Fr. Steve returns for good this week from
his stint in Minnesota!Welcome home!
For some, "Mass" became an ironically named, long-running Sunday-evening dance
party – and a religious experience of another kind.
But since the ascension of Pope Benedict XVI this spring, and the move of San Francisco's Archbishop William Levada to Rome, the future of gays in the Catholic Church, and at Most Holy Redeemer, is very much in question. The new pope's record "has been one of unrelenting, venomous hatred for gay people," said Matt Foreman, head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. And that, coupled with the uncertainty of whom Pope Benedict will appoint to replace Levada as archbishop of San Francisco, has some MHR parishioners worried. "Now, more anxiety," Hopke said. "The new archbishop is like a 'gulp,' The pool of candidates is so conservative. I think we're going to have some tough times ahead."
Still, on a recent Sunday morning, Hopke and his group were in front of the Blessed Virgin Mother statue in the bright sunlight. More people were arriving. "God's inclusive love proclaimed here," the parish bulletin said. They clumped in groups of three or four on the sidewalk. Chatting. Laughing. Before mass, at the top of the big stairs leading to the sanctuary, Meriwether stood greeting the arrivals. The parishioners renovated the building in 2000 and rearranged the sanctuary so it would seem less daunting. The pews now surround the altar on three sides so the priest can stand out in the middle of the congregation.
[snip]Most Holy Redeemer's organizers say that about two thirds of the 900-member congregation is gay or lesbian. Almost all the members are people who call themselves "cradle Catholics," people who were brought up in the Church.
But many, usually when they started thinking of themselves as gay, drifted away.
Now, they say, they've come back because Most Holy Redeemer welcomes them.
"Which of course frightens even people at MHR. They're always wondering, 'When is it going to happen to us?" " Meriwether told me. "Because they can't be happy with us.... I think the diocese would like to see us keep a very low profile.... What does that mean, you're supposed to crawl under a rock? You can't ask people to do that. It's a very ambivalent attitude."
Meriwether thinks that even though the Vatican's policy on gay priests hasn't been released yet, "what they're saying is that if you're willing to deny it, then that's OK."
What the archdiocese could easily do, Meriwether said, is to muzzle the congregation by forbidding members to march in the gay pride parade, which they do every June, and by forbidding them to place their advertising in gay newspapers like the Bay Area Reporter. By making them less visible, it could push MHR's parishioners back toward the closet and again make the people whom the Church drove away once, painfully reconsider their decision to come back. And it could cause those people a lot of pain.
"Most Holy Redeemer is a real flash point for conservative Catholics," Meriwether said.
If the archdiocese came down hard on Most Holy Redeemer, how would he feel? "Very compromised.... As pastor, yes, you have to uphold the teaching and the discipline of the Church, but you also have to be a father to your parishioners," he said. Would Most Holy Redeemer be closed entirely? Ironically, because MHR isn't financially successful, that seems unlikely. Meriwether said that, at least in part because, unlike Saint Brigid, which had about $750,000 in its bank account when it was closed, MHR still owes for the 2000 renovation – about a million dollars.