The LGBT advocacy group Gay Liberation Network ( GLN ) held a protest in front of Holy Name Cathedral on Valentine's Day.
Picketers were demanding more equitable treatment from the Catholic Church and, specifically, from Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Earlier this month George denounced a Maryland-based, pro-gay ministry that seeks to bridge the divide between lesbian and gay Catholics and the Church at large.
"Like other groups that claim to be Catholic but deny central aspects of church teaching, New Ways Ministry has no approval or recognition from the Catholic Church," George said in a Feb. 5 statement. The organization, George said, does not offer "an authentic interpretation of Catholic teaching."
For its part, New Ways Ministry is not backing down. In an "action alert" posted on its Web site, the group is urging supporters to write letters and e-mail George. And Francis DeBernardo, the executive director of New Ways, posted a statement saying the cardinal "will not impede or slow us in our efforts to work for justice for lesbian/gay people in the church and society."
At the protest, Andy Thayer, co-founder of GLN, insisted that George and his predecessors have a much more "subversive" agenda when it comes to opposing equal rights for gays within the Church.
"Our goal here today is to pull Cardinal George and the Catholic leadership out of the closet for their anti-gay bigotry. You don't see the Catholic leadership out on the frontlines opposing our equal rights. What is happening, though, is that they're quietly and effectively lobbying legislators against equal rights for gay people. We want to make everyone aware of that because it's not right," Thayer said.
As reported by Windy City Times, George has been proactive against gay rights in the past, including attempts to remove the LGBT community as a protected class in the Illinois Human Rights Act. And, last November, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, which George leads, issued a 60-page pastoral letter on the subject of marriage. On the issue of same-sex marriage it stated the following: "The legal recognition of same-sex unions poses a multifaceted threat to the very fabric of society, striking at the source from which society and culture come and which they are meant to serve. Such recognition affects all people, married and non-married: not only at the fundamental levels of the good of the spouses, the good of children, the intrinsic dignity of every human person, and the common good, but also at the levels of education, cultural imagination and influence, and religious freedom."
A GLN press release issued Feb. 15 highlighted what it perceives as George's attempts to "block our path to full legal equality." The release cited a Huffington Post report showing George criticizing a Washington, D.C.-area ministry that bills itself as gay-inclusive. GLN also stated that George is opposed to providing the LGBT community with "equal access to jobs, housing and access to public accommodations."
As parishioners came and went and protesters waved their flags, the mood was, for the most part, peaceful. Some protesters held signs that read "Catholic and Gay - I was born this way."
Others read, "I'm a proud PFLAG Mom!" Only a few people stopped to voice their annoyance with the demonstrators.
Toni Weaver, a mother who is a member of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays ( PFLAG ) , told Windy City Times that there were two types of approaches used during the demonstration: "The first is the obvious: the in-your-face yelling and screaming, confrontational approach. The other group stood quietly in a line, facing the street, backs to the cathedral doors, holding signs that called the church out on its bigotry using the church's own language."
Weaver also described her PFLAG contingent and the reason it came out to protest: "Our group of 11 contained three women who hold masters degrees in either theology or pastoral studies ( I'm the one with the theology degree ) for whom this protest was a vital way of expressing our anger at the church in which we've labored the better part of our lives, the church that has betrayed us."
Also attending the picket line was Brother Michael Oboza, an orthodox Catholic monk and founder of Straight and Gay Alliance Ministry, which provides outreach to homeless youth. He offered this perspective on the day's events: "If we want to be equal and be treated with respect, if we're yelling at people without any real dialogue, then we're not really respecting them. I think if we can find a way to all educate each other, without saying to one another 'you're a sinner for being in this church' or 'you're a sinner for being gay', I think we'll be a lot better off. At the very least, we could all learn a lot more if we closed our mouths a little and opened our ears and our hearts. "