Friday, June 27, 2008

Star Tribune’s Coverage of Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer service

An article in yesterday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune reported on Wednesday’s CPCSM Pride Prayer Service.

As I noted in my previous post, for many years the parish of St. Joan of Arc in South Minneapolis has hosted a Pride Prayer Service during the week leading up to the Twin Cities LGBT Pride Festival. The church’s 2008 Pride Prayer Service was scheduled to take place on Wednesday night. Yet last week the chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis issued a directive that “people who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to . . . be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle.” The parish complied, canceled its LGBT Pride Prayer Service and, in its place, hosted a “peace service.”

In response to these events, the 30-year-old Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, the organization to which I have the honor of serving as executive coordinator, decided to continue the tradition of a Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service. Furthermore, so as to acknowledge and honor the good work that the community of St. Joan’s has done in relation to initiating and hosting such a prayer service for many years, it was deemed appropriate to hold CPCSM’s inaugural Pride Prayer Service at the entrance of the parish, a half hour before the community’s replacement “peace service.”

Many in attendance held signs expressing both their concern about the chancery’s actions and their hope/prayer that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church will one day be open to God’s presence in the lives and relationships of LGBT people. (One sign, for instance, read: “It’s time we listened to the experiences of LGBT Catholics.” Another: “There is a part of God’s truth in each one of us - gay or straight.” And my all-time favorite: “The Body of Christ has gay genes too!”)

Following are highlights from the Star Tribune article (accompanied by a few comments of my own in bold):

Saying they don’t want to go back in the closet, gay and lesbian Catholics and their supporters took their annual prayer service celebrating gay pride outdoors Wednesday night.

Lucia Engelhardt, 2, was helping her sister Anna, 9, carry a sign reading “Gay love is not a mortal sin.”

Their 7-year-old sister, Ingrid, also carried a sign supporting gays in the Catholic Church.

“We’re here to support our gay friends,” said their mother, Stephanie Vagle. “And to show our displeasure with the Catholic Church over this issue,” their father, Bill Englehardt, quickly added. [Interestingly, some so-called traditionalist Catholic bloggers have been mocking the Pride Prayer Service (and those who participated in it) by claiming that it was attended only by people of a certain age. For example, one site referred to participants as “seniors at St. Joan of Arc, [faithfully] dissenting from Church teaching.” It seems such comments are based on photos taken clandestinely by another blogger of the same ilk. Did he not see younger people? Or did he choose only to photograph certain types of people to fit his agenda? Regardless, the Star Tribune article attests to the fact that young adults and children were among those who gathered. Fox Nine News, incidentally, said the prayer service drew “close to 300 people.”]

The service, which was led by lay people, included readings, songs and prayer.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, City Council Member Gary Schiff and state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, also attended.

Rybak said that anytime there are people in need, Joan of Arc members are the first to respond. “We want them to know the community stands with them,” he said.

The Rev. Jim Cassidy, acting pastor of St. Joan’s, said the ruckus over the service that usually coincides with gay pride week celebrations erupted when the diocese received e-mails depicting the service as an official gay pride event.

“That’s never been the case,” Cassidy said. “It’s an in-house prayer service that celebrates the GLBT members of our community.” [Not so. St. Joan of Arc’s annual Pride Prayer Service has always been a celebration of and for LGBT Catholics everywhere, not just those who attend St. Joan of Arc parish.]

But in an effort to defuse the controversy, Cassidy said he re-fashioned the prayer services and met with archdiocese official Dennis McGrath Wednesday morning to review what he planned for the service.

“We can pray with gay and lesbians members,” Cassidy said.

But under the guidelines set by the archdiocese, St. Joan of Arc won’t celebrate their identity, Cassidy said.

“I don’t see it as hair-splitting,” he said. “I see it as a way to build bridges ... between the church and all people who feel disenfranchised.” [How exactly is it a way to “build bridges,” I wonder.]

Michael Bayly, executive director of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, said his group respects the decision by St. Joan of Arc to comply with the archdiocese’s edict.

“We don’t agree with that directive but we understand that St. Joan of Arc is in a very difficult position, a terrible bind,” he said. “So we’re more than happy to take on that prayer service that they can’t do now.”

Bayly said the service outside church doors is meant to give voice to gay, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

“GLBT people in the Catholic Church, I think, want to be heard, they want some sort of recognition of their experiences,” he said.

That’s fine, according to McGrath. Just not inside the church. “We’re not going to have a prayer service that promotes pride in gay and lesbian activities that includes sex outside of marriage,” he said. [O.K., then let gay folks marry! It seems the logical solution if having “sex outside of marriage” is the problem.]

The service inside the church Wednesday drew a standing-room-only crowd, including some who had taken part in the outdoor event. It didn’t appear to violate the archdiocese's guidelines, as it urged worshippers to embrace peace and diversity of skin color, political views, religious beliefs and sexual orientation.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.


6/28/08 Update: The following two letters-to-the-editor have been recently published in the Star Tribune:

The Final Holdout

The conflict between the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and parishioners of St. Joan of Arc over their Gay Pride celebration serves to illustrate the importance of two data just published by the Pew Forum in its study of Religion in America.

Its survey indicates that a majority of U.S. Catholics (58 percent) currently favor acceptance of gay lifestyles and that such approval is proportionately greater in the Catholic Church than in other Christian churches or in the nation as a whole.

The same survey indicates that 77 percent U.S. Catholics believe that Christian doctrines are open to a variety of defensible interpretations and not restricted to just one.

These dispassionate statistics disclose stubborn realities of modern Catholicism that cannot possibly be extinguished by mere official rulings.

Without sympathetic dialogue, the hierarchy and the people will continue to pass as ships in the night except when collisions briefly focus their attention.

James Gaffney
St. Paul

Talk About LGBT Lives, Not “Lifestyles”

Why is the word “lifestyle” used to describe the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals, as if we were some kind of homogenous cult? It’s such a broad, yet loaded, term, lacking in specificity, that it serves to reduce individuals to some kind of stereotype or caricature.

In fact, the “style” of life that a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person may live is far more likely to mirror the lives of others in the general population than to completely distinguish him or her. “Lifestyle” implies choice, but growing up to discover one’s true identity is not a choice. The choice is whether to honor the truth of one’s identity and to act on it with dignity and grace. I view GLBT Pride as a celebration of truth, not the meaningless “lifestyle.”

Mark Lachapelle
St. Louis Park

Images: Michael Bayly.

Recommended Off-site Link:
Gay Catholics Pray Away: Hundreds Gather Outside St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church - Andy Birkey (, June 26, 2008).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
250+ People Attend Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service
The Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service That Is and Isn’t Happening
More Media Coverage of the Upcoming Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service
What is a “Lifestyle”?
Thoughts on Archbishop Nienstedt
Celebrating and Embodying Divine Hospitality
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Learning Curve”: A Suggested Trajectory
A Catholic Understanding of Faithful Dissent
The Many Manifestations of God’s Loving Embrace
Coming Out: An Act of Holiness


Anonymous said...

" Sincerity, however, does not make a wrong direction right. In this instance the evidence from Scripture, understood contextually, strongly indicates that Atkinson’s perspective on homosexual behavior has deviated significantly from the path that God would have the church take on this important issue, to the peril of those engaged in homosexual activity." -- /Robert Gagnon

Let's assume:

(1) The Church errs, and corrects itself, e.g., Galileo, usury,

(2) The Bible errs, and cannot correct itself

I accept both propositions as true, at least in theory, if not actuality. But if true, what shall the criterion for true and false faith statements be? It cannot be the Church, which errs; it cannot be the Bible, which errs; so something ELSE must be the criterion for true/false faith judgments. Burning Bushes? Angelic Visitations? Voices in the Head? Dreams?

No. The Church arbitrates the valid sources of revelation, of which it claims to be the sacred deposit-holder the guarantor. But it is already conceded the Church errs. If true, then any of its claims are potentially false. If false, then all its claims are true. This is not a "false dilemma," it is the homosexual hypocrite's double-edge sword.

CDE said...

Stephen (the gay species) makes a very good point.

The position of the LGBT dissenters, while emotionally potent, is less compelling from the point-of-view of logic.

This community is asking the Church to prove herself wrong. Who asks that of one's beloved?

The question is: why would anyone want to be a part of a Church that is not simply mistaken, but stubbornly so?

It is hard to avoid the impression that the desire to be a member of the Church (which involves not only offers privileges/rights, but also demands sacrifices) faded long ago with some in this crowd, and that the Church is merely being used as a platform for communicating a political agenda. Why stay in the Church? It could be because the Church has a powerful microphone, and free photocopies.

My comment may be misinterpreted as a desire that these people leave the Church. That's not my desire at all.

But I would like some candor from the LGBT community. What does it mean to them to love the Church? Is love merely a matter of placing demands on one's beloved? Seems a bit one-sided to me.

Michael J. Bayly said...


I don't consider the Church my "beloved." If anything, that title's reserved for the sacred, for God.

At this point, it sometimes helps me to see the hierarchy of the Church as being like a cantankerous old elder or parent, one who is stuck in the past. One doesn't desert one's parents even if they are bigoted old so-and-so's, does one? (Not that my biological parents are like that, mind you!). Rather, they need us. I believe the Church needs its faithful dissenters, and always has.

Anyway, you might be interested in my friend Mary Beckfeld's perspective. She's a cradle Catholic and mother of eight children - one of whom is gay. Earlier this year she wrote a piece for The Progressive Catholic Voice entitled "Why I Stay." It can be found here.



Anonymous said...

"I don't consider the Church my "beloved." If anything, that title's reserved for the sacred, for God."

But Paul calls the Church Jesus Bride - His "Beloved." Is Paul wrong about this, or, if not wrong, culturally or temporally "bound?"

Put another way, if a person is a member of the Church, and calls God "beloved," doesn't that prove Paul's point?

What's more, the nuptial imagery in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures presupposes a specific definition of marriage, does it not? Israel was well familiar with alternative forms of marriage - it practiced many of them, and abandoned not a few in favor of a life-long, mutually-faithful, monagamous (sic), hopefully (and more often than not actually) fruitful union of one woman and one man - without which not one of us would be here.

Anonymous said...

Not to be fussy, but "beloved" is the term used by the Greeks for their male lovers, which is one of the reasons why Yeshiva's "beloved disciple" carries overt connotations of male-male love (not to mention hanging around the crucifixion and leaning on the chest at the last supper), and "david" means "beloved" in Hebrew. As we all know, David loved Jonathan above all other loves, but unlike the Greeks, the love is not distinguished between benevolent, homoerotic, romantic, filial, parental, etc. If others referred to John as the "beloved disciple," equating "beloved" with god is blasphemous. I doubt that's the intent, but it is the appearance.

That clarified, Clayton is echoing my point better than I am. Those who embrace those who bear them ill-will bears the family resemblance of the Stockholm Syndrome. Given that religious belief is very personal, and for many central, my intent is not to force anyone's hand, but to open eyes to the obvious "mixed" signals of what is called "co-dependency" in its unflattering sense.

Unfortunately, the Hebraic Tradition of homophobia is quite deep and confusing, but it is Saint Paul's argument that is self-validating (which means "tautalogical" or "regressive endlessly"), but god gets to do illogical things, unless it is the "logos," or Reason.

kevin57 said...

Both OT and NT are replete with the relationship between God and his people as a marital one; yet, throughout the prophetic tradition, especially Amos, also refers to the bride as a whore. It is typical of Scripture. Whatever is human is "simul justus et peccator." The Church is spotless bride but she's also a shameless prostitute.