanks for the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church. So if you’re able, please come and join us.

Of course, the local chapter of the nation’s largest LGBT Catholic organization, Dignity, has been hosting an annual LGBT Pride Liturgy for over twenty years. This year, Dignity Twin Cities’s Pride Liturgy will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27, at Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. It would be great to see you there also!


Archdiocese Halts Church’s
Annual Gay Pride Prayers

By Tad Vezner
St. Paul Pioneer Press
June 24, 2008

St. Joan of Arc will hold service with no mention of gay rights.

A Roman Catholic Church decision to prohibit a Minneapolis gay pride prayer service has many in the gay community up in arms, leading activists to call the action a troubling and telling sign from the Twin Cities' new archbishop.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis recently told staff members at St. Joan of Arc Church they could not hold their annual gay pride prayer service planned for Wednesday — an event held for several years in conjunction with the annual Twin Cities Pride Celebration, parishioners said.

Instead, the archdiocese suggested a “peace” service with no mention of rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“That descriptor (LGBT) was not possible on church property. We suggested they shift it, change the nature of it a little bit, and they did,” said archdiocese spokesman Dennis McGrath.

“The reason is quite simply because it was a LGBT pride prayer service, and that is really inimical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Officials with the Minneapolis-based Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), a grass-roots coalition promoting acceptance of gays in the Catholic Church, see the action as an attack by Archbishop John Nienstedt, who took the helm of the archdiocese in May.

In an e-mail to supporters, CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey called the move “yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at LGBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt’s reign of homophobic hatred.”

McGrath said such assertions were untrue. He said the services had not been canceled in previous years because the archdiocese was not aware of them.

“It was not something that happened because there’s a new regime,” McGrath said. “If (previous Archbishop Harry Flynn) had known of it, the same thing would have happened.”

This year, he said “several people” came to the archdiocese to inform church officials of the event at St. Joan of Arc.

Michael Bayly, executive director of CPCSM, was skeptical.

“I find it hard to believe that they didn’t know about it. St. Joan of Arc had been very upfront in advertising it on their web site and in their bulletin. That was always their style — they took pride in welcoming and affirming gay people,” Bayly said.

St. Joan’s regular pastor, the Rev. Jim DeBruycker, is on leave until July. His replacement, the Rev. Jim Cassidy, who was faced with the decision of altering the service, did not return a call for comment Monday.

Bayly said he saw signs of an ongoing “chilling effect.” Usually, gay-friendly parishes advertise in the “pride guide” in advance of the Twin Cities Pride festival; this year, none did. The 2008 festival is this weekend.

“I think most of the parishes are in a terrible bind,” Bayly said.

McGrath said Nienstedt is simply following Catholic doctrine, like previous archbishops.

He said “the church welcomes people with same-sex attractions among its worshippers.”

“The distinction is people who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to receive the sacraments or be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle,” McGrath said.

Some in the St. Joan of Arc congregation are troubled.

“I’m sort of split down the middle between being really sad and really angry,” said Gerry Sell, who has been a parishioner at the South Minneapolis church since 1965. Sell, married and the mother of six, chaired the 1989 Minnesota task force on lesbian and gay Minnesotans.

“I think that the move is going to resonate with some people, who will say, ‘If this is the church, then I’m out.’ Not another parish — a different church,” said Sell. “Not me. Not at 75 years.”

Nienstedt has said homosexuality is a disorder, and he is a leader in the campaign to persuade the Legislature to prohibit same-sex unions.

“Those who actively encourage or promote homosexual acts or such activity within a homosexual lifestyle formally cooperate in a grave evil and, if they do so knowingly and willingly, are guilty of mortal sin,” he wrote in a November article in the archdiocese’s paper, The Catholic Spirit.

Controversy over LGBT issues also had been an issue with Flynn, Nienstedt’s predecessor.

Last year, the then-archbishop prohibited Mass at a symposium exploring the conflict between homosexuality and Catholicism, saying to allow it might mislead archdiocese members into believing the speakers’ views had the church's sanction.

In October, authors Robert and Carol Curoe, a lesbian and her Catholic father, were scheduled to speak at [a CPCSM-sponsored event at] the Church of St. Francis Cabrini in Minneapolis, but they were told they could not do so.

And in 2006, Flynn supported a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. The year before, Flynn ruled that gay rights supporters could not receive Communion while wearing rainbow-colored sashes because the practice was seen as a protest of Catholic teaching.

Tad Vezner

Recommended Off-site Links:
Minneapolis Parish Ordered: No Gay Prayer Service at Church - Paul Walsh, Star Tribune (Minneapolis), June 24, 2008.
Archbishop Stops LGBT Pride Prayer Service - Andy Birkey (EleventhAvenueSouth.com, June 24, 2008

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Talk of the Archdiocese
Thoughts on Archbishop Nienstedt
An Asinine Decision by the Chancery
The Shrinking Catholic Tent
Reflecting on Inclusive Language
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
300+ People Vigil at Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent
Thoughts on Authority and Fidelity
What it Means to be Catholic
Celebrating Our Sanctifying Truth
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness


CDE said...


I've posted my view on the situation today on my blog:


Anonymous said...

Thanks Michael for keeping up with all the b--s--- that the church
keeps dishing up - unbelievable.

I read your blog after checking my
email cuz I wasn't sure about tomorrow night. I am glad you are
going with keeping it at St Joan's, albeit outside of the parking

I heard from Susu who heard you on CH 5.

Love and peace,


kevin57 said...

I think this is a particularly opportune moment for the GLBT community of the archdiocese to yet again issue an invitation to His Excellency to dialogue around homosexuality. Of course, he'll refuse, coward that he is. So, an open invitation published in the local newspaper would be a wonderful way to let the broader community of Church and society know that gays want to enter into conversation with Church leadership, but getting no respect in return. Oh, make sure the invitation notes the the bishops' execrable pastoral on homosexuals calls on them to enter into such dialogue. Time to call the shepherd to accountability.

CDE said...


Do you really believe that Nienstedt's position is simply a local one? CPCSM's issues are with the teachings of the universal Church, not the local archdiocese.

Calling Nienstedt a coward is a ridiculous cheap shot. Would the only form of courage, in your book, be acquiescence to the demands of a group of outspoken dissenters? Must the dialogue take place on the terms of those who are rejecting the Church's teaching? That sounds like an invitation to witness a monologue...

Anonymous said...


That is not an invitation to dialogue. It is merely using an erstwhile invitation for other purposes. It's no more CHristian than what you accuse the Abp of. Consequentialism is no more Catholic when pursuing the noble ends of peace and justice than in pursuit of chastity and continence, lest we forget.

kevin57 said...

"But when Cephas came to (AD)Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned (Galatian 2:11).

If it's Christian enough for St. Paul...

Clayton, the archbishop is a coward, or maybe just lazy. Remember, it was the bishops themselves who committed themselves to dialoguing with gay Catholics. He has not. A monologue? Everything I've read of and from Michael and others in Minneapolis tells me they are not militants. They won't agree with the archbishop, but so what? If dialogue means only conversing with people who already agree with you, well, that's...um...cowardly. If you don't think that Michael et al. are dialogical in their approach and thus not worthy of an 'audience,' why are you here?

CDE said...

Even if they are not dialogical -- which remains to be seen -- they are still human beings, and human beings are always worthy of an audience.

As regards cowardice/courage, why is it you have not populated your Google profile with any personal information?

Anonymous said...


Your citation is a mark of grandiosity on your part. What you propose is not what Paul did to Peter. It wasn't agitprop. It was an intimate engagement. You are proposing agitprop, which is both substantively and formally very different.