The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has forbidden one of its parishes, St. Joan of Arc Church, from holding a “gay pride” prayer service because the event violates the teachings of the Church.
St. Joan of Arc Church has held the service for several years in conjunction with the Twin Cities Pride Celebration, according to the Associated Press. After discussions between the parish’s associate pastor and the archdiocese, the parish will hold a “peace” service in its place.
An announcement last week in the St. Joan of Arc parish bulletin said that a prayer service had been scheduled in the church for Wednesday at 7 p.m. “to celebrate and give thanks for the gifts of our Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered community.”
“This service is part of Pride week in the Twin Cities,” the announcement continued.
Archdiocesan spokesman Dennis McGrath said that the service’s use of the descriptor “LGBT” was “not possible on church property.”
“We suggested they shift it, change the nature of it a little bit, and they did," McGrath continued. “The reason is quite simply because it was a LGBT pride prayer service, and that is really inimical to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
David McCaffrey, co-founder of the homosexual activist group Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, characterized the action as an attack from Archbishop John Nienstedt, who took over the archdiocese in May.
McCaffrey wrote in an e-mail to supporters that the ban was “yet another volley of dehumanizing spiritual violence directed at LGBT persons and their families under Archbishop Nienstedt's reign of homophobic hatred."
McGrath said that the prayer services were not canceled in past years because the archdiocese was not aware of them.
“It was not something that happened because there's a new regime," McGrath stated, saying that the previous archbishop, Harry Flynn, would have taken similar action.
In 2007, Archbishop Flynn prohibited a Mass from being celebrated at a symposium exploring the conflict between homosexuality and Catholicism, saying Catholics should not be misled into believing the speakers’ views had Church sanction. In 2006, he supported a proposed state amendment banning homosexual marriage.
According to the Associated Press, McGrath said Archbishop Nienstedt is following Catholic doctrine, adding “the church welcomes people with same-sex attractions among its worshippers.”
"The distinction is people who fully adapt to the GLBT lifestyle are not permitted to receive the sacraments or be the subject of a prayer service that endorses that lifestyle," McGrath said.
In a phone conversation with CNA, McGrath confirmed that the archdiocese had not been previously aware of the event, saying numerous phone and e-mail contacts had brought the event to the archdiocese’s attention.
Contrary to earlier reports, McGrath said, the archdiocese did not suggest a peace service. Rather, the associate pastor had asked if a peace service could be held in place of the gay pride service at the scheduled time.
McGrath, who said he was acting in Archbishop Nienstadt’s absence, said he did not see how anybody could object to the peace service, “as long as the service was not ‘a rose by any other name’” and not dedicated to the same cause as the gay pride prayer service.
He emphasized to CNA that the parish typically had regular prayer services on Wednesday and that the service was not a once-a-year event.
St. Joan of Arc Church “tends to be very liberal parish,” McGrath told CNA. He reported that he and the archbishop have received several phone and e-mail messages from parishioners critical of the decision.
McGrath said he has told critics “we embrace and welcome people with same-sex attractions and are directed to do so by the Vatican.” He said he cites in his responses a 1992 document signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later was elected Pope Benedict XVI.
However, McGrath said that welcoming these persons “does not include acceptance of a lifestyle that includes sexual relations between people of the same sex. Linking a prayer service dedicated to the full GLBT lifestyle on sanctified church property is not acceptable.”