“Two weeks ago, after Pope Benedict XVI had announced to the world that he would be resigning the office of Peter as of February 28th, I put the Pope’s picture, that usually hangs in the rectory, in the church. A handful of people told me that they would rather it not be there. They explained that the feeling was while he was Pope, as well as his time as a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had made hurtful and hateful statements regarding the LGBT Community and thus, his picture should not be placed on the altar of MHR. I was also warned, many parishioners would walk out of Sunday Mass if the picture was not removed. I spoke with a close priest friend of mine, and even though both of us were saddened by this, the wisest course, I felt, was to remove the Pope’s picture.”
Who would have thought that parishioners in a Roman Catholic church would demand the removal of a picture of the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church? Well, we pretty much did, and back in 2007, we told you so.
Fr. Costello may not have realized it, but by putting a picture of the pope in Most Holy Redeemer Church, he was committing an inadvertent act of blasphemy. On August 28, 2007 we reviewed Fr. Donal Godfrey, SJ’s just-released book Gays and Grays: The Story of the Inclusion of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish. We wrote that Fr. Godfrey’s book “…shows that the authentic community-forming experience at Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco is not Catholicism, but homosexuality. Existentially, Most Holy Redeemer is not a Catholic parish. It is not a Christian parish. It is a gay parish.” We then provided evidence for this assertion. We documented where and when celebrations of homosexuality were promoted, despite being in obvious conflict with Church teaching. Further, we documented instances where the larger Church had opposed the celebration of homosexuality, and was met with direct opposition by MHR parishioners and staff.
Because the real lived religion at MHR is the celebration of homosexuality, things or persons that support this celebration will be experienced as orthodox; conversely, things or persons that assert Catholic teaching when it conflicts with the celebration of homosexuality will be experienced as blasphemous. Observe MHR’s variety of ecumenism. Like all religions, the religion at MHR is quite willing to practice ecumenism when there is nothing vital to its identity at stake. As long as that's the case, MHR is perfectly happy to accommodate other denominations.
Note the endless parade of non-Catholic and anti-Catholic speakers at Most Holy Redeemer (a situation which appears to have improved under Fr. Costello). Whatever their denomination, what they have in common is the celebration of homosexuality. Such speakers include Fr. Godfrey himself; the Reverend Vincent Pizzuto, who left the Catholic Church to be ordained in a church that performs same-sex “weddings”; Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, who “married” another man; open lesbian Episcopal Reverend Jane Spahr who celebrates same-sex “marriages”; same-sex “married” Episcopal Reverend John Kirkely; Ora Prochovnick, past president of San Francisco’s Reform Jewish “LGBTQ” Congregation Sha’ar Zahav; the Reverend Jeff Bart, from the homosexual-founded Metropolitan Community Church--the list could be extended, but we will stop here. That practically none of the speakers are Catholic is negatively significant: it just shows that Catholicism is not the formative identity at MHR. It also shows that for MHR, one's sectarian affiliation is irrelevant--what matters is one's attitude towards the celebration of homosexuality. That is the issue on which compromises will not be made, where differences will not be tolerated, because that is the real lived religion, not Catholicism.
Because the celebration of homosexuality is the real religion, activities that would be considered blasphemous and sacrilegious in a Catholic church are not experienced as such at MHR. Note the hosting (now apparently discontinued) over a period of years of the anti-Catholic Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, or of the actually sado-masochistic groups Golden Gate Guards, Inter-Club Fund, Defenders, Exiles and others at MHR’s parish’s hall. Such activity would obviously be considered blasphemous and sacrilegious at a Catholic parish. But as we wrote in 2007: “…such events will not be experienced by the parishioners as blasphemous, because they validate the community-forming experience…” And we noted, and provided examples of, the inevitable corollary: “Indeed, at this point, what will be experienced by the parishioners as blasphemous is that which denies the value of the community-forming experience…”
All of which brings us to Fr. Costello and the picture of Pope Emeritus Benedict. The Pope, the successor to St. Peter, the Vicar of Christ on earth, who holds the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Father, who authoritatively proclaims the teaching of the Church, and whose concern is our salvation. But one of those teachings is that homosexual acts are sinful, and, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “In no way can they be condoned.” Fr. Costello wanted to put Benedict’s picture on the altar, in thanksgiving for a lifetime of work in the Church. Given the religion at MHR, as we have described it above, is it any wonder the parishioners refused to allow it?
Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney