Parish Withdraws Support of Art Museum Because of Marriage Equality

Worcester Art Museum Lobby

A Catholic parish in Massachusetts has withdrawn its supports for a local art museum over marriage equality, coming in close proximity to the Supreme Court’s decisions advancing equal marriage rights.

The Worcester Art Museum re-affirmed its welcome for same-gender couples on Facebook and Twitter, offering congratulations on the defeat of the Defense of Marriage Act and promoting itself as a wedding venue. This support for LGBT equality caused St. Bernadette Parish in Northboro to cancel their museum membership, according to the pastor Fr. Stephen Gemme, who also noted that the Diocese of Worcester directed this decision.

However, the facts behind Fr. Gemme’s statement are in dispute reports the Telegram and Gazette, a local paper:

“Adam Reed Rozan, the art museum’s director of audience engagement, said St. Bernadette is not a member of the museum…

“Raymond Delisle, communications director for the Diocese of Worcester, said the diocese has not directed any Catholic church or organization to discontinue support of the Worcester Art Museum.

“ ‘We don’t support gay marriage. But, we haven’t said divest yourself of any organization…I think any individual group will make their decision based on their plans and relationships.’ “

Regardless of the details, Catholics in the area do not plan to follow St. Bernadette’s lead and will continue sustaining this highly-acclaimed local art museum. Fr. Chester J. Misciewicz, the pastor of Blessed Sacrament, a parish near the museum, called it a “tremendous community resource” and plans to continue a healthy relationship between the two organizations by encouraging parishioners to visit the museum. Think Progress also reports that local Catholic education is also standing with the Worcester Art Museum:

“…The College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, and Anna Maria College, three Catholic colleges in Worcester, will continue to partner with the museum in order to provide its students with cultural resources. A spokeswoman for Anna Maria College said the museum’s support of same-sex marriage is irrelevant. ‘Our relationship with the WAM is related to our distinctive and historically strong art program. It helps us to provide access to our students to pursue their studies,’ she said.”

Even though the Delisle rejected St. Bernadette’s assertion about the diocese’s involvement, a recent history of anti-LGBT actions there leave clear indications that the diocese is not a welcoming agent. Last year, Bishop Robert McManus rejected a commencement speaker because of her support for marriage equality and refused to sell property to a gay couple over fears they might host wedding receptions.

It is positive that Catholic institutions are standing by a cherished local museum and not succumbing to reductionist thought over marriage equality like the Northboro parish did. If you live near Worcester, why not visit this LGBT-positive cultural site?

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry