On Christmas Day, my twin brother and his wife wanted to attend Catholic mass. We selected the parish church in the neighborhood where we both grew up. I was pleased that my spouse, also Catholic, decided to join us.
My mother-in-law was not feeling strong enough to go out, but she assured us that she would be fine at home alone for a couple hours while we were gone.
…early since parking for the morning service can be hard to find. My brother and I enjoyed seeing old friends, some of whom we have known for more than 50 years.
It is a large, old church, and well-regarded for its long-standing place in the community. Countless friends have been married there, and I have also attended my share of funerals there as well.
We found a pew in the middle of the church and watched the procession, listened to the choir, and sang some hymns. Things were going along fine until the visiting priest giving the homily went on a long rant about “protecting religious liberty” and made statements about “preserving the sanctity of marriage” and specifically against same-sex marriage.
The priest continued for a while, and my spouse and I were growing increasingly uncomfortable. My friends kept looking at us with sadness, shrugs, and bewilderment in their eyes.
But when the priest got to a part by asking people to “rise up against attacks on religious liberty and force acceptance of sin” — specifically stating that those of us who have married someone of the same sex is that sinner and will, in so many words, go to hell — that was it. I had it.
I glanced up, and saw that my brother was already on his feet, pulling his wife with him toward the aisle. I stood up and my spouse did the same. We decided without direct communication that we had to leave, right then and there.
My brother took my hand and held his wife’s hand with the other. I reached out and held my spouse’s hand. Together, all four of us walked out, hand-in-hand four-abreast, right down the middle aisle of the church.
We arrived in the church’s entry area and started buttoning our jackets (it was raining) when we saw that about a dozen of my friends were gathering around us. Some were excusing “a poor choice of words” by that priest and asking us to return. Some were rationalizing his statements and saying, “it doesn’t apply to you guys.” (Ha, it sure did!) Some were also buttoning up their coats, ready to leave as we were.
I just said, “look, this whole thing is quite unpleasant, and we don’t want to make a scene. Obviously everyone figured out that a group left due to those remarks, so we made our statement. Enough. Time to leave and go home. I will not have our marriage publicly denounced.”
Some of our friends left at the same time, and some others returned. But man, my brother was livid. I sense he’s not through with this. He and his wife had quite a loud conversation in Italian on the way back. I could hear how deeply hurt and angry my brother was and I could feel, hear, and see him defending me — just like he did way back when we were kids.
As for my spouse and me — unfortunately, we’ve heard this crap before. While I cannot say that we are used to it, let’s say that it’s not the first time we’ve heard such statements from Catholic clergy. And we’ve heard much worse from “Christians” who are far worse, hurtful, and hate-filled.
What saddens me is that this priest decided to use Christmas mass for political purposes. That was really, really sad. I was told that he was a “visiting priest.” Well, in my opinion, he can go back to wherever he came from and leave my community and my hometown.
Such began our day, but we did not let it spoil our Christmas. We had fun visiting family instead, and a great Christmas dinner that I joyfully prepared. I am heartened that once again, my brother “has my back” … and my husband’s back, as well.
Life is short: stand with the men you love.