The New Civil Rights Movementreports that Cardinal Dolan spoke for only nineteen seconds on the matter at the end of his weekly radio show. His remarks are quoted in full:
“’You look at even the violence in our own city with some homosexuals who have recently been beaten and killed…I mean that’s just awful, that flies in the face of divine justice. Every human life deserves dignity and respect, right? Anytime life is attacked we all suffer.'”
His comments came after public questions from LGBT advocates about why the cardinal remained silent on the increasing violence, and instead pushed for anti-marriage equality sermons this past Sunday. These voices included Joseph Amodeo at The Huffington Post who notes solidarity statements from Catholic parishes in the NYC area. Even the National Organization on Marriage condemned the violence. Amodeo writes:
“In the absence of a clear and unconditional condemnation of these hate crimes, Cardinal Dolan’s silence is symptomatic of the culture of silence that continues to plague the hierarchy of the Catholic Church…
“If Cardinal Dolan truly wants to express the message that “all are welcome,” then he must break this dangerous silence, condemn these acts of hate, and stand in solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the face of prejudice. Passive homophobia can no longer be accepted as the status quo in our churches, because conditional statements of welcome…provide a breeding ground for intolerance.”
As for Cardinal Dolan’s spot on the radio show, Amodeo spoke critically of the passing comment by the cardinal as an insufficient response to injustice and hopes it is only the beginning of greater solidarity from the hierarchy with the LGBT community. Recent activity on Cardinal Dolan’s Facebook reveal New Yorkers are dissatisfied with what amounts to continued silence weeks into this uptick in hate crimes. Many are questioning if the cardinal is paying attention to Pope Francis’ welcoming messaging in Rome, which will be the topic of an upcoming blog post.
The “dirty hands” action staged at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, May 5th, will be repeated on Sunday, May 26th, as a response to Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s recent blog post where he compared welcoming lesbian and gay people to church as comparable to inviting guests for dinner, but asking them to wash their hands first. Those who took part in the May 5th action arrived at the cathedral with their hands blackened with coal, and said they would pray in vigil when they entered the church building. However, they were barred from entering the cathedral by NYC police officers and church staff, who, despite promises to the contrary, feared those taking part in the action would disrupt the 10:15 a.m. Mass.
Joseph Amodeo, a gay Catholic who organized the first action, explained the details of the upcoming event on his Facebook page:
“Join us on Sunday, May 26, 2013 as we return to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in response to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. Again, we’ll be attending with hopes of participating in the 10:15am Mass with ash rubbed on our hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people.
“As a reminder: This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. Therefore, there will be no disturbance during the Mass, no signs, etc.
“We’ll begin to meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St at 9am. We’ll distribute the ash there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We will head to St. Patrick’s Cathedral at 9:45am.
“All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at email@example.com.
“Respect for the sacred nature of the Eucharist is of the utmost concern of the organizers. In light of this, we are encouraging those who are participating and who wish to receive the Eucharist to wash their hands using a supplied “handi-wipe” as they prepare to receive the Eucharist or as an alternative can receive the Eucharist on their tongue. Upon returning to the pew, those who washed their hands may wish to re-soil. This action will not only maintain respect and reverence for the Eucharist, but will also hold a symbolic meaning — we are all clean before Christ even if some members of the Church’s hierarchy view us has having dirty hands.”
Several commentators on The Huffington Post reflected on some of the implications of the original May 5th action. James Lescene, co-founder of The Trevor Project, noted that though he left the Catholic church as a young adult, today’s youth seem more willing to stay in the church and try to change it:
“. . . as I’ve traveled around the country over the past year talking with LGBTQ young people, I’ve been surprised to discover that many of them are not so willing to walk away as I once did. They refuse to leave their churches and mosques and temples, and they will not allow themselves to be persuaded to turn away so easily from the promise of God’s love or to deny their own innate sense of spirituality. As far as they’re concerned, faith is as much a part of themselves as their sexual orientation or gender identity — all of it complex, mysterious and ultimately unknowable except through experience. They are more likely to wonder what’s ailing the institution that has closed its doors and heart against them than they are to question the validity of their own love. Certain that God does not want them to be cast out of anything, they are hanging in there, challenging their pastors and priests and continuing to be a burr in the side of their congregations.
“For these young people, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is no longer an acceptable response to the complex reality of their lives. They want more. Like anyone else in this world, they want the opportunity to love and to be loved, and they are ready to fight for that right. Even when parents send them packing, a few are able to hold to the idea that God won’t give up on them so easily.”
“So what about queer Catholics? From what should they wash their hands? Your Eminence, I can’t answer that question without looking closely at the lives of each and everyone one of them. Neither can you. They are so varied, and have been so long ignored by the Church hierarchy, that there is no one place in the Tradition to which I can point and say, ‘Look there.’ The one thing I can say is that Nature — which might be the God of some atheists, but is certainly not our God — is not the standard by which to understand the lives of LGBT Catholics. Look for grace instead. If you want to see what God is making with our lives and our loves, if you want to help us grow further in that love, you need to spend more time listening to us. A lot more time.
“And you need to share what you hear with our brothers and sisters across the globe. Because the real challenge we face as a Church is not an attitude of ‘anything goes.’ Our real problem is that, like the resentful brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, we are all afraid that someone is getting away with something while we are being good. Till he comes again, Jesus has placed you and your brother bishops, our elder siblings, in the role of the Father, who needs to tell us all, ‘Rejoice! Your brothers and sisters, married, celibate, and queer, were all dead, and now they are all alive!’ “
Joseph Amodeo, the actions’ organizer, reflected on these witnesses by putting them in the context of a November 2012 meeting he had with Cardinal Dolan about welcoming LGBT people into the church:
“Toward the end of our time together, Cardinal Dolan asked me what I expected him to do in light of Church teaching. In turn, I asked Cardinal Dolan to write a letter of welcome to the gay community. I suggested that he avoid sexuality and instead focus on the person. To my surprise, he agreed to write the letter and suggested that Catholic New York or his blog might be an appropriate venue. It’s what he said next that caught me off-guard: He said that he would share the letter with me in advance so as to make sure that it would be viewed as pastoral and sensitive to the LGBT experience. Sadly, that is not what ended up happening. And I wouldn’t mind if the resulting letter was a ‘welcome,’ but his recent blog post, ‘All Are Welcome,’ came with caveats and conditions. In many ways, a welcome with conditions is no welcome at all.”
Though the actions have been called “protests,” Amodeo explained that protest is not the intent, but that they are there to witness to human dignity:
“Lastly, over the past few days, I have been reflecting on the greatest protest of all that occurs in churches around the country every Sunday: the sign of peace. In that moment, Christians around the world protest the very barriers that on the surface appear to divide us. At the instance upon which we share the sign of peace, we protest a world of judgment and violence to discover a moment of serenity defined not by differences, but by our common humanity.
“In the coming weeks, we will return to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with clean hearts filled with charity and our hands bearing witness to our own humanity. We can only hope that we will be permitted to share in the sign of peace, so that we may help to change hearts and minds to slowly see the inherent dignity of all people without exception.”
Catholics in New York City held a public witness this past weekend objecting to recent comments made by Cardinal Dolan, who wrote that welcoming LGBT people into the Church is equivalent to asking someone to wash their dirty hands before dinner.
Advocates attempted to enter St. Patrick’s Cathedral for 10:15am Mass on Sunday with hands covered in charcoal, symbolically alluding to the cardinal’s statements about dirty hands. The demonstrators were denied access by church security, and the NYC’ Police Department’s LGBT liaison informed them that only after washing their hands would they be allowed to enter.
One participant, Joseph Amodeo, wrote about his experiences in The Huffington Post, and the pain the literal exclusion of those witnessing from Mass:
“Today, myself and others knocked at the door of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but the door was not opened, rather it was slammed in our faces…until today, I have never been denied a seat at Christ’s table. In fact, today marks the first day that I have ever felt disowned, abandoned, and lost…
“In response to the Archdiocese’s threat of arrest, we opted to remain outside where we stood in silent vigil with our palms turned out facing toward the main doors of Cathedral…[that] doors closed as we stood outside seem now to capture well the chill that we felt from the Cathedral’s staff as well as the Cardinal. Our peaceful presence was responded to with a resounding ‘you are not welcome.’…
“As someone who was reared Roman Catholic from the moment of birth, I have always known the Church and its community of believers to be a place of welcome and affirmation…Today, this childhood experience of ‘church’ stands in stark contrast to the cold and heartless response of the Archdiocese of New York and Cardinal Dolan to our presence at the Cathedral earlier today.”
However, even with emotions raw and the rejection still present, Amodeo realizes that it is not those standing outside who are most challenged, but the clergy and staff inside:
“I realize now that it is not I who stands at this crossroad, but rather the Cardinal himself. He stands at point at which he can choose to see the inherent dignity present in all people or to follow a path laid with judgment and accusation.
“Today, I don’t stand at a crossroad, but rather I find myself standing at the threshold of a door. I and others are standing at the doorway to the Church knocking, seeking, and asking. By this action, I hope that the doors of the Cathedral will be opened to us not on a conditional basis, but rather with the understanding that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.”
A related action in Detroit occurred this same weekend, as parents of LGBT children witnessed outside archdiocesan offices after Archbishop Vigneron told supporters of LGBT equality to refrain from Communion. Clearly, more and more Catholics, LGBT and allies alike, are recognizing the problem is with those who would exclude, are also finding the energy to stand up and speak out. New Ways Ministry applauds both groups who witnessed this weekend.
New York-area Catholics who support LGBT-inclusion in the Catholic Church are meeting at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, this Sunday, May 5, 2013, to attend the 10:15 Mass with dirty hands.
The silent vigil is in response to New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s blog post from a week ago in which he compared lesbian and gay people coming to church to children showing up to dinner with dirty hands. He used this analogy to say that it was permissible for church leaders to welcome lesbian and gay people to church, but that the leaders needed to remind them that they needed to clean themselves up. You can read Bondings 2.0’s commentary on Dolan’s blog post here.
Joseph Amodeo, the organizer of this vigil, offers the following explanation and logistical information:
“This Sunday, we’ll respond to Cardinal Dolan’s article that called upon gay people to wash their hands before entering the church. We’ll be attending 10:15am Mass with charcoaled hands, so as to stand in solidarity with LGBT people. This will not be a protest, it will be a silent and powerful witness to our belief that God welcomes all. We’ll meet in front of Barnes & Noble on 5th Ave and 46 St. We’ll distribute charcoal there and then proceed as a group to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. All people are welcome to join us in this act of solidarity. Please be sure to arrive on time at 9am at Barnes & Noble. If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Amodeo has set up a Facebook event for this vigil which can be viewed here.
New Ways Ministry encourages all in the New York metropolitan area who support LGBT Catholics to show up to this event.
Pope Francis’ past anti-LGBT history has captured media attention since his election, leading many to conclude this papacy will be more of the same. Bondings 2.0 previously reported troubling statements made while archbishop, especially an ambiguous record on marriage equality. However, some observers express hope that Pope Francis will be a pope under whom LGBT issues can progress within the Catholic Church.
On Huffington Post, Joseph Amodeo writes that Pope Francis may be “the gay community’s greatest hope”:
“…he is the first pope to be elected from a country that has legalized marriage equality. In this way, Bergoglio has perhaps witnessed firsthand how same-sex marriage has been a public good in Argentina…he may be the first pope who has any real experience in meeting LGBT people while also witnessing the impact of gay marriage — namely, no negative impact at all…
“In short, the pope’s desire to be among those most in need and those who have been forgotten by society should be a source of great hope for all of us. As a marginalized people not only in society, but particularly in the Church, it is my hope that Pope Francis will take this opportunity to extend a loving embrace to his LGBT brothers and sisters around the world.
“I do think that we may start to see a softening of language. This is a much-needed first step toward witnessing, appreciating and encouraging LGBT people of faith to share their gifts openly in service to the Church.”
Pablo Manriquez at Fox News Latino contemplates why this pope opposes same-gender relationships, and he encourages Catholics to initiate the necessary dialogue that could affect change:
“The Vatican’s current teaching on marriage and sexuality relies on a troubling gender essentialism rooted in the recent insistence that every child needs a father and a mother. This has become the church’s hinge argument against gay marriage. It is theologically unfounded and culturally dangerous.
“Catholicism is better than this. The faith has more to say about love and responsibility than it has to say about sexual difference and gender roles. While Catholics can hardly expect an institution as old and enormous as the Roman Catholic Church to turn on a dime, the Vatican is not immune to change…
“As Catholics, we should invite our new pope to devote more attention to gay marriage as a theological (not political or cultural) question. Ultimately, the question is not whether the church should accommodate the culture, but about how gay relationships fit into the mystery of God’s love for all of humanity.”
Whether or not Pope Francis is the LGBT community’s greatest hope remains to be seen, but Kate Childs Graham at National Catholic Reporter reminds readers that even just starting anew with any papacy is reason for hope:
“As I scrolled through my Facebook feed and email reactions came flooding in from fellow progressive Catholics, I noticed I wasn’t alone in my (perhaps foolhardy) hope…
“As committed as [progressive Catholics] are to creating change in the church from the ground up, we can’t help but hold out hope this change will be reflected by the leaders of the hierarchy. We can’t help but treat moments like Wednesday’s as fresh starts, as new beginnings.
“Or, as a friend wrote,: ‘This is the beginning of the beginning of a new time for our church. I can’t possibly know what that will look like, but that’s what we’re in. The beginning of the beginning.’…
“But in my heart of hearts, in my faith of faiths, I can’t help but hope that she is right.”
Let us pray that this hope will motivate us all to redouble our efforts to work for equality and justice for LGBT people in church and society.
Here are some news items which may be of interest:
1) Read the inspiring Huffington Post story of Sister of Charity Margaret Farrell who works at Los Angeles’ Covenant House, a shelter and social service agency for homeless teenagers. Of her work, Sister Margaret says:
“Some say, how can I, as a nun, surround myself with such people — gays, transsexuals, HIV-positive clients?”I usually respond: Read the Bible. Look which people Jesus surrounded himself with.”
2) According to a LGBTQNation.com story, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has called upon the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) to publicly denounce Michael Peroutka’s $10,000 donation to the Maryland Marriage Alliance (MMA), the coalition which organized the state campaign to overturn marriage equality. Peroutka is a member of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate, secessionist organization labeled an “explicitly racist” hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.The MCC was a founding organizer of the Maryland Marriage Alliance. HRC is also calling on the MMA to return the donation.
3) The Supreme Court of Mexico, a heavily Catholic nation, has issued a decision that paves the way for marriage equality to become legal in the entire nation, according to the AfterMarriage blog. Marriage equality is already legal in Mexico City, the nation’s capital district.
Last week, Bondings 2.0 reported that Joseph Amodeo, a member of the junior board of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, resigned his position in protest of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s insensitivity to LGBT concerns, and particularly how such insensitivity impacts negatively on LGBT youth.
Yesterday, Amodeo renewed his opposition to Dolan’s insensitive remarks by launching a Change.orgpetition asking Dolan to meet with LGBT y0uth. A HuffingtonPost.com essay by Amodeo explains his reasons for starting this campaign:
“As Catholics and others listen to the messages coming from those in positions of power in the Church, I hope they will realize that the heavy-handed approach to LGBT issues is not shared by all Catholics. Although those in the hierarchy may have the pulpit, there are far more pews than there will ever be pulpits. As Catholics speak out and call upon the Church to live out its call to be a beacon of social justice and love, those in the hierarchy will begin to see another way in which Christ has risen — he has risen from the silence and has cried out for equality. We can only hope that those in the Church leadership will turn and listen to our voices, so as to see that our prophetic witness is merely asking them to look into our hearts and see the people God has created us to be.
“For this reason I have decided to launch a petition on Change.org to be presented to Cardinal Timothy Dolan to let him know that Catholics stand in solidarity with the homeless LGBT youth of the Ali Forney Center and all LGBT youth in need. Through this Change.org action, the voices of gay and straight Catholics will unite, will break through the silence, and will call upon those in positions of power in the Church to see that the people of God will not allow the cries for help of God’s children to go unheard and unanswered. So please join me in signing this petition, so that we might invite Cardinal Dolan into a dialogue about this important issue that faces us all.”
Amodeo’s essay begins with a powerful story which illustrates how Catholic lay people are in the forefront of religious groups in their support of LGBT justice and equality:
“A little over eight years ago, I came out as a gay man to my family and friends. Amid this revelation, I continued to practice my faith as a Roman Catholic. It was at this time in my life that I came to witness the overwhelming support that Catholics have for LGBT people. In my role as a religion teacher, a priest once informed me that a parent had expressed concern over having a gay man teach religious education. The priest called a meeting of the parish on a weeknight and asked that anyone who had concerns related to my teaching should speak up publicly. The night of the meeting, I entered a packed Church and slowly made my way to a pew where I sat next to my father. As the meeting began, one-by-one congregants rose and expressed their real concern: why this was even an issue. The reality is that my experience from nearly a decade ago is representative of the vast majority of Roman Catholics. We live in a Church that is called to welcome and affirm people’s humanity and identity without exception. It was in reflecting on this faith experience that I had such a difficult time reconciling Cardinal Dolan’s comments with the Catholic faith that I live and experience every day.”
Show that you are one of those Catholics who know that our faith compels us to work for LGBT justice and equality. Sign the petition today!