Gay marriage agitated the age-old struggle between faith and sexuality in New York’s Catholic community. As Church conservatives become more guarded, a small group of mostly Irish-American Catholics continue to bless everyone under God’s colorful rainbow. Ines Novacic reports.
Ines Novacic: The Episcopal Church of St John stands unassuming in a line of Greenwich Village buildings. The crowd that files in is also seemingly ordinary. But once inside, everything about the service resists normalcy. This is a Catholic mass in a Protestant Church, led by an openly gay priest. This is a gathering of the religious LGBT community called “DIGNITY”.
Ambience: Church Music, Prayer
Father Jim Morris: Whatever one’s sexual orientation I think needs to be a part of one’s faith.
Novacic: That’s Father Jim Morris. He’s an Irish-American clergyman who’s been in a same-sex relationship for almost 10 years. Morris says he left his diocese in Brooklyn because he longed to be surrounded by people who share his experiences.
Morris: Being a Roman Catholic priest and being a celibate male and not being part of one’s community I found difficult to do.
Novacic: Morris joined Dignity New York in 1993, almost 20 years after it was established by John MacNeill. MacNeill is Irish-American and a gay Jesuit priest. His book entitled ‘The Church and the Homosexual’ spearheaded homosexual theology. Brendan Fay is a member of Dignity who made a documentary film about MacNeill’s work. Fay says that sexuality within religion is a life and death issue.
Brendan Fay: This is not just a conversation about theological documents or religious ideas. People are hurt by the denouncements, by the use of religion in this way.
Novacic: Fay describes DIGNITY as a group of Catholics in exile. This September, he attended a conference about marriage and the family chaired by Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Like most New York Archbishops, Dolan is both conservative and ethnically Irish. Fays says he sat for hours listening to Dolan denounce his community. Dolan summarized his traditional view on marriage in an August interview on the show 60 Minutes.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan on 60 Minutes: Marriage by definition is a man and a woman, for life, giving children.
Novacic: Other Irish-American conservative Catholics have taken to blaming homosexuals for recent Church molestation controversies. As Father Morris closes the Dignity service, the community looks to the beginning of October and the Feast of St Francis. But Fay is among those who wonder why the Church can bless people’s pets, but not homosexual love. Ines Novacic, Columbia Radio News.
Ambience: Morris closes service, Prayer, Church Music