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Issue Date:  November 2, 2007

Carol Curoe and her father, Robert Curoe
Parish cancels talk by father and lesbian daughter


At the urging of an archdiocesan official, the pastor of a Minneapolis Catholic parish canceled a scheduled talk by a Catholic man and his daughter about how the family coped with the daughter’s coming out as a lesbian.

Robert Curoe and his daughter, Carol Curoe, were to speak Oct. 22 at St. Frances Cabrini Church, Minneapolis, about their recently published book, Are There Closets in Heaven? A Catholic Father and Lesbian Daughter Share Their Story. The book details the story of Carol’s coming out and her conservative, rural Iowa parents’ journey from denial to acceptance and support of their daughter.

But Oct. 18, Dennis McGrath, communications director for the archdiocese, contacted Fr. Leo Tibesar, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini, to tell the priest that “news of this would likely not be acceptable to the bishops.”

Archbishop Harry Flynn, his coadjutor John Nienstadt and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Pates were away from archdiocesan offices the week before the scheduled event, but McGrath told NCR, he “had to investigate” it after receiving “a fair number” of e-mail messages and phone calls about it.

The talk was sponsored by the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities and Catholic Rainbow Parents, two Minneapolis nonprofit organizations not affiliated with the archdiocese.

McGrath said he told Tibesar, “I do not speak for the archbishops and do not want to represent their authority, but this talk does not seem to be in keeping with archdiocesan rules and policies or Vatican rules and policies.”

Hosting the event on church property, he said, would imply the church’s approval of Carol Curoe’s relationship with her partner of 20 years, with whom she is raising two sons.

When Flynn returned to the office, he affirmed the communications director’s actions, McGrath said.

Michael Bayly, executive director of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities, expressed dismay at the archdiocese’s stance and blamed conservative watchdogs for the campaign to get the talk banned from church property. One California blog, “A Faithful Rebel,” called the book event “a very scandalous lecture” and urged readers to contact the archdiocese and the Vatican in protest.

The talk was held at Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ in Minneapolis with about 100 people attending. The Curoes said that they hope their book and speaking engagements will help educate and inspire other families dealing with similar issues.

Carol Curoe said she was “surprised and we’re disappointed,” by the change in venue. “I think it’s a result of some good lobbying efforts. I don’t know if the people making the decisions have read the book or talked to anyone who has heard our presentation. We do not in any way attack the Catholic church.”

The book is endorsed by retired Bishop Thomas Gumbleton and Loretto Sr. Jeannine Gramick, advocates for ministry to and inclusion of sexual minorities in Catholic life.

McGrath acknowledged he did not read the book or know the content of the Curoes’ talk before asking Tibesar to cancel the event. “It is probably a nice story that [Robert Curoe] was able to accept it. But by the same token, the subject matter itself was not appropriate for a church setting.”

Bayly said that his group’s hope is that presenting “stories of the heart” such as the Curoes’ will generate the “power to transform individuals and institutions.”

Kris Berggren is a Minneapolis freelance writer and longtime contributor to NCR.

National Catholic Reporter, November 2, 2007

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