Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish

August 9, 2012

 

In what appears to be the new San Francisco archbishop’s first intervention at the city’s gay-friendly Most Holy Redeemer parish, drag queens will no longer be allowed to be part of a neighborhood organization’s fundraising dinner which has been held in the parish hall for several years.

B ay Area Reporter article reveals:

“For the past couple of years the Castro Country Club has held its event in the church’s social hall and had drag queens as entertainment.
 
“As a statement issued by the country club’s board of directors explained, the new no-drag-queen policy at the church is simply unacceptable.
 
” ‘The Castro Country Club had planned to hold our third annual Harvest Feast on October 20, 2012, at Most Holy Redeemer Church, where we have held this and other events in the past,’ the directors said in a statement.
 
“But that changed when the club was notified by the church last week that they would not be able to hold the dinner if any drag queens were part of the program, the board said.”
The Most Holy Redeemer pastor explained the reasons for the decision, noting that a new archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, is now at the head of the San Francisco Archdiocese:

Fr. Brian Costello

“Most Holy Redeemer’s new pastor, the Reverend Brian Costello, confirmed over telephone on Monday, August 6, that drag queen performers and emcees are no longer permitted to participate in events at the church.

“Costello said that during a telephone conversation with a Castro Country Club representative, when the topic of drag queens came up, he told the person, ‘That is not going to work under the present circumstances.’

” ‘I said work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property,’ Costello said.

“It seems the directive is the result of several factors.

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ ‘”

Reactions from local and national organizations were critical of the decision to exclude drag performers:

” ‘It’s really ridiculous and discriminatory,’ said Zachary Davenport in a phone interview. ‘I mean it’s like, who’s next?’

“The drag queen ban is personal for Davenport, who, in drag as Laybelline has served as emcee for a variety of sobriety-related nonprofit events held at Most Holy Redeemer.

” ‘What constitutes drag?’ he said. ‘If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello.’ “

Dignity/San Francisco’s spokesperson was similarly angered:

” ‘This is an unfortunate development between Most Holy Redeemer and the Castro County Club,’ said Ernest L. Camisa, treasurer of the Dignity/SF chapter, speaking for the organization by e-mail and over the telephone.

” ‘It looks like the Archdiocese of San Francisco wants to protect its image by not condoning cross-dressers. By doing so they show that they care more for their image than they do for gay people trying to overcome alcohol addiction. Here the church looks like it values its own image more than it does human life. This is not Christian, but callous,’ Camisa said.”

Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement said:

“I think this is a very difficult and complex time for not only the pastor and the people of Holy Redeemer parish, but also for members of the drag community. All three groups are an example of ordinary people being called to do some extraordinary things for their neighbors. The pastor and parish of Most Holy Redeemer have to be very careful not to throw out the baby with the water in the name of homophobia. Jesus, not homophobia, should guide us in this matter.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo stated:

“Drag is a historically-based, time-honored entertainment tradition that has existed, at least, since classical times.

“Canceling this program without any explanation or substantial reason is simply caving into fear of reprisals from higher authorities. If the [Most Holy Redeemer] community has supported this event for years, there has obviously been a relationship that has developed between the sponsoring organization and the parish, and it would be great if the two groups could work together to find some resolution. Reconciliation is what any and every parish should be about. If the parish does not offer a substantial intervening reason, we can only assume that other forces have had influence.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco acknowledged the difficulty of this decision:

“Reached by phone, George Wesolek, department head for communications and public policy for the archdiocese, said he was not in the policy conversation ‘loop.’ Nonetheless, Wesolek acknowledged, the situation is ‘difficult pastorally,’ particularly in ‘very divided and fractious church.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 


Hope for Dialogue and Understanding with New San Francisco Archbishop

August 2, 2012

Bishop Salvatore Cordileone

The  appointment of Oakland, California’s Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as Archbishop of San Francisco has prompted much commentary because of San Francisco’s large gay community and Cordileone’s track record of work against LGBT issues, particularly his plan for Proposition 8, the California ballot measure which repealed marriage equality. 

National Catholic Reporter columnist Jamie Manson notes that Cordileone’s appointment is indicative of a disturbing trend of episcopal appointments:

“It’s very likely Cordileone’s role as the ‘Father of Proposition 8′ landed him the position in Oakland, the role as chairman of the USCCB’s subcommittee on the defense of marriage and, ultimately, his elevation to Archbishop of San Francisco, a city in which 75 percent of the population voted against Prop 8.

“With this latest appointment, the Vatican solidifies its ‘pack mentality’ approach to promotions. Nowadays, a man earns his stripes and proves his loyalty to the hierarchy by attacking a group the hierarchy perceives as a threat to survival, even if the threat is based on nothing more than fear and paranoia.

“That paranoia, however, might also be giving way to delusion. I’m sure there are some within the Vatican and the laity who believe this appointment will demonstrate the Roman Catholic Church’s commitment to robust, uncompromising, ‘we’ll-show-them-who’s-boss’ leadership. But in reality, for the majority of Catholic laity in this country who support marriage equality, Cordileone’s promotion is only further, glaring evidence of the hierarchy’s deepening descent into meanness, spitefulness and pastoral insensitivity.”

An editorial in The San Francisco Examiner expresses hope that Cordileone might be able to soften his approach.  Te editorial begins by tracing Cordileone’s anti-gay involvement:

“It is hard not to view the Vatican’s appointment of Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone as archbishop of the Archdiocese of San Francisco as a slap in the face of many city residents.

“True, the 56-year-old’s pro-immigration stance and support of Hispanic communities during his tenure among migrant parishes in Southern California deserve credit. ‘Bishop Sal,’ as he’s been called, speaks Spanish and has served as a parish priest in Calexico, just across the border from Mexico, where his parishioners struggled to make a living.

“But Cordileone has worked to deny the rights of other Californians. As an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, he led a team of lay Catholic businessmen in conceiving and organizing the campaign for Proposition 8 — the state amendment to strip away the California marital rights of same-sex couples.

“Cordileone’s work helped the campaign take off: He found its first major donor, brought in the team that would lead the signature-gathering effort, and worked with evangelical churches to coordinate the campaign’s message. He spent the last few months of 2008 working hard to make sure voters stripped away the rights of thousands of Californians.”

However, the editorial ends on a more hopeful note, similar to the one expressed by New Ways Ministry on this blog a few days ago:

“At a news conference last week, Cordileone was asked about these past efforts, and how he intends to speak to the gay people he had insulted so deeply.

“ ‘We need to learn,’ Cordileone said. ‘Continue to learn, how to be welcoming — let them know that we love them and we want to help them.’

“Local gay men and lesbians, and supporters of marriage equality, may understandably feel they have already had enough such help. We can only now hope that San Francisco’s new archbishop heeds his own words — and continues to learn.”

San Francisco Catholics concerned about LGBT issues stand ready to help Cordileone with his learning tasks.  In The Bay Area Reporter, two local pastoral leaders offered hope and suggestions for Cordileone’s continuing education:

” ‘We long for unity and collegiality within our church,’ said Ernest Camisa, [Dignity/San Francisco]chapter secretary and local spokesman.

” ‘Catholics believe that God works in mysterious ways,’ he added. ‘Perhaps the spirit will work through his appointment to accomplish a change of heart, or at least allow members of our church with differing perspective to enter into a new dialogue.’

“The Reverend Brain Costello, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro, is in agreement with Camisa’s approach.

” ‘Let’s take a wait and see attitude’” he said over the telephone. ‘I am inviting [Cordileone] to celebrate Mass here and get to know the community.’

“Costello, who has known the archbishop-designate for some time, also said that Cordileone ‘will listen.’

” ‘We need to open up a dialogue with Bishop Sal,’ said Costello. ‘Not to change people’s minds.’ Rather, ‘so that people have a better understanding of the other side’s point of view.’ “

For the good of the church and for the LGBT community, let’s hope and pray that such efforts at dialogue succeed.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

 

 


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