Gay Catholics in NYC barred from entry to mass, threatened with arrest

A group of gay and allied Catholics gathered to worship together at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City with dirty hands in response to comments made by Cardinal Timothy Dolan. However, even as they were gathering, they were told by the police that they would be barred from entering the Cathedral unless they washed their hands.

Joseph Amodeo, who organized the event, tonight issued a statement and is hopeful that an apology will be forthcoming for the inappropriate response to a peaceful demonstration. He told GLAAD: "In the wake of today's events, I only desire to once again feel welcomed in the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese's response to our silent presence, leaves many of us with a feeling of spiritual homelessness."

The incident was organized in response to a blog post written recently by Cardinal Dolan, in which he proclaims that "All Are Welcome!" in the Roman Catholic Church. Dolan's welcome was qualified to say that gay and lesbian people needed to "wash their hands" before they could be truly welcomed.

The Church loves, welcomes, and respects a woman or man with a same-sex attraction . . .  while reminding him or her of our clear teaching that, while the condition of homosexuality is no sin at all, still, God’s teaching is clear that sexual acts are reserved for a man and woman united in the lifelong, life-giving, faithful, loving bond of marriage. (emphasis his)

The message that gay and lesbian people are tainted by dirty hands was too much for Joseph Amodeo. Last year, Amodeo resigned from the Executive Committee of the Junior Board of Catholic Charities and began work with GLAAD after Cardinal Dolan bluntly dismissed the concerns of the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing for homeless LGBTQ youth, many of whom are kicked out of their homes after coming out.

Amodeo organized a silent witness with about a dozen Catholics. They were to enter St. Patrick's Cathedral with dirty hands and attend mass just the way they would any other time. Instead, the group was met with police cars and cathedral security. They were told that unless they washed their hands, they would be arrested upon entering the cathedral.

Some washed their hands to enter. Most stayed outside to display their dirty hands to others. After the event, Joseph Amodeo wrote a personal reflection of his experience and a private meeting with Cardinal Dolan, shared on Believe Out Loud and Huffington Post.

Today, we knocked at the door of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but the door was not opened. Rather, it was slammed in our faces. As I began to write this article, I’m cognizant of the raw emotions that I feel deep inside my heart. It’s a feeling that I’m unfamiliar with because until today, 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.

Nicholas Coppola also participated in the witness. Coppola is the man who was stripped of all his parish duties after marrying his husband. Coppola presented 18,600 signatures with GLAAD to his bishop, asking him to be reinstated, which the bishop returned by mail with a cover letter that read simply, "FROM YOUR FAITHFUL ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP." Coppola now has a Change.org petition, asking to meet and dine with Cardinal Dolan. So far that petition has over 22,000 signatures.

Cardinal Dolan has yet to reply. 

"I've gone from someone who was part of the ministries of our parish, to being just an attendee. Now I have been denied entry to the mass and threatened with arrest. Still, Cardinal Dolan refuses to sit down and talk with us," said Nicholas Coppola, about being refused entry into worship. "I have been struggling to find anything pastoral in Cardinal Dolan's message that we have dirty hands, and we wanted to show that everyone can experience the love of God."

"For Cardinal Dolan to imply that LGBT people are tainted with 'dirty hands' is for him to utterly fail to understand God's creation. There is no dress code to experience the love of God," said Ross Murray, GLAAD Director of News and Faith Initiatives. "Threatening worshipers with arrest displays no grace nor pastoral care. The action clearly tells LGBT people that they are not welcome. For someone who wants to 'do better' at reaching out to LGBT people, Dolan is failing miserably."

Help Nicholas Coppola tell Cardinal Dolan why threatening LGBT people with arrest and locking them out of worship isn't the way to 'reach out' to them. Sign the Change.org petition, inviting Cardinal Dolan to break bread with Nicholas. GLAAD will continue to lift up the story of Nicholas Coppola, and all faithful LGBT Roman Catholic people, who are struggling to remain a part of their faith. Visit www.glaad.org/breakbread for more information. 

Photos from Marriage Equality USA

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