Friday, June 20, 2014
New Pastor, Parochial Vicar for Most Holy Redeemer
An edited version of this article appeared last week in California Catholic Daily. They did not include what we consider to be one of the most interesting things about MHR, and why it is so hard for pastors there, addressed with utmost brevity in our second to last paragraph (in bold).
On June 2, Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco announced the clergy changes that will take effect in the coming year. The changes included the news that Fr. Brian Costello will be leaving the City’s notorious Most Holy Redeemer parish. Fr. Costello will be replaced by Fr. Jack McClure C.PP.S, who will serve as pastor, and Fr. Matthew Link C.PP.S, who will serve as Parochial Vicar. C.PP.S. is the acronym for Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
On June 6, the National Catholic Reporter ran an article titled “San Francisco’s largest gay parish to get new pastors.” From the article:
“(Fr.) McClure said when Link learned in January that Most Holy Redeemer would be looking for a pastor, he approached McClure and suggested they apply as a team. Eventually, the men met with Auxiliary Bishop William Justice, who heads pastoral ministry for the archdiocese….The Precious Blood Fathers have had an outreach to the LGBT community since 2007. They say the ministry was developed to foster dialogue, reconciliation and justice with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
“Outreach to the LGBT community” won’t be necessary at Most Holy Redeemer. On page 29 of Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey’s chronicle of MHR Gays and Grays: the Story of Most Holy Redeemer Parish, he describes events in the parish, circa 1983: “The two gay men (on the MHR advisory board) suggested we start a gay and lesbian outreach. And that was approved 12 to nothing.” Further down the page he writes: “The Gay and Lesbian outreach Committee—so unique, so bracing, so critically what the parish needed when it needed it—eventually withered away, a victim of its own success, when the entire parish had taken on the work it was formed to begin.” In other words, “gay and lesbian outreach” was no longer necessary because the entire parish had become a locus for the celebration of homosexuality. By 2002, the New York Times was reporting “…about 80 to 90 percent of the members are gay.”
Fr. Brian Costello, the outgoing pastor, truly had the spiritual welfare of his parishioners at heart. Some parishioners did not see it that way. The NCR reported that Fr. Costello had requested a transfer last August, and quoted him:
"It just didn't work out. I did the best I could. My best was just not good enough for a lot of people here," he said. "There are real challenges here, and the truth is I just didn't have the gifts to meet those challenges."
One example of the tension between Fr. Costello and “a lot of people here” occurred early in his tenure. On April 19, 2012 CalCatholic reported that in the previous week transvestites had MC’d/judged a Castro Country Club fundraiser at the parish. The MC went by the name “Laybelline” and the judge “Syphilis Diller.” In October of 2012 the same group wanted to come back, but the Archdiocese and Fr. Costello nixed the event. The homosexual oriented Bay Area Reporter covered the story, and quoted Fr. Costello ““I am the new pastor…There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, ‘No drag queens.’… “I am big on compromising.” Fr. Costello said “[Castro Country Club] would not work with me. It was all or nothing. And they got nothing.”
The Archdiocese eventually made the ban more generally applicable, thus appeasing homosexualist activists. Following the ban, Costello had received push-back from parishioners, which MHR’s business manager, Michael Poma, described as “education.” Poma was quoted in Bondings, the blog of New Ways Ministry: “‘Father Brian wasn’t educated about the importance of drag queens in the gay community…We are part of the community here and to think that we’re banning drag queens is obnoxious and ridiculous.”
Another example was related by Fr. Costello himself in the March 3, 2013 MHR bulletin:
“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.”
The difficulties Fr. Costello experienced, and that Frs. McClure and Link will face, are formidable. Psychologically, the parishioners at MHR are “a chosen people”—a group formed by the shared minority experience of same-sex attraction, followed by the shared experience of an apparently hopeless and fatal epidemic, but one which against all hope was overcome, followed by the shared experience of undreamed-of political victories and power. That “chosen people” attitude was expressed by Fr. Godfrey on page 130 of Gays and Grays: “A parish such as MHR calls the rest of the institution to conversion.” Such an attitude is not conducive to salvation. One comes to the Catholic Church not to convert, but to be converted.
That’s difficult material to work with. If Frs. McClure and Link have an easier time of it than did Fr. Costello, it’s probably a sign they’re doing something wrong.