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The ‘Rainbow Sash Movement’ Controversy

By Matt Abbott

With Pentecost Sunday (May 15) approaching, members and supporters of the homosexual activist Rainbow Sash Movement have announced they once again “will be entering cathedrals and parishes around the nation” on that day, according to a May 2, 2005 press release.

Consider the following related situation that took place several months ago:

In Dec. 2003, a group of 23 Chicago priests sent a letter to Francis Cardinal George lamenting the Vatican's alleged mistreatment of homosexuals. Six months later, one of the co-signers of that letter, the Rev. Nicholas Desmond, sent another letter to the cardinal expressing his "disappointment" about the cardinal's decision to refuse Holy Communion to members of the Rainbow Sash Movement.

Desmond's letter, which was posted on the group's website, stated, in part: "...while you might know what the sash fully means, the sash itself, as pictured on the web site, is not a public statement denying the Church's teaching. I believe that most people will have no idea what it entails. For many, it will probably mean no more than the sash worn by the Knights of Columbus or the Altar and Rosary Society. For others, it may symbolize that the person is gay and nothing more. And, as you know, being gay does not make you a public sinner nor a dissident from Church teaching. You conclusion denying such persons the Eucharist presumes both a statement and an understanding which cannot be construed from the facts at hand...."

The letter, along with some commentary, was published in its entirety on, the website of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, an organization "working for a restoration of traditional Catholic values to the public life of Illinois. Through effective, non-partisan programs, Catholic Citizens of Illinois is actively addressing American culture and public policy from a perspective formed in strict fidelity to the Magisterium and in loyalty to the bishops and Pope John Paul II."

In an e-mail dated Dec. 29, 2004, Desmond responded to the commentary as follows:

"Catholic Citizens:

"I was doing a Google search and found your web site with a page referring to a letter I had sent to the cardinal concerning the Pentecost Rainbow Sash Movement. While I appreciate the publicity, I would certainly appreciate it if you actually read what I wrote instead of editorializing and condemning me beforehand. If you choose to look carefully at my words, at no time did I support any anti-Catholic teaching or behavior. As of this writing, I am a Catholic pastor in good standing with the Archdiocese of Chicago, I have not been reprimanded for anything I wrote in that letter to the cardinal and I see no reason for you to be maligning my name.

"In addition, your utter failure to understand the Catechism of the Catholic Church and its teaching on homosexuality and homosexual persons brings you dangerously close to apostasy. The Catechism is quite clear that homosexual persons are not to be the targets of bigotry by Catholics, even though the sins of homosexual relations should be condemned at all times. Furthermore, you really should stop tossing about the word 'sodomite' so freely in reference to homosexual acts since it technically refers to only one kind of sin which can be performed by heterosexuals as well as homosexuals (and is condemned for both groups since it is not a generative sexual act). Finally, I suggest that you go to confession and ask God to cleanse your souls and mouths of the malicious way you speak of His ordained priests. My wrist is not so 'limp' as to keep me from absolving you of your horribly vile words, should you choose to repent.”

Karl Maurer, vice president and web editor of Catholic Citizens of Illinois, issued the following response, dated Jan. 21, 2005:

"I have no intention of debating your letter posted on Rainbow Sash's web site. Their agenda is well known to both of us and it has nothing to do with the core teachings of the Church. Your agenda, evidently, is more mysterious. I frequently attend confession, as I know I will be judged on my integrity, which is the consistency of thought, word and deed in the service of God. With all due respect sir, you do not meet that standard in my opinion. If you had studied the cardinal's comments more carefully, and without the obvious biases you have toward the homosexual lifestyle, you would see his comments were made with great clarity and charity. As for your good standing in the Roman Catholic Church, you are entitled to your own opinions.”

Desmond responded to Maurer's e-mail on Jan. 23:


"I am not seeking a debate — an apology from you would be more appropriate. Again, you choose to attack me ('you do not meet that standard') without knowing me. You should also only use the words 'with all due respect' ...

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