A Catholic fundraising event in Asheville, North Carolina, has been cancelled because of an invited performer’s sexual orientation.
The Diocese of Charlotte postponed indefinitely the 2016 Gala for Hope, a major annual event to support Catholic Charities, because singer Kat Williams, who had been scheduled to entertain there, is a married gay woman. Williams, who performed the last two years at this Gala, explained on Facebook:
“On March 1, 2016 I was notified by Gerry Carter ( Executive Director Catholic Charities Charlotte) that per Bishop Peter Jugis (Charlotte Diocese) that my services were not needed at the Asheville Gala of Hope March 12, 2016 ( a fundraising event I’ve performed at for the last 2yrs.). When I asked ‘Why?’, Gerry’s silence was deafening. I asked him just to be honest with me. He stated Bishop Jurgis read an article in Verve Magazine where I said ‘I have been married to my partner for seven years’ and for that reason the Bishop will not need my services.”
A statement from the Diocese downplayed the reason that Williams said she was given, saying the postponement was needed to “focus our energies on the task which is our charge,” namely providing social services. Communications Director David Hains later told WLOS that because Williams is in a same-gender marriage, it “makes it inappropriate for her to perform for us” and the Diocese is simply “exercising that right” to represent its faith.
Williams was increasingly hurt as her expulsion set it, writing on Facebook:
“I’m hurt and saddened! . . .This is the first time I’ve been fired from a performance solely based on who I chose to love. There are two things in my life I didn’t choose, to be Black and to be gay! I am proud to be both and want our North Carolina religious community to stand with the teachings of Christ – love, forgiveness, tolerance and inclusion.”
The singer expressed worry about what message the bishop’s action sent to LGBT people in the Catholic community. She asked supporters, many of whom have promised to boycott the Gala if its rescheduled and withhold donations to Catholic Charities, to respond positively by donating to LGBT organizations and inviting Bishop Jugis to her church: Unity on the Blue Ridges. Williams affirmed, too, the good work that Catholic Charities does and asked people to continue donating there.
Given her response, columnist John Boyle wrote a very true and telling line about Williams in the Charlotte Citizen-Times:
“In this whole upheaval, Williams has sounded more Christian — Christ-like, if you will — than the church to me.”
Bondings 2.0 has covered a string of incidents in the Diocese of Charlotte that have been motivated by opposition to LGBT issues. These have included two teacher firings, a Dominican nun’s anti-gay lecture to high school students, and banning Sr. Jeannine Gramick from speaking to Catholic parents on church property. This latest incident is not surprising, but it is shocking that the bishop has chosen to prioritize discrimination over aiding those who benefit from Catholic Charities. Or, in other words, Jugis prioritized ritual laws over the needs of human beings —an action often condemned in the gospels.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry