Editor’s note: Please also read our update: “Gay Catholic Leaders Weigh In On Use Of NYPD To Bar Gay Catholics From St. Pat’s Cathedral“
Cardinal Timothy Dolan today used the NYPD to prohibit from Sunday worship services gay Catholics and their allies by barring their entry into NYC’s historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the iconic home of the Roman Catholic Church in New York.
The small group of silent Catholic protestors were threatened with arrest by a New York City Police detective — unless they first washed their hands.
The ten Catholics, who are LGBT and not LGBT, and even parents of LGBT people, were responding to Cardinal Dolan’s April 25 blog post, “All Are Welcome!,” which tells gay people who wish to participate in the Catholic faith, you must first “wash your hands!” They labeled their actions today a “Dirty Hands Vigil.”
“I have never been denied a seat at Christ’s table. In fact, today marks the first day that I have ever felt disowned, abandoned, and lost,” Joseph Amodeo, organizer of the action, writes at the Huffington Post. He adds that “the ten of us [who] gathered were greeted by four police cars, eight uniformed officers, a police captain, and a detective from the Police Commissioner’s LGBT liaison unit. The detective informed us that the Cathedral would prohibit us to enter because of our dirty hands.”
As we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we were approached by Kevin Donohue, who identified himself as being in charge of operations for the cathedral. Sadly, Mr. Donohue’s tone was both cold and scolding. What astounded me most was when he said that we could enter the cathedral so long as we washed our hands first. Even now, writing those words I find myself struggling to understand their meaning, while coming to terms with their exclusionary nature.
It was at this moment that Mr. Donohue advised us that if we entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral with dirty hands, we would be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Upon hearing those words, I remember standing there thinking, “How can I charged with criminal trespassing in my own home?” It was then that I realized what it meant to be spiritually homeless. This realization was particularly difficult for me in light of the private meeting that I had with Cardinal Dolan on November 27, 2012, at his office in Manhattan. It was during that meeting that he expressed such love and welcome that I find his subsequent “conditional welcome” to be difficult to understand.
In response to the Archdiocese’s threat of arrest, we opted to remain outside where we stood in silent vigil with our palms turned out facing toward the main doors of Cathedral. As the start of the Mass drew near, the temporary steel doors that mark the front of the Cathedral while the original doors are refurbished, seemed to be symbolically appropriate. The cold steel and the means by which the doors closed as we stood outside seem now to capture well the chill that we felt from the Cathedral’s staff as well as the Cardinal. Our peaceful presence was responded to with a resounding “you are not welcome.”
Cardinal Dolan’s comments which prompted the action were in the form of a story he wrote about his childhood and being allowed a seat at the family table with a young friend. Dolan writes his father told his friend Freddie, “looks like you and Tim better go wash your hands before you eat.”
“Simple enough . . . common sense . . . you are a most welcome and respected member now of our table, our household, dad was saying, but, there are a few very natural expectations this family has,” Dolan added. “Like, wash your hands!…”
Amodeo, (image, right) who resigned last year from the board of NYC’s Catholic Charities, told The New Civil Rights Movement today via electronic message that the ”action on the part of the Archdiocese of New York stands in contrast to the radical welcome that Jesus Christ proclaimed throughout his ministry.” He added that it is “sad that the Cardinal is unable to extend the absolute welcome that forms the basis of Christian theology.”
Amodeo also told tNCRM that their action was not a protest but a “vigil,” and “no one was arrested as we opted to remain outside.”
“Although it is not clear who made the decision to ban us from entering the Cathedral,” Amodeo added, “as the seat of the Archbishop, he had to be aware of the situation.”
“At a minimum, the Rector of the Cathedral had to be involved in making this decision.
“The NYPD did confirm that if we entered the Cathedral, we would be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing — a felony,” Amodeo told tNCRM.
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