So How Stupid Has the Church Become?

So I am sitting at my computer when the following news story pops up on my screen:

BAR Editorial Asks: Why apologize?
From Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks by thomas c jackson

Why apologize?

San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer gave Communion to two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence a couple weeks ago when he celebrated Mass at Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro. The service was videotaped, and now, of course, the right-wing anti-gay forces are all in lather. Bill O’Reilly gave the incident his “Talking Points” treatment, and apparently the archdiocese received hundreds of angry e-mails.

So Niederauer has issued an apology, but one in which he attempts to place blame on the Sisters who wished to receive Communion. They came into church in their mock habits and in full drag makeup, and he writes that while he has “often seen photographs” of the Sisters, he didn’t recognize them. Why is that their fault? “As I recall one of them wore a large flowered hat or garland,” Niederauer writes in his column, which is online and is to be published Friday in Catholic San Francisco.

Now what struck me about this was that an Archbishop found it necessary to apologize for giving communion to members of the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence”. Huh? Bill O’Reilly gets his undies in a wad and the church receives a few hundred e-mail and this Archbishop feels the need to make them feel better by apologizing because he gave the ultimate act of grace to members of a highly successful community non-profit group?

Let me stop for a second and let the readers catch up. “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is described as follows:

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are “radical genderfuck” artists, [1] activists and self-described 21st century nuns [2] for the queer (gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, lesbian, kink, etc.) communities and they fulfill a unique role for queers, which historically have faced institutionalized religious and governmental demonization and persecution. [3][4] They are highly visible gay icons and social activists and have used their visibility to advance a host of human rights and liberal issues both within the LGBT community and in mainstream society. The most visible and well known is Sister Roma.

The international network of Orders is mostly non-profit charity organizations within their countries, raising money for AIDS, other LGBT-related charities and mainstream community service organizations, helping lead the campaign for safer sex and harm reduction, [4] performing modern ritual and educating on various issues and against hate crimes.

The Sisters have been considered controversial by various members both within and outside the LGBT and queer communities but have gotten the harshest criticism for obvious parodies of Catholic icons and policies.

Originally, the organization included only gay male nuns, but it now includes people of all genders and orientations including intersex, homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, and transgender.

From San Francisco, Sister Hellen Wheels, Sister Kitty Catalyst O.C.P. and Sister Flora Goodthyme at SF’s club Mezzanine for Michael Brandon Blessing photo: Mark Englelhart

The organization was started in 1979 in San Francisco, California, and has more than six hundred nuns worldwide [5] with new members joining regularly and new houses being established.

The San Francisco Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have raised well over $1,000,000 and distributed it to non-profit organizations that serve not only the queer and sex positive communities but also mainstream organizations that don’t discriminate their charity work such as the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund [citation needed] and women’s breast cancer charities including Wendy’s Hope. [6]

The Sisters’ state vows to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt [7] while serving their respective communities.

This incredible group and their work have spread all over the world. Chapters can be found all over Europe, South America and of course here in the United States where there are 16 chapters from coast to coast. They have saved untold number of lives with their acts of charity and education.

So why shouldn’t two members of this group get communion? Because they poke fun at the Roman Catholic Church with their satire through activism, dress and actions?

Or maybe it is because they have raised money for the wrong groups. I wonder if the good Archbishop would have felt differently if they had raised a million dollars for the Roman Church to continue it’s pay offs of their latest scandal?

Of course if the afore mentioned is reason to deny one communion then I suspect there are many Roman Catholics who should be turned away right along with the sisters.

The “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence” offered these statements as part of a press release concerning this whole event:

“…We would like to take this opportunity to state again that, contrary to the spin of right-wing fanatics, that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence do not “mock nuns” but live “as nuns,” taking vows that affirm the traditional compassionate and justice-seeking ministries of religious women, extending their reach beyond the convent walls to those most in need. We are open and supportive of all forms of spirituality that teach respect for human life, diversity, freedom and community, including those of the Catholic Church. In fact, we have given several thousand dollars in grants to several religious-based organizations, including Most Holy Redeemer.

It is no secret that our vows sometimes call us to challenge the dogmas and hypocrisies of the Catholic hierarchy, in the same way they call us to confront politicians and even leaders within the queer community whenever they use their power and influence to promote fear, shame, division, and self-hatred. It is a bittersweet irony that these same forces of fear and shame now use the media to twist a moment of genuine communion into another justification for policies that harm people of faith and members of the LGBTQ community.

In keeping with our vows to expiate stigmatic guilt and promulgate universal joy, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence call on all people of good faith to oppose those who would desecrate the sanctity of a church and defile a moment of true communion for cheap political gain. In a world wracked by violence and fear, we have no time for such lies and will continue to serve our community by boldly proclaiming that joy is more powerful than shame.

We extend our sincerest gratitude and affection to the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer and hope that their new Archbishop continues to walk with them in service to the gospel of joy and justice.”

According to Roman Catholic Catechism the benefits of the Sacrament of Holy Communion are:

“The benefits of this sacrament are pointed out by the words, given and shed for you for the remission of sins. These words assure us that in the sacrament we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”

Therefore, people who take Communion usually have some sense of where they are at (or not at) with God. They want to be where Jesus is. Maybe it’s because they know they need Jesus, or because they just love Jesus, or because they want to follow Jesus. When they come for communion, they’ve come to the right place. That’s where Jesus is.

So these two folks simply within their faith and love for God came to where Jesus is and the Archbishop found it appalling this happened and apologized. Of course he wasn’t too appalled till Bill O’Rielly and a few hundred religious fanatics were. Now I ask you, how stupid is that?

The Archbishop said he did not recognize who they were. Well of course he didn’t.

Instead what he saw were Christ’s sheep in need of nourishment, grace and love. In that moment of Sacrament it mattered not who they were but rather they were of Christ’s flock.

Now I don’t care how you spin it, but to apologize for that is just plain stupid.

Rev. Paul M. Turner

About Rev. Paul M. Turner

Founding and Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church, Rev. Paul M. Turner grew up in suburban Chicago and was ordained by the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches in 1989. He and his husband Bill have lived in metro Atlanta since 1994. He is the editor of the Seeds of Hope blog whose posts from 1999-2005 are at http://whosoever.org/seeds/ -- and which now resides at https://gentlespirit.org/topics/blog/seeds-of-hope/.