The following was a compendium of reported materials and my own reactions from November 12, 2002, after Soulforce‘s nonviolent protest at the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Washington, DC:
from GLBT Catholic group Dignity USA:
Bishops Use Communion as Weapon Against GaysNovember 12, 2002
US Catholic Bishops Meeting, Washington, DC.
US Catholic bishops have been using the Eucharist and other sacraments of the church as weapons against gay and lesbian Catholics for decades, according to leaders of DignityUSA. The statement came after three Catholics who had spent the day protesting outside the bishops’ meeting with the gay-rights group Soulforce were denied Communion at the Bishops’ Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on November 11, 2002.
More information comes from Soulforce co-founder Mel White’s Open Letter to the Bishops, which was written prior to the arrests of group members Kara Speltz, Ken Einhaus, and Mike Perez.
“What happened to these three people is symbolic of what gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics have experienced for decades,” said Marianne Duddy, Executive Director of DignityUSA. “Church leaders have banned us from Catholic churches and ordered priests not to say Mass for us. Bishops have used the Sacraments as a weapon to intimidate us into staying in the closet. They don’t want us to speak out about the fact that we find our sexuality to be a blessing and a gift, and our relationships to be holy.”
“We support our sisters and brothers of Soulforce, and are deeply sorry for the pain that they feel due to our Church leaders’ callous refusal of Communion to them. We believe that Jesus invites all to the table, and this is our practice whenever Dignity meets to celebrate Eucharist,” continued Duddy.
I am appalled and grieving over this — number one, because these three are dear friends of mine, people I love dearly, and secondly, because though I walked away from the Roman Catholic Church — excommunicating the denomination, as it were — I am still quite Catholic at my core. This is nothing less than a betrayal and an affront to God; I feel as if I have been kicked in the chest.
My friends were kept in jail overnight and are still in detention. I was just told that the three will face a pre-trial hearing this afternoon; court-appointed lawyers will represent them. Soulforce DC (of which I am a member) is scrambling to find out more information (for example, their condition, which we simply don’t know at this time). I am frightened and shocked and angry, but I am proud of this trio; they are living their principles and faith. As Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is not a weapon of the weak. It is a weapon of the strongest and bravest.” I just pray they are all right.
Beyond that, I can only quote Jesus: “Forgive them [meaning the bishops and the cops]… they know not what they do.” (Bishops claim it was a mixup.) And I ask all of you to pray for my friends, for all of us who love them, and for justice.
Ultimately, the Soulforce DC-3 were released from detention and later went on trial, where they were found guilty of trespass. The judge presiding over the case, however, refused to punish the three, noting the mistreatment and injustice that they face under the rule of the Roman Catholic Church.
The judge went on to urge Kara, Mike, and Ken to continue their nonviolent work for justice and equality within the nation’s churches. Amen to that, and amen to justice for all God’s children!
Fast-forward to today: Kara, Ken, and Mike are still doing wondrous work for justice; Kara even served as a humanitarian in Baghdad, Iraq, around the time of the US’s shameful invasion of that nation.
Hoping your Saturday is going well. Don’t be shy — share your thoughts on the subjects of LGBT equality, faith communities, and justice. We’ll also be tweeting throughout, so follow us on Twitter: @allfactsandopin. Please take part in Blogathon 2009 and support Soulforce via sponsoring this blog. It feels good. Really.
We’ll be blogging ’til 6am Eastern. Next shot in two-and-two, um, a half hour.