The standard argument from within the institutional Church against the wearing of a Rainbow Sash in church, and in favour of withholding communion from those who wear it, is that it is wrong to turn the Eucharist into a political statement, and also that although the church agrees there is nothing wrong with being homosexual, it is wrong to identify as homosexual. There are obvious objections to both parts of this. Frequently, it is not wearing the Sash that creates the political statement of the Eucharist, but its withholding (for example, from politicians who have taken decisions in conflict with orthodox doctrine, even where those decisions may have been taken in good conscience; or in the recent case in Minnesota, where it was the bishops who first introduced religion into the specifics of a political debate on gay marriage). Identifying as having a same sex attraction does not necessarily imply that the person doing so is sexually active, and expecting people to keep their orientation secret is expecting them to live dishonestly, in conflict with the truth about their lives. Dishonesty is not a Catholic virtue.
Tactically, the rainbow pin campaign promoted by Equally Blessed may just have the potential to defuse both arguments. As a discreet and unobtrusive pin, it lends itself to more permanent wearing than the Sash, and it is more difficult to accuse the wearer of doing so to politicize the Eucharist – it is simply a constant and general statement of support. If the campaign is successful in getting support from straight allies – parents, friends, or others- it will also remove the allegation that wearers are declaring their own orientation, as is neatly illustrated by a story of a Tennessee Catholic grandmother published in Gay Rights:
The Catholic Grandmother With a Powerful Message
for Her Church on Gay Rights
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You’ve got to love the people in the pews of the Catholic Church, who aren’t letting institutionalized homophobia within the ranks of U.S. bishops stand unchallenged. We’ve seen artists in Minnesota take their Church to task for spending scads of money trying to take away rights for gays and lesbians, rather than feed the hungry or house the homeless.We’ve seen nuns in Illinois strike back against the institutional Church’s lobbying against civil unions legislation.
And now we’ve got a Tennessee Catholic mother and grandmother, taking the Church to task for denying supporters of gay rights Communion. And it’s some heartfelt testimony from a woman who sees the anti-gay work of her Church leaders to be nothing short of blasphemous.
“I’m a Catholic mom and a grandmother, and I wear a rainbow pin every day. I wear it to remind folks to stop the rhetoric that causes gay bullying. I wear it so that I can remind folks to treat our children with dignity,” says Deb Word in the video. “I don’t think being a gay activist is a bad thing.”
Word created a postcard that she mailed to every Catholic bishop in the United States, urging them to stop denying gay people Communion, stop fighting efforts to pass marriage equality, stop encouraging communities to discriminate against gays and lesbians, and to open their hearts and minds and build a truly inclusive church.
Funny how people in the pews like Word are living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching, while the hierarchy within the Church tries to shuck their obligations to build a society rooted in dignity. If only we could flip the switch and let the parishioners guide the Church for a change.
Word’s postcard that she mailed contained a very simple, yet powerful message for Catholic leaders.
“The postcard reads, ‘Dear bishop: I house discarded LGBT youth — eight so far this year. I have bandaged a child who has been beaten. I’ve prayed over the near lifeless body of a child who attempted suicide. I house, feed, counsel and love these children … and I remind our clergy not to tell these children they are hellbound because of their orientation,” Word says, “Bishop, you might call me a gay activist, and I am. And I would ask you to join me. Do you have in your diocese a homeless shelter that reaches out to LGBT youth? Do you have non-discrimination clauses in your hiring and in your schools?”
Because if these bishops were truly practicing the breadth and depth of Catholicism, they would, because nothing is more important in the faith than loving everyone — even those who might be your enemies — beyond all measure.
- Advent: Prepare Ye A Way For Inclusion (queeringthechurch.wordpress.com)
- Minnesota Bishop Denies Communion to Catholics Wearing Rainbow Buttons (gayrights.change.org)
- Idaho Lawmaker: Straight Allies Are Key to Stopping Anti-Gay Bullying (gayrights.change.org)
- Twin Cities Archbishop Refuses To Give Gay Students Holy Carbs (queerty.com)