BOSTON, June 23, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The Archdiocese of Boston has strongly denied that a rescheduled Mass initiated by the Rainbow Ministry of St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church will celebrate gay pride and said that Cardinal Seán O’Malley’s handling of the situation has been unfairly maligned.

“I can tell you unequivocally: this Mass is not a celebration of gay pride week, month,” a spokesman for the diocese told LifeSiteNews.com Thursday, echoing a statement issued by Cardinal O’Malley yesterday.

In that statement O’Malley had said that the “philosophical and political agenda of Gay Pride in relation to marriage and sexual morality is incompatible with the Church’s teachings. For that reason, [St. Cecilia pastor Rev. John] Unni rescheduled a Mass of welcome for all his parishioners to a time that would not associate the Mass with the Gay Pride agenda.”

O’Malley said, “Catholics who have same sex attractions are often criticized by their friends for coming to Mass,” and that those close to such individuals “are distressed that their loved ones feel rejected by their Church.”

“We want all baptized Catholics to come to Mass and be part of our community, but we cannot compromise the teaching of the Church rooted in Scripture and tradition,” he said.

O’Malley called the confusion surrounding the event “regrettable” and referred to his previous statements on his blog and an editorial in The Boston Pilot as sources of clarification on Church teaching.*

On Sunday, Rainbow Ministry supporters holding a prayer service in place of the Mass celebrated when the archdiocese announced that the Mass had not been cancelled, as initially believed, but rescheduled for July 10.

In its announcement of the rescheduled Mass, the archdiocese referred to “a Mass welcoming the wider community of the faithful, including gays and lesbians,” and said, “We respect the desire of those individuals organizing and participating in the prayer service.”  The Boston Globe reported the news Sunday with the headline, “Mass marking gay pride is back on.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Terrence Donilon on Thursday said he had unsuccessfully asked the Globe to change its headline.

“The Church has not and will not be put in such a position where it appears we are going back on our word that we will not support such activities,” said Donilon in a telephone interview Thursday with LifeSiteNews.com. “I can tell you unequivocally: this Mass is not a celebration of gay pride week, month - it is the welcoming Mass for the homosexual community and the wider community.” Donilon said that the archdiocese had spoken directly with Rev. Unni on the matter.

LSN asked whether the archdiocese had communicated to leaders of the Rainbow Ministry that the Mass was not a celebration of gay pride. The original statement in the St. Cecilia’s church bulletin announcing the Mass had explicitly invited “all friends and supporters of the LGBT community to a Mass in celebration of Boston’s Pride Month.”

Donilon said, “They’ve read our words, obviously, and they’re clearly .... part of a parish that’s very aware of where the archdiocese is coming from.”

Referring to the statement that the archdiocese “respect[s] the desire of those individuals organizing and participating in the prayer service,” LSN asked: “To clarify, does the archdiocese condone their desire to hold a mass celebrating gay pride, or is that desire unacceptable?”

“The Church is not celebrating Gay Pride Week/Month/activities,” Donilon responded. “I think the Cardinal’s message sent earlier is pretty clear on that.”

The spokesman also shot back at criticism of the archdiocese’s handling of the situation from Catholics on the blogosphere.

“I’m not going to let these people attack the Cardinal’s integrity nor his 40 plus years of priesthood,” said Donilon, defending O’Malley’s record defending the unborn and marriage, and calling the attacks “outrageous and disgraceful.”

“This isn’t about defending Catholicism, this is about hurting, defaming, denegrating people, and speaking mistruths, and manipulating words and positions of the cardinal and archdiocese. I think they’re malicious,” said Donilon. “I’m talking both conservative and liberal bloggers.”

Note: This article had originally suggested that The Boston Pilot editorial referred to by Cardinal O’Malley was authored by the cardinal. This is incorrect. It was authored by the Pilot’s staff.