Pastor Removes Pope's Picture for Fear of Offending LGBT Members

Rev. Brian Costello, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic parish in San Francisco, wrote in his March 3rd church bulletin that he decided to remove a picture of now-Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in order not to offend members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community.

Father Costello wrote in his bulletin:

Two weeks ago, after Pope Benedict XVI had announced to the world that he would be resigning the office of Peter as of February 28th, I put the Pope’s picture, that usually hangs in the rectory, in the church. A handful of people told me that they would rather it not be there. They explained that the feeling was while he was Pope, as well as his time as a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had made hurtful and hateful statements regarding the LGBT Community and thus, his picture should not be placed on the altar of MHR [Most Holy Redeemer]. I was also warned, many parishioners would walk out of Sunday Mass if the picture was not removed. I spoke with a close priest friend of mine, and even though both of us were saddened by this, the wisest course, I felt, was to remove the Pope’s picture.

In his book-interview with German journalist Peter Seewald entitled Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, the former pontiff was asked whether the Church’s teachings that homosexuals deserve respect is contradicted by its position that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

Pope Benedict responded:

No. It is one thing to say that they are human beings with their problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against because of it.

At the same time, though, sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and direction, which is not homosexual. The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring about the union of man and woman and, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future.

The pope said that this is a position to which the Church must hold firm, “even if it is not pleasing to our age.”

In his letter to parishioners, Father Costello disclosed his reasoning behind his decision to remove the pontiff’s picture:

I continued to think and pray about this and started to think about the bigger picture: How do we deal with the Pope, the Archbishop, Priests, Family and Friends that don’t understand or accept us as we are? Do we banish them from our lives, or do we pray as Jesus did while dying on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” I think in learning to forgive, and embrace the Pope and the Church, even when they don’t accept us, we learn to do the same for our own family and friends, and in the end, grow to be more accepting of our own failures and limitations. I find that forgiving people’s shortcomings, including the Pope’s, makes it easier for me to forgive my own shortcomings.

Blogger Gibbons J. Cooney has chronicled Most Holy Redeemer’s reportedly long history as a “gay parish,” rather than a “Catholic parish.”

Because the real lived religion at MHR is the celebration of homosexuality, things or persons that support this celebration will be experienced as orthodox; conversely, things or persons that assert Catholic teaching when it conflicts with the celebration of homosexuality will be experienced as blasphemous. Observe MHR’s variety of ecumenism. Like all religions, the religion at MHR is quite willing to practice ecumenism when there is nothing vital to its identity at stake. As long as that's the case, MHR is perfectly happy to accommodate other denominations.

Last August, the Huffington Post reported that MHR was “feeling the heat” after Father Costello was pressed by the archdiocese to ban drag queens on the church’s premises. The Castro Country Club, a “local gay recovery group” was told it could no longer have drag queens as entertainment during its annual fundraiser in the church, as it had in the past. The club’s board of directors, claiming it could not abide by the regulation, decided to move the event elsewhere.

Costello, who took over for former pastor Rev. Steve Meriwether, said he told the Country Club representative, “That is not going to work under the present circumstances.”

Costello indicated he asked the club representative to “work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property.”

The change in policy at the San Francisco parish was met with charges of discrimination and homophobia.

According to Lifesite News, MRH’s former pastor, Rev. Meriwether, famously supported the church’s celebration of the homosexual lifestyle. A former archdiocesan chancellor, Meriwether would bless Gay Pride Parade participants with holy water. He was demoted, however, after he hosted the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group of men dressed in flamboyant nun habits who entertain by mocking the Catholic Church. The group sponsored a lewd fundraiser whose prizes included pornographic DVDs and sex toys.

Costello, who said that he himself was “big on compromising” with the Castro Country Club, admitted, “We have had bad experiences” with the drag queens, “not only in church, but also the [social] hall.”

Gay rights advocates have expressed distress over Pope Benedict’s appointment of new Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, an outspoken defender of Catholic teaching on sexuality, to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Cordileone had arrived from the Diocese of Oakland, where he had been a prominent force behind Proposition 8, the state’s amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Cordileone had also issued an ultimatum to the Oakland-based Catholic Association for Lesbian and Gay Ministry, informing the group after a year of discussion that he would declare it “not authentically Catholic” if it would not endorse traditional Church teaching on sexuality.

Joe Murray, co-founder of the Chicago-based Rainbow Sash Movement, a group that advocates a change in Church teaching to welcome open homosexuality, warned that the changes instituted by Cordileone are indicative of coming conflict.

At the time of the announcement of Cordileone’s appointment, Murray said, “The appointment of Archbishop-elect Cordileone has brought this matter to a head.”

Breitbart News’ attempts to contact Father Costello or a parish spokesperson received no response.


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