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 CNS Story:

SASH-PENTECOST (UPDATED) May-17-2005 (870 words) xxxn

People wearing rainbow sashes denied Communion in St. Paul, Chicago

By Agostino Bono
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- People wearing rainbow sashes to show support for gay and lesbian Catholics were denied Communion in the Archdioceses of Chicago and St. Paul-Minneapolis on Pentecost Sunday, which was May 15.

In the Los Angeles Archdiocese, meanwhile, members of the Rainbow Sash Movement decided not to wear their distinctive sashes at Masses because of the "warm welcome" they said gays and lesbians receive in the archdiocese.

In the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese, priests at the Cathedral of St. Paul refused to give Communion May 15 to about 150 people who were wearing rainbow sashes, but invited them to come forward for a blessing.

Several sash wearers removed their sashes and were given Communion; they included a man who also removed his shirt as he approached the priest and received the Eucharist shirtless.

The refusal was in keeping with a newly announced policy by Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis after consultation with Vatican officials. Previously, sash wearers were allowed to receive Communion in the archdiocese.

In Chicago, a policy against giving Communion to sash wearers has been in force for several years and those wearing the sash were again refused Communion May 15. But a nun and three lay people who received Communion at Holy Name Cathedral said that they shared pieces of their consecrated hosts with sash wearers.

For several years the national Rainbow Sash Movement has asked its members to attend Masses on Pentecost Sunday, wearing their multicolored sashes to indicate that "we are gay, lesbian and Catholic" and to illustrate their desire for dialogue with church officials on gay and lesbian issues.

The wearing of the sash has been increasingly interpreted by bishops as a sign of protest against church teachings on homosexuality.

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

The decision not to wear sashes at Masses in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles in Los Angeles came after the Rainbow Sash officials received an e-mail from Tod Tamberg, director of media relations for the archdiocese.

The May 13 e-mail said that Rainbow Sash members "will be most welcome to attend any of our Masses" on Pentecost Sunday.

Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony "has consistently spoken to the faithful in Los Angeles about being respectful and inclusive of our Catholic brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian," said Tamberg's e-mail.

Tamberg told Catholic News Service May 16 that he attended all the Masses at the cathedral and saw no one wearing a sash.

Archbishop Flynn, in a May 2 letter to Brian McNeil of the Rainbow Sash Alliance USA in Minneapolis, announced his new policy of refusing Communion to sash wearers.

"The Vatican has communicated to me that it does indeed consider the wearing of the rainbow sash during reception of Communion to be unacceptable, a directive that I believe all bishops will adhere to," said the archbishop's letter.

"It has become apparent to me that the wearing of the sash is more and more perceived as a protest against church teaching," said Archbishop Flynn.

Sash wearers in St. Paul sang "We Shall Overcome" before and after the Pentecost Mass and said their action was not a protest.

Before the Lord's Prayer, Father Michael Skluzacek, cathedral rector, asked people wearing the sash to remove them as a sign of unity before approaching for Communion.

"If not, you are welcome to come forward for a blessing," said Father Skluzacek.

Victoria Welle received Communion although she was wearing a rainbow-colored ribbon. She began breaking up the host and distributed the pieces to sash wearers around her.

"I'm a eucharistic minister, and I felt it was appropriate to offer the body of Christ" to others, she said.

In Chicago, a statement by Dominican Sister Donna Quinn, director of the National Coalition of American Nuns, and Rick Garcia, director of an Illinois gay rights organization, said that they and Joseph and Barbara Parot of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays shared their Communion hosts with sash wearers.

Garcia told CNS that four people who wore sashes were given a blessing but were denied Communion. Garcia added that he and Sister Quinn and the Parots then went to the pew where the four sash wearers were sitting and broke their consecrated hosts in half to share with them.

"It is a scandal that the body of Christ would be denied to a baptized Catholic who approached the altar simply because of what he or she was wearing," said Sister Quinn.

Father Dan Mayall, cathedral pastor, said that the people who reportedly shared their hosts with sash wearers apparently did not do so publicly.

Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George has said that his policy draws a distinction between homosexuality and a protest against church teachings. Sash wearers are refused Communion not because they are homosexuals but because they are openly protesting what the church teaches, the cardinal has said.

- - -

Contributing to this story was Emilie Lemmons in St. Paul and Tom Sheridan in Chicago.


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