By Peter J. Smith
CHICAGO, May 18, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Homosexualist activists belonging to the Rainbow Sash Movement (RSM) are planning to demonstrate at Catholic Cathedrals and parishes across the United States this Sunday. They have targeted particularly Cardinal Francis George of the Chicago Archdiocese, since he is the head of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has publically engaged in promoting and preserving the natural definition of marriage and family in civil law.
The RSM is an organization of activists that link together and coordinate through the internet. Ordinarily they wear a 2-inch wide ribbon of rainbow colors across their shoulders, and on Pentecost Sunday they present themselves to receive Holy Communion in Cathedrals and parishes across the nation while wearing the sash.
The protest challenges the Church's teaching that engaging in homosexual behavior is harmful and constitutes a “mortal sin.” Under Church teaching, a Catholic cannot receive Holy Communion while in a state of mortal sin, and must first repent of the sin and confess it to a priest before he can be re-admitted to the sacrament.
“[W]e will directly challenge Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, current president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Holy Name Cathedral at the 11 AM Mass on Pentecost Sunday, May 23, 2010, along with other Bishops nationally and internationally to highlight their homophobia,” said a release from the organization.
The release accused the Church of “institutionalized homophobia,” went after the Church’s opposition to condoms as a legitimate means to stop the spread of AIDS and accused the pope of making “attacks on gay and lesbian families.” The latter is likely a veiled reference to the pope’s statements at Fatima in Portugal recently, in which he characterized same-sex “marriage” alongside abortion as amongst “today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good.”
Joe Murray, executive director of RSM, said, “Our purpose is to try to put out the dialogue in a very respectful way. Our presence – you wouldn’t know if we were there if we weren’t wearing the rainbow sash. It’s kind of like going into a Catholic Church on St. Paddy’s Day. You wouldn’t know the Irish were there if they weren’t wearing green.”
However, the wearing of the sash has proved divisive, and on many occasions has been a source of tension, spectacle, and distraction in Catholic churches on Pentecost Sunday.
A number of reported incidents have involved sash-wearers attempting to steal consecrated hosts, and turning their backs on the altar for the rest of Mass once they are denied communion.
Murray said that his activists do not see themselves as being “radicals.” He said that they are “calling for dialogue with the Catholic Church around the issue of sexuality.”
But Jeff Field, Director of Communications for the Catholic League, said that RSM is “just grandstanding” and not engaging in true dialogue.
“They know that the Church is not going to budge on its stance on gay marriage and what have you,” he told LSN.
“This event that they’re going to be demonstrating inside a church – it’s just grandstanding,” said Field. “We don’t have any objections to holding a protest outside a house of worship or venue of that sort. But once you take it inside and cause a disruption and cause a distraction, it’s not for dialogue.”
Cardinal George has defended the U.S. bishops’ policy, which was later reaffirmed by the Vatican, to deny communion to RSM protesters. He wrote in 2004: “The policy of the U.S. Bishops’ conference, a policy I did not invent, was to refuse Communion to anyone who used its reception as an occasion to protest against the Church’s teaching.”
In the past, the Rainbow Sash movement has received welcome in a handful of U.S. dioceses. Archbishop Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, and Bishop Matthew Clark of Rochester have all at one time or another welcomed members of the RSM to receive communion.
But times have changed, and two of the four are already retired, and Mahony is sharing responsibility of the archdiocese with his successor, who will take full control when Mahony retires next year.
Joe Murray told LSN that while he would be reluctant to say if any diocese had invited members of the RSM, he said no diocese had extended them a welcome this year.