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Issue Date:  December 14, 2007

-- Kris Berggren

Catholics and supporters hold a vigil of solidarity with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families outside the Cathedral of St. Paul, Minn., Dec. 2.
Hundreds support gay, lesbian Catholics at vigil

St. Paul, Minn.

At least 300 Catholics and supporters braved cold temperatures and gusty winds to gather outside the Cathedral of St. Paul Dec. 2 in a vigil of solidarity with gay and lesbian Catholics and their families.

The event included a “die-in” on cathedral steps and brief remarks by speakers including Mary Lynn Murphy, president of Catholic Rainbow Parents, and Mel White of SoulForce, a nonprofit activist organization that confronts homophobia by addressing religious bigotry.

White told the group they were the latest in a long line of dissenters such as Galileo and Franz Jägerstätter, “who loved the church enough to stand up and say, ‘You’re wrong.’ ”

The group also delivered an open letter to Coadjutor Archbishop John Nienstedt, who is to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn as head of the archdiocese in the spring. The letter responded to Nienstedt’s Nov. 15 column in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Spirit. Nienstedt had written that people who support homosexual activity, such as parents who support their adult children’s gay or lesbian partnerships or family relationships, may be considered to “formally cooperate in a grave evil” or be “guilty of mortal sin.” He also distanced himself from the U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter to parents of gay children, “Always Our Children.” Nienstedt said that document “is not a normative teaching statement of the bishops’ conference.”

The open letter characterizes Nienstedt’s column as hurtful and unacceptable and derived from flawed research on human sexuality.

Michael Bayly of the Progressive Catholic Voice, a grass-roots group that organized the event, said they hoped to “show there are Catholics who disagree not only with what Nienstedt has said but how he arrived at his teachings. We want a voice in the formulation of church teachings especially with regard to human sexuality. In Catholic tradition, the laity should have a role in developing teachings.”

Mary Turbak, a parishioner at St. Pascal Baylon, said she doesn’t have a gay or lesbian child but she was there to support friends. “We’re here because we’re against what Nienstedt said, that you’re living in sin if you’re supporting your children. Isn’t it the people in the church that matter, or is it a bunch of rules?”

National Catholic Reporter, December 14, 2007

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