In a not-so-surprising move, Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George refused communion to LGBT activist Joe Murray during the recent 25th Anniversary of the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach. This occurred this past Sunday, 16 June. Despite statements that the Catholic Church wanted to treat LGBT people fairly and with respect, very little respect has been given and so far, nothing but a hard line and a lot of scapegoating has gone on by the Church towards LGBT people.
Another twenty-five LGBT and Ally protesters were outside the AGLO Mass held at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. Their protests and the honking of car horns by supporters going passed could be heard throughout the service.
Murray, who is the founder and executive director of the US Rainbow Sash Movement, wore the ubiquitous rainbow sash throughout the service and occasionally turned his back on George during certain parts of the Mass. He was the only protester to go into the church.
When Cardinal George refused to give Murray communion, Murray held open his hands to show those there that he had been denied the Catholic sacrament. Brenna C. Cronin, who had already received her communion felt that this was wrong, and returned to the altar to get another wafer, called a Host.
She gave this to Murray. She later told Windy City Times that “One of my brothers, a member of my community, who is a full and equal member of the body of Christ, was denied communion. So I got back in line and I brought him communion, as I would for anyone else.” Cronin is a lesbian who is involved with the AGLO.
Murray said after the event that “I was denied communion by the Cardinal. I turned to Christ, I walked back open handed, and showed the community that I was denied communion, and Christ, in his mercy, sent me a priest [Cronin] to give me communion.”
He went on to say “It was the individuals who witnessed the Cardinal not giving me communion that were really stunned. They reached and grabbed me as I returned to my pew after being judged by the Cardinal to be a sinner not worthy of any compassion, and told me of their support. I could hear the horns blowing supporting the outside demonstration, could hear the chanting of my brothers and sisters in the GLN outside of the church, and that also gave me courage. But my guardian angels where the women who seemed to get what I was doing; the men felt threatened and showed that … . I think most people were stunned that [they] witnessed this happen—not by my presence, but by the AGLO reaction to that presence.”
Murray also noted that “Then there was crazed individual who kept shouting out for me to sit down when I stood up to turn my back on the Cardinal while he gave his hypocritical message of love. After Mass same individual began bullying the women who had the courage show me support, like the individual who brought me Holy Communion. She gave me strength, and courage. All the while this bullying was going all the board members just watched and smiled. I am not angry just very sad it has come to this type of bullying behavior in God’s house of prayer where all people should be welcome.”
The AGLO refused to allow any recordings or photography at the event. Some members of AGLO had threatened Murray with physical violence.
AGLO has been highly controversial since it was first founded, and is largely made up of older, white men. The Catholic Church’s hardline approach to LGBT rights has resulted in more and more younger members drifting away.
Ahead of the Mass, RSM and another group issued a press release stating that “The Cardinal in his most recent column in the Chicago Catholic New World indicates in the first two paragraphs that he wants to take part in public conversation about gay marriage but closes off further discussion when he says that the subject is closed by reason of Jesus’ statements about marriage in Matthew’s Gospel. We doubt the Cardinal’s sincerity in this matter. He follows up by congratulating those who successfully urged Illinois legislators recently to give no consideration to a bill allowing same-sex marriage in the state. … Clearly he does not agree with the concept of separation of Church and State when it comes to marriage.”
Murray told reporters that “Our message to the Cardinal is simple: hate is easy, love takes courage, and the kind of faith based bigotry he promotes is not welcome in Chicago’s LGBT Community. This visit is especially poignant since it takes place during June which is the month our community celebrates Gay Pride. Cardinal George continues to be a bigot and those who passively support him and do not speak out about this vile homophobia are as much part of the problem as the Cardinal.”