Father Tony

Catholic Church Participates in Gay Pride

Filed By Father Tony | June 18, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Archbishop Timothy Dolan, gay pride, New York City, Roman Catholic Church

On Tuesday, June 16, 2009, I attended the mandatory marshal training for groups accepted into the New York City Gay Pride March on June 28th.

I sat in the vast Cronin Auditorium of the St. Vincent Catholic Hospital among more than a hundred marshals at what was the third training session. This parade will be the biggest one ever.


The speaker, Heritage of Pride's Maurice Michaane, led us through the specifics, standing at a podium bearing the escutcheoned words "Saint Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, a few feet from a giant flag bearing the papal coat of arms and near a wall-mounted wooden cross bearing a sculpture of the crucified Jesus.

The happy collision of gay celebration and Roman Catholic imagery was delightful, and the fact that the Roman Catholic Church would welcome the LGBT marchers and organizers into its facilities was heartening.

Heartening and significant when one considers the fact that this hospital does not offer abortion services because of the Catholic Church's clear anti-abortion stance, and the fact that Dignity, the gay Catholic group not sponsored by the Catholic Church has in recent years been booted out of Catholic facilities that had previously housed their services. The security and receptionist staff of the hospital were well aware of the nature of our group, as in "Oh, you mean the gay pride meeting? Down the hall and up to the tenth floor. Follow the green signs."

After the training, I asked the handsome and engaging Maurice Michaane if the hospital had donated its space for the meeting or was Heritage of Pride paying for the use of the hyper-Catholic auditorium. He said he could not disclose that information. When I assured him that I could easily get the answer, he decided to have a bit of fun with me, and responded confidently that I would never be able to discover the answer to that question. He then told me how happy he was to have our group of bloggers in the parade and that he hoped we would become a regular feature.

A single inquiry to the hospital's public relations office got me a response from Mary Mooney who said that an elected official who is a friend of the hospital had arranged for the usage of the auditorium on behalf of Heritage of Pride at no cost to that organization. She said that the hospital often allows usage of the auditorium by community groups.

I didn't press the issue of the vetting of community groups by the hospital to make sure that the doors aren't flung open to "sinful" organizations that might relish abortion rights or cross-burnings, but I am quite certain that not everyone gets in.

I was especially delighted to make the acquaintance of the fellow sitting next to me at the training, Reverend Russell, the founder and pastor of the Church of Rubber Enlightenment (and when you go to the site, treat yourself to the amazing - and very NSFW - video they present). He gave me his card. His logo is similar to that of the hospital, but the motto is different: Connubialis Licentia Per Purgamentum (Loosely, Enlightenment through Sexual Freedom).



I know the Catholic Church well enough to tell you that if pressed about this, they will probably deny knowing the true nature of "Heritage of Pride", but that doesn't matter. Gay-sympathetic Roman Catholic leaders are legion and will always find small but constant ways to erode the church's outdated and self-defeating homophobia. I still long for the big gesture. Would it kill the new archbishop of New York, Tim Dolan, to join us for a few steps when the parade passes his cathedral?

PS: Are you a blogger planning to be in New York City on June 28th for Pride? If you would like to march with our group, there is still room for a few more. Let me know.

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This reminds me of an experience I had in Italy last year. When my husband (He is Bulgarian Orthodox and I am an American man, an Episcopalian) and I visited Castel Gandolfo for a papal audience last summer we wore t-shirts concealed under button-up shirts until Pope Benedict XVI made his grand appearance on the balcony for the Angelus. My t-shirt said in huge letters: "Stercus Accidit" (Latin for "sh*t happens"). My husbands shirt said "Ich bin schwul und das ist auch gut so" (German for "I am gay and it's good like that"). We were really quite close to the balcony there and I am certain Papa Josef saw us because he seemed to be looking at us and smiling benignly (I think the old girl, deep down, really has quite a sense of humor. No one who likes cats as much as he does can be all that bad. And this pope's choice of frocks and hats makes him something of a camp classic). Because of security at St. Peter's Square the crowds are mostly distant from the pope unless he rides through quickly in his popemobile. And chances are a person would get busted by security for wearing slogan shirts in Paul VI Audience Hall (Nervi Hall) or in the Square. And there is a very real chance one could get assaulted by violent, militant, neocon pilgrims from TV network EWTN (the American Catholic Far Right is really The Republican Party at Prayer). At Castel Gandolfo, when the pope got to the words, "Et Verbum caro factum est" I gave my husband a big ole kiss on the mouth in front of the Holy Father. I am fairly certain Papa Josef saw our t-shirts and our hot, man-on-man mouth-kiss. There we were, three big queens --Marko, Nikolai, and Josef-- having warm, ecumenical relations under a beautiful Italian sky. Then we held hands and joined in as Papa Josef began croaking, "Pater Noster, qui es in caelis..." Father Tony, my husband and I are both military men (me former U.S. Army and he is still in the Bulgarian Forces reserves). We both love and venerate St. George a great deal. We have an icon of St. George over our bed. But we believe the dragon that St. George slays is not an animal. The dragon St. George slays is homophobia, exclusion, injustice, racism, poverty, intolerance. I wrote a poem about my husband being a Knight of St. George:
We love you very much, Father Tony. St. George, ora pro nobis! Have fun at Pride. Bulgaria's Rainbow Friendship (pride) March is June 27.

Dear M,
Thanks for the lovely note. When I was first sent to Rome, it was August and the Pope was in Castel Gandolpho escaping the summer Roman heat (as do all Romans). In those days, the American bishops owned a villa that had once belonged to the Orsini family (on the grounds of Nero's summer villa). It was my first time there, and my first time seeing the pope. The intimacy of the Wednesday Papal Udienza in Castel G is so marvelous compared to the cattle run of the Sala Nervi and the Piazza San Pietro. You almost love the pope when you can touch him. Out in the country. Under a glorious Italian summer sky. Almost.

I remember Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I. Oh I probably wouldn't agree with them on some reproductive issues (and human sexuality), but these were very gentle and good pastors. I did see Pope Paul VI at an audience before he died. I was around 14-years-old. Paul VI simply radiated love and I had this total teenage mancrush on him. Yes, I confess I was a teenage Montini groupie. Pope Paul was very open to Anglican Christians and Eastern Christians. I also remember, very well what Pope Paul VI said and did when Aldo Moro was kidnapped and murdered. Never got to see Pope John Paul I in person. Pope Luciani is on the canonization track and someone gave us a relic of him (black fabric from one of his clerical shirts). As I recall, Pope Paul VI died at Castel Gandolfo. That is a very intimate setting and it isn't so damned hot out there in the summer. I certainly don't hate anyone I disagree with. I may poke fun at them. I respected John Paul II and I respect Pope Benedict XVI, but they both seem to lack a certain tact and sensitivity. Papa Roncalli was nuncio in Bulgaria and he made a positive and lasting impression on Bulgarians. There is a street named for him in Sofia. I have been hurt and bewildered by some of the things the current pope and his immediate predecessor have said and done. My spiritual praxis (and the sense of spiritual community I have) are so very important to me, but I am frequently embarrassed by and ashamed of the behavior of so many Christians. We have helped start a food bank in Sofia and are working on trying to find humane solutions (we need an animal shelter) to the stray dog problem in Sofia. We also need more resources for the homeless in Bulgaria. Lots of gay kids end up on the street (which is how we ended up with our son). That is how I try and live out my faith. I started work on an MDiv but I didn't finish. I didn't seek ordination. I do practice Lectio Divina and I love studying the Greek NT texts. We're in the USA (so I can see a doctor at the V.A. Hospital). We sent Father Geoff Farrow (another good man we both love so much) a big icon of Mary that a gay, Bulgarian Orthodox deacon wrote for him. I read the updates on this site and I haven't probed the archives to see what you have written about spirituality. Please feel free to email me any time. Nikolai and I send you our fraternal and loving embrace. Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | June 19, 2009 12:04 AM

Aw Fr. Tony, (combing bits of plaster out of his hair) they didn't invite me.

Good thing you wear your hair short :)

Fun piece... every litter bit helps.

Have a good Parade!

Fr. Tony

It was great meeting you at the HOP meeting.

I hope to talk more.