St. Cecilia’s Church promoted it originally as a Mass to “commemorate” and “celebrate” Boston (Gay) Pride month. Then it was postponed–not cancelled–and slightly repositioned in the bulletin notice as an “All are Welcome” Mass to welcome the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender community. It happened on Sunday, July 10, with approval of the Archdiocese of Boston, and the preaching and message were perhaps most noteworthy for what was NOT said.
1) Here’s a video from NECN (sorry, no pieces of the homily captured here, and we do not yet have a recording to post for you):
Note the buttons distributed which almost everyone in the video is wearing, that show the gay rights movement rainbow symbol superimposed on a cross.
The only recorded comment in the video from Fr. Unni is near the end, with him saying,
The Cardinal’s been supportive, he’s been very clear what the Church teaches and what it doesn’t, and he knows I have no other agenda there. That’s not going to please everybody, but that’s the Gospel….My thing is, nobody gets excluded from the door, and nobody gets excluded from the table, and then from there, I’m just assuming we’re all trying to do the best that we can do.”
Hmm. Yes, we know the Cardinal’s been supportive. That’s a big part of the problem. He has been only somewhat clear on what the Church teaches and doesn’t teach by the mixed messages coming out from him and his spokesman. If Fr. Unni has “no other agenda there,” then why has he sponsored speakers who have worked in favor of gay marriage talking in favor of gay marriage, in direct opposition to what the Catholic Church teaches? Fr. Unni, Cardinal O’Malley, and Terry Donilon, can we get an answer to that question? And “nobody gets excluded from the table”? Does that mean that regardless of the level of mortal sin anyone might have committed, and an absence of repentance for that sin, they should still receive the Eucharist?
2) Here are pieces of the Boston Globe’s coverage, “Gays, lesbians draw comfort, support from Catholic Mass“:
The Rainbow Ministry of St. Cecilia’s Church opened its doors to nearly 700 people yesterday for a long-awaited Mass in support of gay and lesbian Catholics, capping a month of controversy over the Boston Archdiocese’s postponement of the service.
A standing-room-only crowd, larger than Easter Sunday’s, packed the pews to hear the Rev. John J. Unni’s characteristically fiery message of love, acceptance, and the forgiveness of sins.
Unni’s message, which encouraged the congregation to welcome outcasts as Jesus did 2,000 years ago, was similar to that of weeks past. The difference yesterday, parishioners said, was Unni’s courage to say those words during a Mass that has drawn so much vitriol as well as passionate support.
His words marked the fifth week of back and forth between the church and the archdiocese, which began when St. Cecilia’s announced in its bulletin an “All Are Welcome’’ Mass, scheduled during Gay Pride Month in support of a sizable gay and lesbian portion of the congregation. Many of those members came from the South End’s predominantly gay Jesuit Urban Center, which closed in 2007.
The announcement brought a storm of criticism from conservative Catholics and bloggers. The archdiocese canceled the service days later, saying the church could not appear to endorse homosexuality.
The day of the canceled Mass, parishioners from St. Cecilia’s Rainbow Ministry, which serves the church’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, held a sidewalk prayer service instead. But Rainbow Ministry members said that was no substitute for a clergy-led Mass inside the church. About three weeks ago, the archdiocese approved the Mass, which Unni said yesterday at 11 a.m.
Leading the processional, Rainbow Ministry president John Kelly walked into the nave in front of Unni, carrying a gold cross.
“I can’t believe this is happening,’’ Kelly later recalled thinking as he approached the altar. “I never thought I’d see this day.’’
After growing up gay in South Boston, Kelly, 69, left Catholicism for more than 20 years before finding compassion and a diverse congregation at the Jesuit Urban Center.
“I went through hell,’’ Kelly said. “But today, I’ve never felt so blessed.’’
Many in the congregation wore “All Are Welcome’’ buttons showing a cross and a rainbow, the symbol of the gay rights movement.
“Thank you for saying, ‘This is who we are,’ ’’ Unni said to gay and lesbian parishioners at the end of Mass. “You are a beautiful and integral part of this parish.’’
Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who attended the service, said he follows the teachings of the Catholic Church for most issues, but on social issues he goes with his heart. The Catholic Church accepts gay and lesbians as humans and Catholics, but considers homosexuality a sin, as it does with extramarital sex between a man and a woman, according to a 2005 letter written by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley.
“Our church talks about coming home,’’ Menino said after the service. “I want to make sure that we welcome everyone.’’
In the hot afternoon sun outside the church, parishioners and visitors attended an alfresco reception and ate ribs, coleslaw, and cupcakes at round tables that dotted Belvidere Street.
“It didn’t make a difference that the Mass was on a different day,’’ said Joseph Sansivero, 67, of Andover, who wore a rainbow-pinstriped shirt. “The message is appreciated.’’
Richard Iandoli, vice chairman of the parish council, said Unni’s message bore special importance because his fearlessness in supporting gay parishioners, who sometimes feel shunned by other Catholics, may encourage other gay and lesbian Catholics to come back to the church.
“The message was the same, but the feel was different than it was in June,’’ said Iandoli, who was a driving force behind the service. “We know all are welcome here, but public affirmation goes a long way.’’
Here are three interesting comments on the Globe’s article:
It is always good to hear that sinners of any kind (all of us) draw support from the Mass. However, the image that is included with the story is unnerving. It seems to portray a man casually leaning on the baptismal fount as though it were a phone booth while two men dance around it. All of this while a priest or deacon looks on! This is definitely not in keeping with Roman Catholic practice and understanding of how sacred places and objects should be treated. I am embarrassed and scandalized to see this kind of thing labeled “Catholic.”
Just a simple question: Since when is Mass about celebrating one’s sexuality? OR welcoming one because of his/her sexuality?? The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was instituted by Christ at the Last Supper when he asked his apostles (and us since we are an apostolic Church) to “Do this in memory of Me.” I don’t recall Christ saying that certain groups were welcome or unwelcome. When we remember that the Mass’s ONLY focus should be Christ in the Eucharist then we won’t have issues of who is welcome or who isn’t. Hey, folks–it’s NOT about us!!! Put your pride in your pocket and realize the REAL reason we attend Mass!! If that’s not why you’re there, then it’s time to re-think your affiliations.
Just one more example of gays needing something “special” or “different” in order to call attention to themselves. I’m a gay man and have been a practicing Catholic all my life. I’ve never NOT felt welcome at Mass or in any Catholic church — and I have never missed Mass in my life. The beauty of true Catholicism and the message of Christ is that it calls us out of ourselves, to be better than ourselves…a Mass such as this one simply calls attention to “ourselves” — “look at us, we’re gay.” How pathetic, yet how predictable. (And so now Mayor Menino’s theological insights make news?? Please…)
3) A report on the Mass from Catholic blogger, Carol McKinley of The Tenth Crusade is here. Here’s a small piece, but do read the whole thing:
Fr. Unni’s homily explained exactly whose souls are inadequately prepared to receive the Word – it’s the ‘hard liners’ and religious authorities who just ‘don’t get it’. You see, Jesus opposed religious authority because He said stupid stuff like everyone was welcome, come to Him wracked with shame, whether you are gay or a prostitute or any other person on the margins. Religious authority and hard liners don’t get it. Remember that Nicodemus came through the roof.
Fortuitously, he read the Gospel of Matthew before and after the parable of the sower and you know what he found? That Christ said if he had gone to Sodom and did what He did for outcasts, they would have gotten it. Get it? No?
He knew this was all going to be open for misinterpretation, but he is not giving the green light -no no – it’s about loving people taking care of other people.
Jesus said ‘these people’ are people who lay heavy burdens and rules upon you but if you come to Him, He will give you rest. Know who you are. God sees who you are and He will give you rest. Stand in your own strength.
Fr. Unni said he was not giving the green light? Well, if he’s not giving the “green light,” then where is the orange or red light? How can promoting gay marriage at your parish not be seen by parishioners and anyone else as “giving the green light”? And if “nobody gets excluded from the table and he assumes everyone is just doing the best they can, how can that not be seen as “giving the green light,” since Unni never preaches about a red light.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Bishop Robert Hennessey, and Fr. Unni are all abdicating their responsibility to teach the truths of the Catholic faith about sexual morality and the path to holiness and salvation to the “GLBT Community” at St. Cecilia’s. It’s clear as day. Whatever little Cardinal O’Malley published in his short statements and whatever The Pilot published that articulated church teaching in this area are clearly NOT being preached and taught at St. Cecilia Church.
When will the Pope, Congregation for Bishops, and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith do something about this is another question?