Catholic church with ‘God is trans’ exhibit to host ‘Pride Mass’ at NYC gay monument 

Stonewall Sculptures at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City | Shutterstock

The Catholic church in New York City that hosted a controversial art display called “God is trans” is now hosting a “Pride Mass” at a monument commemorating a June 1969 LGBT uprising.

The Church of St. Paul the Apostle announced that on June 22 it is celebrating a Mass outdoors at the Stonewall National Monument in New York City, a national park associated with the June 28, 1969, uprising at The Stonewall Inn. 

The “Pride Mass” is set to take place in the month the Catholic Church designates the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. June is also the month known as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pride Month,” which LGBT activists designated to commemorate the uprising at a gay bar that was the site of a violent revolt against law enforcement during a police raid.

The Mass will take place in a park where there are gay and transgender pride flags as well as sculptures of two homosexual couples titled “Gay Liberation.”

The park is located in the West Village neighborhood of Greenwich Village, which is approximately four miles from the Church of St. Paul the Apostle on the Upper West Side.

NYC's Church of St. Paul the Apostle is planning to celebrate a June 22 "Pride Mass" in the park at Stonewall National Monument. Shutterstock
NYC's Church of St. Paul the Apostle is planning to celebrate a June 22 "Pride Mass" in the park at Stonewall National Monument. Shutterstock

One moral theologian told CNA that celebrating the Mass with a political end is inappropriate and “possibly sacrilegious.” A canon lawyer has also questioned the liturgical necessity of celebrating the Mass outside of a sacred place, calling the choice of location “opportunistic for sensational reasons.”

The Mass is being sponsored by “Out at St. Paul,” the church’s ministry “to the Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans and Queer community,” which is made up of “mostly gay men,” according to Paul Snatchko, a spokesperson for the Paulist Fathers.

On the Out at St. Paul Facebook page, a notice advertising the Mass says: “Afterwards, the group will head to a nearby bar for fellowship over drinks! All are welcome no matter how you identify or where you are in your faith journey.”

CNA inquired of the Archdiocese of New York whether the church’s scheduled outdoor “Pride Mass” at the monument was approved by the archdiocese.

The archdiocese has not yet responded.

The New York Post on May 7 revealed that the Church of St. Paul the Apostle was hosting an art exhibit that included a display called “God Is Trans: A Queer Spiritual Journey.” A firestorm of criticism erupted online, with many calling the artwork “blasphemous.”

Following concerns expressed by the Archdiocese of New York, the church shortened the name of the art display to “A Queer Spiritual Journey.”

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‘It’s not pastoral’

Father Thomas Petri, OP, a moral theologian and president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., told CNA on Wednesday that the Mass should not be used to make a political statement.

“Certainly it’s understandable and it’s part of our tradition to celebrate Mass in repentance for our sinfulness, which includes any unjust discrimination against a person or a group,” he said.

“However, it would be inappropriate for any Mass to be celebrated with a political end, and with political flags or campaign posters flying in the sanctuary or among the congregation,” Petri said. “It would be impious and possibly sacrilegious because it profanes the very purpose of the Mass: the worship of God by the participation in the body and blood of Christ himself.”

Petri said that the Mass is meant to “turn our minds and hearts to things that are above and not to things below.”

“All the more is this the case for the Mass at Stonewall, where the monument, the statues, and the flags carry a meaning that most people rightly identify with a lifestyle, sexual activity, and an ideology that are all contrary both to the Christian understanding of the human person and to a life of chastity and virtue,” he said.

“Insisting upon this is not to say that those who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria are not discriminated against or are unjustified in their pain or anger,” he said. 

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“Rather, it is to say that reveling in any identity and lifestyle that we know is contrary to living in the freedom of the children of God ultimately damages the soul and can destroy one’s relationship with God,” Petri said.

“It’s not pastoral to facilitate anyone walking that path. There are much better ways to seek justice in the world without abandoning the vocation we all have to grow in holiness,” he said. 

‘It’s just a Mass’

Snatchko told CNA June 6 that the liturgy is called a “Pride” Mass because “it’s happening during ‘Pride Month.’”

“It’s just a Mass that happens right before the Pride weekend in New York City, that’s all. It’s just a Mass. Nothing special happens,” he said.

Snatchko said that the church has held a “Pride Mass” at least four times in the past. 

When asked if attaching the word “pride” to the Mass makes it appear as if the celebration is in support of same-sex acts, Snatchko responded “no.”

The Church of St. Paul the Apostle “isn’t making any statements about anything,” he said. 

Snatchko said that the event is a form of evangelization because hymns will be sung and the word of God will be proclaimed during the Mass in public.

He also said that it is not inappropriate to hold the Mass in the park with the “Gay Liberation” statues of same-sex couples. 

“You’re not seeing a same-sex act happen in those statues,” he said.

‘Stonewall is doubtfully honorable’

Father Philip-Michael Tangorra, a canon lawyer and priest for the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, told CNA Wednesday that Canon 932.1 requires that Mass “must be done in a decent place” if celebrated outside of a sacred place. 

“The first question becomes: What constitutes a ‘decent place’? The Latin is ‘loco honesto,’ an honorable place. Stonewall is doubtfully honorable considering the decor,” he said.

Tangorra said that canon law also requires “necessity” for the Mass to be celebrated outside a sacred place. Necessity is typically constituted by situations such as sickness, old age, and distance from a church, he said.

“There does not seem to be a necessity to celebrate at Stonewall. Rather, this location seems more opportunistic for sensational reasons,” he added.

Celebrating the Mass outside of a church is at the discretion of the priest, according to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, he said. 

Still, all public worship within the diocese or archdiocese is subject to the local ordinary, he said, adding that “the diocesan bishop can order the priest to locate the Mass in a sacred place.”

The diocesan bishop could also direct a priest to celebrate a Mass concerning those who identify as LGBT within certain pastoral and liturgical parameters, such as appropriate attire and the fulfillment of all liturgical norms.

This would allow “our faith and morals be upheld so as to not cause scandal,” he said.

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