[Content note: homophobia, religious bullying and rejection. This post is written from an explicitly Christian perspective.]
On Sunday, at the episcopal seat of Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, 10 Catholic LGBT* folk and their allies were barred, on threat of arrest by the NYPD, from entering St. Patrick's Cathedral and joining their fellow Catholics at Mass.
Their crime? Entering with ash-covered hands, a silent protest against Cardinal Dolan's April 25 blog post that demanded queer Catholics (who were compared to lapsed alcoholics and exploitative employers) must "wash their hands" before they sit at the table of their Lord.
Turns out, the Archbishop wasn't being metaphorical:
"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,” Joseph Amodeo, organizer of the action, writes at the Huffington Post. He adds that “the ten of us [who] gathered were greeted by four police cars, eight uniformed officers, a police captain, and a detective from the Police Commissioner’s LGBT liaison unit. The detective informed us that the Cathedral would prohibit us to enter because of our dirty hands.”
"As we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral, we were approached by Kevin Donohue, who identified himself as being in charge of operations for the cathedral. Sadly, Mr. Donohue’s tone was both cold and scolding. What astounded me most was when he said that we could enter the cathedral so long as we washed our hands first. Even now, writing those words I find myself struggling to understand their meaning, while coming to terms with their exclusionary nature."It was at this moment that Mr. Donohue advised us that if we entered St. Patrick’s Cathedral with dirty hands, we would be arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Upon hearing those words, I remember standing there thinking, “How can I charged with criminal trespassing in my own home?” It was then that I realized what it meant to be spiritually homeless."
It was then that I realized what it meant to be spiritually homeless.
Homeless, because they refuse to accept the Cardinal's assertion that same-sex relationships are comparable to having dirty hands at the family dinner table.
Rejected from the table of Jesus of Nazareth, defender of those considered ritually unclean by much of society.
And not only rejected, but scolded and threatened with arrest by the secular power.
And for what? For disagreeing about being labeled "dirty."
I have quite literally been crying as I write this, because I can't help but feel empathy for Amodeo, for all the "spiritually homeless," locked out in the cold when they seek spiritual fellowship and solace. I am depressed at the hubris of Dolan and men like him, who dare to claim the authority of Jesus, yet forget his most basic lessons.
(Hint #1: it wasn't the poor and outcasts that made Jesus angry when he found them in the Temple.)
It goes without saying that I disagree with Dolan too. We have nothing to fear from love.
But even if I shared his opinion, I'd like to think that wouldn't make me literally bar the door. I personally couldn't ignore the words of worshipers at Mass: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you; but only say the word and I shall be healed." It's not humanity's call, but God's. By barring the door based on a sincere and prayerful difference of opinion, Cardinal Dolan is effectively denying the ability of God to make communicants worthy, no matter what their sins may or may not be. Yes, it's true that he has the authority to do this in canon law. But should he?
Well, since God, not Timothy Dolan, is supposed to be the omniscient one, I don't think so. It sounds rather like the sin of Pride to me, saying "THIS shall be barred, but not THAT." Sinful pride is the arrogant hubris that grinds down the powerless in order to shore up one's own self-image and authority. You are picking on the gay folk you consider sinful, Cardinal Dolan, singling them out in a way that you don't single out, say, uncharitable rich people, whom you also criticize. I think your rules are wrong, but even by your own rules, that makes you a bully. A loud, prideful, bully.
And there are victims: those people barred at the door, out in the street, spiritually homeless. The problem isn't the protestors' hands. It's Cardinal Dolan's dirty mind. For it takes a prideful, sooty, dirty mind to not only blatantly turn away from the example of Jesus, but to do it in Jesus' very name.
(Hint #2: it wasn't Jesus who used secular power against those who disagreed with him.)
Clean up your mind, Cardinal Dolan, and open your heart. You might start to see people's hands very differently.