When Archbishop John Neinstedt told St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church that a planned LGBT Pride prayer could not occur at the church on Wednesday, it created a flood of interest in the media, and instead of quashing a LGBT Catholic celebration, the directive expanded the event and opened a community dialogue about faith and sexuality.
LGBT Catholics and their friends gathered on the sidewalk outside St. Joan’s on Wednesday to hold the annual Pride prayer ceremony. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak showed up to address the service, as did City Council Member Gary Schiff and state Sen. Scott Dibble, both Catholics.
More than 200 people attended the service, an event that Dennis McGrath, spokester for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, said was allowed as long as it didn’t occur in the church. “We’re not going to have a prayer service that promotes pride in gay and lesbian activities that includes sex outside of marriage,” he told the Star Tribune. State law and Catholic doctrine ban gays and lesbians from marrying.
Parishioners recited the “LGBT Pride Blessing” written by Justin Tanis. “For all who have taken the risk of loving another, We thank you, O God of Courage. For all who integrate their sexuality and spirituality, We praise you, O God of Life. For all who have colored outside the lines that others have placed around them, We rejoice with you, O God of Creativity.”
Leaders at the event were quick to point out that the event wasn’t in protest of St. Joan’s, which has been put between a rock and a hard place on the issue. “We don’t agree with that directive, but we understand that St. Joan of Arc is in a very difficult position, a terrible bind,” Michael Bayly, executive director of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, told the Star Tribune. “So we’re more than happy to take on that prayer service that they can’t do now.”
The flood of media attention to the flap between the church and the archdiocese has garnered the attention of national Catholic groups. Catholic League president Bill Donohue, who has made it a point to criticize virtually everything from “South Park” to President Bush to “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” took issue with the prayer service. “The annual prayer service at St. Joan of Arc was never held to honor gays as equal members of the Catholic community, rather it was held to celebrate the LGBT lifestyle,” he wrote. “That’s not a small difference. The Catholic Church welcomes people of all sexual orientations, but it is not obligated to celebrate sodomy anymore than it is obligated to celebrate fornication.”
Despite Donohue’s concerns, no mention of sodomy was made at the prayer service.
Bob Ellis, of the Dakota Voice, a South Dakota Christian magazine said, “I’ve been seeing quite a lot of this recently: homosexual activists who try to hijack Christians, Christianity and Christian principles to advance their perception of legitimacy.” Those in attendance were, of course, Christians.
To continue the dialogue and create a space for LGBT Catholics, Dignity Twin Cities, a LGBT Catholic group will host a liturgy Friday evening at Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis.