July 5, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Gay Catholics protest ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ Mass in D.C.
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Catholics

Gay Catholics and others protest outside “Fortnight for Freedom” Mass in D.C. on Wednesday (Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Dozens of gay Catholics and their allies gathered outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Northeast D.C. on Wednesday to protest the church’s campaign that challenges the Obama administration’s policies on same-sex marriage, health care and other issues.

“We’re here as a non-partisan group of Catholics to say we don’t want our church involved in these kind of politics,” Joseph Palacios, director of the Catholics for Equality Foundation, told the Blade as he and other protesters stood in front of the basilica on Michigan Avenue, N.E. “We want our church leaders to be pastoral leaders particularly concerned with the poor and the vulnerable, the gay and lesbian community, women and the equal rights of all people rather than the partisan politics they seem to be playing.”

Members of Catholics United, Dignity USA, Nuns on the Bus, the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance and other organizations took part in the protest that coincided with a Mass that marked the end of the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched last month in Baltimore. Protesters sang hymns and held a banner that read “Bishops: We need pastors, not politicians. Your antics are hurting the church” on the sidewalk in front of the basilica as the faithful arrived.

“I’m here because I’m sick and tired of the arrogance and the ignorance these bishops have displayed to their bishops,” said Mike, a protestor who said he was a basilica altar boy. He added he also attended the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University. “I’m sad, but I’m happy to be here.”

The Independence Day protest took place less than two weeks after Palacios and a handful of others gathered outside a “Fortnight for Freedom” rally at George Washington University.

More than a dozen protestors posed for pictures with their banner on the basilica steps in spite of security personnel who had threatened them with arrest if they entered church property.

“I’m here today because I think our bishops are on the wrong track,” said Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry and the National Coalition of American Nuns.  “They’re using religious liberty as a political tool to be against the president, when in reality the people whose religious liberty is being denied are the people who work at church-related institutions. Freedom of conscience is for the individual.”

A Public Religion Research Institute poll in May 2011 found that 56 percent of white Catholics and 53 percent of Latino Catholics support nuptials for gays and lesbians. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is among the Catholic governors who have signed same-sex marriage laws in their states.

“They [the bishops] want equality only for heterosexual people and so they’re using the argument of religious freedom,” stressed Gramick. “It’s the freedom of the individual that’s being denied. No church or religious institution is going to be forced to perform gay weddings and this is what our bishops are leading Catholics to believe, which is false.”

The Archdiocese of Washington did not immediately return the Blade’s request for comment.

Palacios and others who gathered outside the basilica stressed that they feel their efforts to speak out against the “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign were successful.

“It allowed us as progressive Catholics to have a voice to counter the U.S. bishops and for Catholics in general to know that there are other people like them,” he said. “They may not be going to a demonstration, but they know that there’s are other Catholics like them who don’t want their bishops preaching politics at Mass on Sundays.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

6 Comments
  • Someone should explain to the bishops the difference between running a church and a political campaign, which they appear to be doing against gay & lesbian people. The Catholic Chuch should lose their tax exempt status if they don’t get out of politics immediately. I wonder how much tax revenue could be raised from these religious business’ like the Catholic and Mormon Churches? I would like to find out and start taxing both of them immediately.

    • Hate groups (like the institutional Catholic Church) are extorting us under the cloak of tax-exemption. No politician of either party is prepared to take them on.

      It’s a travesty of justice.

      Tax-payer money is being used to fund hate.

    • Against Stupidity

      LOL you are so stupid that you can’t see in the pic that it was a GAY PROTEST AGAINST CATHOLICS, hahaha poor thing … no wonder why you can’t even understand why the HSS mandate is against religious liberty not only against Catholic Church… hahaha Do yourself a favor, take a dime and go buy yourself some brains, whatever you get for a dime is way much more than you own right now ;)

  • my age is 73, i am a survivor, the battle for my rights has just begun, take away the tax exempt status, dolan of new york is a joke, his predessor francis cardinal spellman chased every chorus lad on broadway,

  • Keep the government away from dictating or enforcing policies of my CHURCH. Very biased and ignorant article!

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