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ADLIMINA-FLYNN Dec-14-2004 (550 words) With photo. xxxi

Archbishop speaks to Vatican officials about Rainbow Sash protests

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of Minneapolis-St. Paul spoke to Vatican officials about gay rights proponents wearing rainbow sashes to Mass and receiving Communion.

Unlike some other bishops across the country, Archbishop Flynn has allowed Communion to be given to members of the group known as Rainbow Sash. That has prompted criticism by some Catholics in his archdiocese, and at one Mass a group of lay people tried to block the aisles to prevent sash-wearers from receiving Communion.

Archbishop Flynn said he discussed the issue in a private meeting in early December with Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

He said Cardinal Arinze agreed that it was a complex problem requiring clear teaching and pastoral sensitivity. The archbishop said he was not asked to change his policy.

"I got the clear understanding that this is recognized as a very complex pastoral issue which must constantly be looked at in all its ramifications," Archbishop Flynn said in an interview in mid-December.

"It needs to be handled prayerfully and reflectively," he said.

"There was encouragement to keep on teaching and also to be aware of the forces everywhere, including in the United States, that are against the long tradition of the teaching of the church," he said.

Archbishop Flynn said it was recognized that U.S. bishops have come to different conclusions about how to respond to Rainbow Sash members who present themselves for Communion, but he said he got no sense that the Vatican was pushing for a single policy on this.

"We all stand very strong in our teaching concerning human sexuality, and what is right and what is wrong, and the teaching of the church concerning homosexuality, the teaching of the church concerning marriage between one man and one woman," he said.

"Then as you step away from the strong articulation of the teachings, you get into the pastoral practice of what do you do in some of these very difficult and challenging situations," he said.

He said that "sometimes we don't come to the same conclusion about how to handle it."

The church teaches that homosexual acts are contrary to natural law and that the homosexual inclination is "objectively disordered." It also teaches that homosexuals must be accepted with love and respect and that they not be discriminated against.

Some bishops, like Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, have denied the Eucharist to Rainbow Sash members on the grounds that they were using the Eucharist to make a political statement against church teaching.

Archbishop Flynn said sash-wearers would not be denied Communion because members of the movement had assured him in writing that their presence was not in protest of church teachings.

Like several other bishops from the Midwestern group on their "ad limina" visits, required of heads of dioceses every five years, Archbishop Flynn said his meetings with Vatican offices were "very positive exchanges."

On liturgical matters, he said, the bishops were able to report on "the faithfulness of God's people in the United States and the great love they have for the liturgy."

He said the bishops told the Vatican they have not experienced anything in their dioceses that would indicate a lack of faith on the part of the church community regarding the liturgy.


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