Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Media Coverage of Upcoming LGBT Pride Prayer Service

Do you want my honest opinion on today’s Star Tribune story (reprinted below) about the growing controversy surrounding the canceled LGBT Pride Prayer Service at St. Joan of Arc?

I’m somewhat disappointed.

For a start, I know of no LGBT individual who talks about celebrating their “lifestyle.” The gift of their sexuality, maybe. Their orientation. Their relational capacity. But not their “lifestyle.”

As LGBT persons, we’re well aware that “lifestyle,” as Paula Ruddy points out, has become a “pejorative word used to denigrate gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. It’s a propaganda word, meant to segregate a group by its sexual practices and to exclude them from social acceptance.”

Accordingly, it’s disappointing when reporters fail to recognize and acknowledge that it’s a loaded term applied by others to LGBT people rather than a term that comes from LGBT people themselves to describe their reality - a reality that cannot be limited to certain sexual activities.

Furthermore, chancery spokesperson, Dennis McGrath, maintains that the Church “welcomes” LGBT persons. Yet an authentic welcome allows people to speak for themselves, respects their experiences and insights, and is open to dialogue and to the growth and change that often results from such mutual sharing. None of these attributes are present in the Church’s “welcome” of LGBT persons.

Another disappointment: Contrary to what the Star Tribune article says, the prayer service that I and others are planning for tonight outside of St. Joan of Arc is not about “condemning” Archbishop Nienstedt - or anyone else for that matter. Neither are we calling the prayer service we’re planning a “rally” or a “protest.” It’s a Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service.

(And as I stated in my last post, we’re gathering tonight, June 25, at 6:30 at the entrance of St. Joan of Arc (4537 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis) to keep alive the tradition (began by St. Joan of Arc Church) of a Catholic prayer service to mark the beginning of LGBT Pride celebrations in the Twin Cities, to express pride in our LGBT loved ones and their lives of integrity, and to give thanks for the gifts that LGBT people bring to the Church. Of course, it’s important to remember that the local chapter of the nation’s largest Catholic LGBT 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.)

And then there’s this quote of mine in the Star Tribune article: “The archdiocese is now dictating to people who they can and cannot pray for, and that deeply concerns me. . . . This certainly does not celebrate the presence of God in the lives of gay people. They are dictating to gay people how to have a good life” . . . without bothering to listen and learn from LGBT people’s experience of God in their lives and relationships . . . is what I believe I also said. You know, I’d so much rather e-mail a statement to a reporter then talk to him/her over the phone. They never seem to get it right! Or worse, they try to reduce what you say to a sound bite!

Oh, and on a purely superficial level, I dislike the photo of me that accompanies the article. It seems to depict me rearranging my desk! In fact it’s my dining room table, and rearranging various items on it in preparation for being photographed is exactly what I was doing! It seems so prosaic. At least my flowering African violet and Jon Giuliani’s beautiful portrait of St. Francis of Assisi got in the shot! The sign behind me, by the way, reads: "Sexuality, gay or straight, is a sacred gift."

Along with the Star Tribune photographer, three TV news crews came to my home yesterday to interview myself and other members of CPCSM. (Scott Goldberg of KARE 11 News is pictured at left talking to Paula Ruddy and Mary Lynn Murphy.) Yeah, I know, I probably should have changed into a nice dress shirt. Oh well, at least the T-shirt I was wearing had a positive message: “Advice from a River: Go with the flow; immerse yourself in nature; slow down and meander; go around obstacles; be thoughtful of those downstream; stay current; the beauty is in the journey!”


Uproar Over Prayer Service for Gays Grows
By Herón Márquez Estrada
Star Tribune
June 25, 2008

As he has done for a number of years, Michael Bayly will arrive tonight at St. Joan of Arc Church ready to celebrate his God, his faith and his homosexuality.

But this year, Bayly and other Catholic gays and lesbians will not be allowed to celebrate their lifestyle in the church sanctuary following an edict handed down by Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has barred the annual gay pride prayer service at the south Minneapolis church.

In protest, Bayly and others have decided to hold their own lay service outside the church tonight. They are also calling for a mass rally at the church tonight to condemn the archdiocese.

The annual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender service, designed to coincide with gay pride week celebrations, instead will be characterized as a “peace” service, said Dennis McGrath, a spokesman for Nienstedt and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Celebrating the GLBT lifestyle is contrary to the teachings of our church – plain and simple,” McGrath said.

The ban has caused an uproar inside and outside the church, which for years has been known as a liberal bastion supporting GLBT people.

Most of the anger has been focused on Nienstedt, who took over as archbishop recently and almost immediately angered local gays.

This is “yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at GLBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt’s reign of homophobic hatred,” David McCaffrey, a board member of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), said in an e-mail Monday to members.

“The archdiocese is now dictating to people who they can and cannot pray for, and that deeply concerns me,” said Bayly, executive director of the CPCSM. “This certainly does not celebrate the presence of God in the lives of gay people. They are dictating to gay people how to have a good life.”

The Rev. Jim Cassidy, acting pastor at St. Joan’s, said he respects the wishes of the archdiocese and is just happy that the service was not canceled.

“The archdiocese, for all parishes, is the front office and we need to respect that,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “There is no welcome mat being pulled here.”

Also Tuesday, McGrath defended the archdiocese and Nienstedt, saying that gay and lesbian relationships, especially if they are consummated, are contrary to church doctrine.

McGrath said Nienstedt decided to act after he was notified by callers about the GLBT service at St. Joan, which has a large homosexual contingent.

McGrath said Nienstedt simply did what any archbishop in the country would do in a similar situation. He said the decision does not signal that the archdiocese is taking a conservative turn in the Twin Cities.

He said that former Archbishop Harry Flynn, who recently retired, would have made the same decision if he had known about the service.

“We weren’t aware of it,” McGrath said Tuesday. “We have 219 parishes. We don’t sit and monitor all of them.”

Gay activists and parishioners at St. Joan scoffed at the notion that the archdiocese did not know about the service.

They pointed out that not only has it been going on for at least five years – timed to coincide with the Twin Cities GLBT Pride Parade – but the service has been widely advertised in church bulletins and on the Internet.

“St. Joan's has always been very up front about this,” Bayly said. “There are always watchdogs quick to let the archdiocese know what is going on.”

McGrath said the parish decided to change the service’s theme to peace. But he also cautioned the church, which serves an estimated 4,000 families, to change the focus so that the service is not about the gay and lesbian lifestyle.

“We don’t want it to be a rose by any other name,” McGrath said. “Homosexuals are welcome in the church. We don't extend that to a full gay or lesbian lifestyle that includes sexual activity.”

Parishioners said that they were notified of the service change Sunday and that many in the congregation were dismayed.

“I said, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing?’” said Gerry Sell, who joined the church in 1965 and said she will likely join the protest outside the church. “I felt like I was split down the middle. I was furious, but then my heart was torn in half.”

This is not the first time that the archdiocese has come down hard on St. Joan of Arc.

In recent years, the parish was ordered by the archdiocese to remove gay pride material from its website.

The archdiocese also told the church to stop allowing those not ordained to speak at mass. Discussion topics have included scripture, missionary work and homosexuality.

Sell and others believe the archbishop's action, combined with the other past disputes, might finally drive people away from the Catholic Church.

“I have grown up with the strong belief . . . that my God is a loving, inclusive God,” said Mary Coleman of St. Paul, who joined St. Joan almost 20 years ago. “My God loves my brother, who happens to be gay, as much as he loves me. I am not sure I can stay in a church that doesn’t love and accept my brother the same way it loves and accepts me.”

Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280

Image 1: Michael Bayly
Image 2: Joey McLeister, Star Tribune.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service That Is and Isn’t Taking Place
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 wonder if journalists fully appreciate the way in which their language can further inflame controversy and confuse issues.

When I read the Star Tribune piece last night, I wondered if some of the language in the article wasn't a function of the author's POV, sloppiness, or desire to heighten the controversy.

Also, Michael, just so you know, I wrote the Archbishop several months ago to let him know that I had been engaged in a dialogue with you about GLBT issues / concerns, and in response, he wrote that he was supportive of that conversation and that he hoped it would continue.

Anonymous said...

A good rule of thumb: don't ever let yourself be interviewed or quoted or photographed by the press, especially regarding religion issues they are essentially illiterate about. Even if they are sympathetic, they are likely to shortcut what you said in a way that is guaranteed to irritate you. They use you. You do not use them. You will almost always come out the shorter for cooperating.

The news article was precisely of the same cookie cutter template on this issue we've been reading for a generation. It added no light, and not even heat. It was pathetically predictable.

There is really no way to use the mass media to gain traction within in the Church on a theological issue. Zero. It has no meaning in that context, because the context of mass media is always to sentimentalize and sensationalize -which are things that drain reality away and substitute fake things for them. But our culture loves to seduce us with the illusion that we can do so.

Also, you seem to have a habit of quoting yourself when what you've said is printed in another form. Were you Donald Rumsfeld, I would say you seemed damned self-absorbed and self-important. I don't think you are (I suspect it comes from the academic habit that views quoting something published as somehow more authentic, which is rather silly when you think about it), but realize people who don't agree with you might well see that in the same light.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

Just want to acknowledge that Sharon and I saw you on WCCO News. I felt so proud to realize what you were doing and that I knew you!

So, I just want to encourage you to "Carry on!!!" and to keep doing the good stuff...the next right thing!

Blessings be on you!