On June 26, the Worcester Art Museum celebrated the decision on its Facebook and Twitter pages by offering to host weddings for LGBT couples: “Congrats LGBTQ Nation! The Worcester Art Museum is proud and happy to host your wedding!” The museum frequently hosts weddings and said its support of same-sex marriage is meant to promote inclusion and “join a national dialogue in a positive way.”
In response, the St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough, Massachusetts, declared that it would no longer provide funding for the museum: “We’re simply not going to support them institutionally as in the past. We’re just following the lead of the diocese on that,” the church’s pastor, Rev. Stephen M. Gemme, told the local newspaper the Telegram-Gazette on Tuesday.
Though Gemme claimed he was following orders from his superiors, the Telegram-Gazette reported that the local Diocese did not tell any of its churches to stop supporting organizations allied with the LGBT community:
Raymond Delisle, communications director for the Diocese of Worcester, said the diocese has not directed any Catholic church or organization to discontinue support of the Worcester Art Museum.
“We don’t support gay marriage. But, we haven’t said divest yourself of any organization,” he said. “I think any individual group will make their decision based on their plans and relationships.”
St. Bernadette Parish’s decision to cease funding the museum is yet another instance of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy punishing and discriminating against nonprofit and community organizations that support LGBT rights. Last year, a Catholic diocese in Sacramento defunded a homeless agency because the agency’s director supports marriage equality. A similar scenario occurred in Portland, Maine, where a homeless advocacy group declared its support for legalizing same-sex marriage in the state. And just a few weeks ago, a Catholic anti-poverty group in Illinois threatened to jeopardize its funding for Catholic charities participating in the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights because the Coalition affirmed the state’s marriage equality bill.
While the Catholic Church as a whole has made its opposition to LGBT rights clear, St. Bernadette Parish’s actions are rather drastic compared to those of other Catholic organizations in the area. The Telegraph-Gazette noted that The College of the Holy Cross, Assumption College, and Anna Maria College, three Catholic colleges in Worcester, will continue to partner with the museum in order to provide its students with cultural resources. A spokeswoman for Anna Maria College said the museum’s support of same-sex marriage is irrelevant. “Our relationship with the WAM is related to our distinctive and historically strong art program. It helps us to provide access to our students to pursue their studies,” she said.
The pastor at another local Catholic church, Rev. Chester J. Misiewicz, had no concerns with the museum’s stance on same-sex marriage and said his church would continue supporting the museum.
Marina Fang is an intern for ThinkProgress.