October 7, 2015 at 1:21 pm EDT | by Richard J. Rosendall
A Tale of Two Pilgrimages
Pope Francis, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, Louis Farrakhan and Pope Francis (Photo of Farrakhan public domain; photo of Francis by Jeffrey Bruno, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Autumn is a lovely time to visit the nation’s capital. Here I look at contrasting visits by two prominent faith leaders.

10.10.15 Justice or Else Gathering. Minister Louis Farrakhan has long been a figure of controversy. Of the Nation of Islam (NOI), which he leads, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) writes, “Its theology of innate black superiority over whites and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.”

Farrakhan’s old provocations, however, are absent from the promotion for his October 10 gathering on the National Mall to mark the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March. The 1995 event was a peaceful call to unity and self-improvement whose proposed actions included harnessing black economic power and registering voters.

The 20th anniversary event invites men and women regardless of race or creed to demand racial justice from the federal government. The proposed action this time is withdrawal of black money from what it calls the commercialism and exploitation of the Christmas season. It also calls for an end to fratricidal violence within the black community.

The event’s website (justiceorelse.com) includes the directive “No Guns – No Alcohol – No Drugs.” Its text and videos carry a constructive message. Granted, when I hear “Justice or else,” I immediately ask, “Or else what?” The threat, however, involves economic action, not competition with gun-toting white supremacist groups like the Oath Keepers. My differences with NOI aside, its 10.10.15 gathering promises to be another peaceful public engagement. Unless you demand docility (in which case you should wake up), I see nothing to fault.

Pope Francis and gays. Turning from Islam to Catholicism, the bumpy aftermath of the Pope’s American visit appears to have resolved itself into a clearer message of welcome to LGBT people, though without any hint of doctrinal change. During his visit, Francis toned down the culture-war rhetoric. One positive gesture was having openly gay Mo Rocca do a scriptural reading during the Mass at Madison Square Garden. Less so was the sole gay speaker at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, Ron Belgau, who embraces celibacy in acceptance of the Catholic Church teaching that gay lovemaking is a sin. Mr. Belgau can suit himself, but demanding lifelong denial of intimacy is a prescription for misery.

On his flight back to Rome, Francis defended “conscientious objection,” which some interpreted as endorsing the refusal by Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis to issue marriage licenses that went against her faith. Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel attorney for Ms. Davis, then claimed that Davis had met the Pope in Washington. The Vatican confirmed this, but said she was but one of several dozen people who were given a blessing and a rosary. The only real papal audience in Washington was with the Pope’s gay former student Yayo Grassi and his family, which included his 19-year partner Iwan Bagus. A video shows Francis warmly embracing both men and kissing them on their cheeks.

The papal nuncio who invited Ms. Davis, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, appears to be in hot water for marring the visit with a politically charged invitation that was inflated in importance by Staver.

No sooner had the flap over Davis begun to quiet down when Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa, an official with the Vatican’s doctrinal office, came out as gay and criticized the Roman Church’s homophobia on the eve of its Synod on the Family. Charamsa was quickly fired. This was a reminder that expressions of pastoral care erase neither the Church’s love of control nor its condemnation of gay folk. Indeed, notorious homophobe Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was invited last November to a Roman gathering called the “International Interreligious Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman.” The notion of complementarity derives from Plato, except that Plato was gay-inclusive.

Francis, at the U.S. Capitol, asked people to pray for him, and urged those who could not pray to send him their best wishes. In that spirit, and despite our disagreements and my continued skepticism, I send him and Minister Farrakhan my sincere hope that their efforts will advance justice. Prayers avail nothing without action.


Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at rrosendall@starpower.net.

Copyright © 2015 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

  • On the issue of the consumption of alcohol, I have to place myself with the Catholic Church and in respectful disagreement with NOI.

    • My dear, you would hardly be Catholic otherwise! But I suppose we should assure readers that you did not intend by this to suggest that you would violate National Park Service prohibitions of alcohol at large gatherings on the Mall.

  • When a black racist aka Minister Negro Hitler “peacefully gathers” he will be tricking every single person black or white who obeys his call. This man is a murderer and a liar and he does not have to have guns on site in order for it to be a bad and wrong thing, especially for black people to attend. This man is a Nee Grow Nazi. Blacks who want change need to support the new mainstream leaders who are fighting a color blind coalition for all people Get with Hillary and Obama if you want change. This man tricks people and makes them satisfied with their hate. The KKK stages peaceful marches also. KKK or NOI….only fools heed their call to gather in the name of hate.

    • The KKK engaged in terror. The most noteworthy thing I remember NOI doing in my city is chasing drug dealers out of Mayfair Mansions. People who don’t want Farrakhan to gain traction should offer a better alternative. Denunciations, such as by Abraham Foxman, have helped him.

      • Mr. Rick. Minister Nee Grow Hitler ordered his goons to shoot Malcolm X. The NOI was known back in the day for going after anyone who tried to leave. They broke into a home Kareem owned and killed children….the single greatest thing is…is a Nee grow Hitler okay? Why is a Nee Grow Hitler okay and a white Hitler bad? Because the white Hitler is white? If Nazism and preaching racial superiority is wrong, then it’s wrong. It’s not okay because the racist happens to be black. Mr. Rick, I don’t mean to be rude to you, but only rude to the Nee Grow Nazis. Are you a part of their movement? If they are right, then you are wrong for not joining them….let me guess…you are NOT in the NOI are you? Why? Could it be that you actually see something wrong with being a Nee Grow Nazi? Minister Nee Grow Hitler has never had traction. He is a cheap way to sound radical in the black community, but when you ask a show of hands who is actually in the Nee Grow Nazi movement….we get crickets…as in not a sound.

        • You could not have read my article without seeing my statement about my continued skepticism. I am aware of those old stories, though they are inconclusive as to the murder of Malcolm. The FBI was also implicated. Why don’t you focus on what I actually wrote? One of my mottos as an activist is to give both credit and criticism where due. Given that some people only trash Farrakhan, I thought it fair to point out the peaceful nature of the Million Man March and the 10.10.15 gathering on the Mall. I linked to my sources. One part of the message for Saturday’s event is combating fratricidal violence within the black community. Farrakhan talked to street organizations in Charleston, for example, about setting up conflict resolution centers. What’s wrong with that?

          • Farrakhan is no different from the modern KKK. Racism is wrong. “Skepticism” is not the proper response when you are confronted with open bigotry. You are defending him when you call the long history of murder and mayhem conducted by the NOI past and present as “inconclusive.” Are they a hate group? Is their status as a hate group “Inconclusive”? Do you give the KKK, modern Neo-Nazis and white supremacists credit too? You are defending an open racist in 2015, solely because he’s black. You are not black. You can’t see how you are engaged in white prejudice? You white people are too good to ever go along with white Hitler past or present, but this Negro Hitler is not white…so you want to give him credit? Minister Nee Grow Hitler Killed Malcolm X…..I think, some of us who really like black people…would call that fratricide.

          • Your claim to be motivated by his alleged crimes is hard to swallow when you refuse to treat it seriously enough to stop with the juvenile name-calling, and when you refuse to apply the same moral indignation to the FBI, the Oath Keepers, and others. Whatever the faults of NOI, the comparison to the KKK is way over the top as I already pointed out. If we cannot be more intellectually scrupulous, we discredit ourselves.

          • Mr Ron, I have never attacked you and you are attacking me instead of answering my simple points. Are whites special in some racial way that when whites engage in nazism you can rush to condemn white Hitler, but when blacks do it, we are low so you understand and defend Nee Grow Hitler?

          • This is my last reply if you don’t stop the name-calling. You respond to points I did not make. I do not call anybody Hitler but Hitler. I do not excuse wrongdoing by anyone. I do have a problem with selective outrage. You are all exercised about Minister Farrakhan, who is about to lead another large, disciplined gathering on the Mall to “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” as the First Amendment puts it, while you show no concern about violent white supremacists, nor the slightest interest in the express purposes of the 10.10.15 gathering. That is fundamentally unserious. I have taken the trouble to write these replies for the benefit of others. I do not think you are susceptible to reason.

        • By the way, please spare us juvenile phrases like “Nee Grow Nazi.” If you cannot make your point without cheap insults, then to hell with you. Knock it off.

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2020. All rights reserved.