Last month, Cardinal Timothy Dolan compared gay Catholics to people with “dirty hands,” suggesting that anybody who engages in same-sex sexual acts is unwelcome at Church. This prompted a protest yesterday featuring gay Catholics and their allies arriving at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with literally dirty hands seeking entry to Mass. Protest organizer Joseph Amodeo wrote about the “cold” welcome they faced when they attempted to enter:
It is what transpired in the moments after soiling our hands that I have trouble understanding and placing in the context of the Christian experience. At around 9:30am, the ten of us 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. It was at that moment that I realized the power of fear. The Archdiocese of New York was responding out of fear to a peaceful and silent presence at Mass. Even in light of this, we decided that we would walk solemnly from our gathering spot to the Cathedral with hopes that we might be welcomed.
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 be charged with criminal trespassing in my own home?” It was then that I realized what it meant to be spiritually homeless.
The Church’s response to these peaceful protesters directly compromises Dolan’s message that supposedly, “all are welcome.” Tellingly, his post included the tenet, “Hate the sin; love the sinner,” a welcoming-sounding creed that actually only demonizes gay people by distorting the innate nature of their identities. No matter how many times religious leaders repeat this catchphrase, love will never be congruent with condemning a person to a life without love.