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.
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.”
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 (EleventhAvenueSouth.com, 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