CHICAGO — Roman Catholic gay-rights supporters wearing rainbow-colored sashes to Mass were denied communion Sunday, while dozens in Minnesota had to walk around protesters to receive the holy sacrament.
About 10 people wearing the sashes stood in line to receive communion at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, but priests refused to give them the Eucharist. One priest shook each person’s hand; another made the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
“The priest told me you cannot receive communion if you’re wearing a sash, as per the Cardinal’s direction,” said James Luxton, a Chicago member of the Rainbow Sash Movement, an organization of Catholic gay-rights supporters with chapters around the country.
An internal memo from Chicago Cardinal Francis George that became public last week instructed priests not to give communion to people wearing the sashes, which the group’s members wear every year for Pentecost. The memo says the sashes are a symbol of opposition to the church’s doctrine on homosexuality and exploit the communion ritual.
“The Rainbow Sash movement wants its members to be fully accepted by the Church not on the same conditions as any Catholic but precisely as gay,” George wrote. “With this comes the requirement that the Church change her moral teaching.”
Rainbow Sash Movement spokesman Joe Murray was among those denied communion in Chicago. He said members wearing the sashes should be seen no differently than a uniformed police officer or Boy Scout seeking communion.
“What we saw today in the cathedral is discrimination at the Eucharistic table, and that shouldn’t be happening,” Murray said. Those denied communion returned to their pews, but stood while the rest of the congregation knelt.
The movement, which started about five years ago in England, also has members in Dallas, New Orleans, New York and Rochester, N.Y.
In St. Paul, Minn., people wearing the rainbow-colored sashes were given communion Sunday despite protests from some parishioners who kneeled in front of the altar blocking their way.
The Rev. Michael Skluzacek said in a written statement that both sides were “mistakenly using the Mass and the Eucharist to make their own personal statements.”
Brian McNeill, organizer of the Rainbow Sash Alliance of the Twin Cities, said the local group has worn the sashes every Pentecost at St. Paul Cathedral since 2001, but the group had never experienced such a confrontation.
The Rainbow Sash Movement received an e-mail Tuesday from the Los Angeles Archdiocese inviting them to Mass on Sunday, but no one wearing sashes showed up for morning or midday Masses at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg said.
A Vatican doctrinal decree last year directed at Catholic politicians said a well-formed conscience forbids support for any law that contradicts “fundamental” morality, with abortion listed first among relevant issues. A second Vatican statement said it is “gravely immoral” not to oppose legalization of same-sex unions.
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