Thursday, May 28, 2009

Archbishop Nienstedt Responds to Rainbow Sash Alliance

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis has responded to a letter by Brian McNeill, organizer of Rainbow Sash Alliance USA, in which McNeill notified the archbishop that - as in previous years - lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics and their allies would be present wearing rainbow sashes at this year’s Pentecost Sunday noon Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul

Notes McNeill on the Rainbow Sash Alliance USA website:

We cannot repeat too often that we attend Mass on Pentecost to celebrate who we are, not to protest. We participate in Mass in the same way we do all the other days of the year. But on Pentecost we come out of the closet as lgbt Catholics, family and friends to remind our fellow Catholics that we too are part of God’s loving family.

McNeill’s letter to the archbishop also stressed that the rainbow sash represents and invites dialogue between LGBT Catholics and the Roman Catholic hierarchy.

Following is Archbishop Nienstedt’s response.


Dear Brian,

I write to acknowledge your letter of May 10, 2009, alerting me to the fact that you and some fellow protesters will be wearing rainbow sashes at the noon Mass on Pentecost in the Cathedral of St. Paul. I ask you to refrain from such a public act of dissent, especially as it so clearly shows disrespect and irreverence for the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

Anyone wearing a “rainbow sash” will not be permitted to receive Holy Communion, since their dissent is a sign that they have publicly broken communion with the Church’s teaching. I also ask that those not wearing the sashes refrain from sharing the Holy Eucharist with those who do. Such an action is unbecoming the dignity of the sacrament.

With regard to the dialogue you request, it would first be essential that you state clearly that you hold with the conviction all that the Church teaches on matters of human sexuality. If you do not believe, then there cannot be dialogue, but only debate. The truths of our faith are not open to debate.

Again, I hope you will see how disruptive your planned protest will be for those who will gather on Pentecost to pray. I ask you to refrain from being the cause of such disruption.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

Recommended Off-site Links:
Rainbow Sash Wearers Prohibited from Receiving Communion - The Catholic Spirit, May 27, 2009.
“Take, All of You, and Eat” – Communion and the Rainbow Sash - The Wild Reed, May 28, 2007.


  1. Your post has been quoted and linked on my blog at Your blog is also on my blogroll.

  2. Did Jesus institute the Eucharist as a sign of unquestioning adherence to every formulation about human life that emanates from Rome? I think that refusing the sacrament of inclusion to anyone who disagrees is degrading to the Eucharist, more than disrespectful and irreverent.

    I join in the Eucharist with the community of Christians the world over who believe that God loves humankind and is building a universal community of mutual love and cooperation through us, out of suffering and conflict as in Jesus’ own life. That is what I thought it was all about.

    I guess whether one is protesting or celebrating by wearing a rainbow sash is a matter of individual intent.

    There is no use denying it, when I have been at the Cathedral wearing a sash, I have been protesting. I have been saying by my presence there that I think the Church teaching on homosexual partnering is wrong. It is cruel. It hurts people. It is unreasonable. It doesn’t take into account the human need of intimate relations. The only argument for prohibiting homosexual sex is that it doesn’t produce children. That cannot be the only value for human sexuality. It doesn’t prevent old people or infertile people from having sex in the sanctity of Church approved marriage.

    I wear the sash in protest of this cruel teaching, but I receive the Eucharist because I believe that God’s love includes all of us disagreeing and disagreeable humans. They are two different acts signifying two different meanings. In the first, the Archbishop and I are at odds; in the second we are brother and sister trying to live our beliefs in this imperfect world. I wish he could see it that way.

    1. When you say " Amen" before receiving the. Eucharist, you are stating that you agree with the history, doctrine and what God has chosen to reveal to us. If you do not agree with God's laws and the Theology of the say amen, you are lying before the face of God. This is why a person does not receive the Eucharist.

      The church hates the sin,never the sinner. Your assertions conflict with the Word of God and His law. I wish you could see that. Take it up with God. Tell God that you know better.

  3. I was just glad to find your blog - and of course am mortified by this Bishop's letter. I think he should be embarrassed to claim he has been given the wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit, while condemning an entire group of people who wish to accept themselves as God made them. I will never see eye to eye with individuals - priests, or not - who make statements like this: "The truths of our faith are not open to debate." No: the truths of our faith are not open for debate - but the arbitrary rules of the Catholic church, and its devastating history of violence and exclusion, absolutely are.

    As a Catholic lesbian, I will continue to point out the flaws of the church and all the ways in which it goes directly against the loving, compassionate and inclusive teachings of Jesus until such day as the church wakes up to the realities of our current day. Belief in God is and should always be about unification based on singleness of purpose: to believe in God and act accordingly. Not to divide.

    1. So sad to read your post. Its very unfair. The bishop follows, scripture, history, tradition, and the faith as God has chosen to reveal to us. You should argue with God. You think you know better? It is you who divides when you mock what God asks of us.

      Please read theology of the body. At least you'll understand why you are not able to receive the Eucharist. Its not for reasons you think. The church hates the sin, never the sinner.

      You don't follow scripture, so when you say amen before the Eucharist, its not a truthful statement. Amen means you agree with the scripture, history, doctrine, and faith as God has revealed to us.

      Give the guy a break. He's rightly doing his job.

  4. Oh, don't be mortified by the letter. He's just a bishop. All this will come 'round right. The hard part is mustering the patience and sustaining the injury -- or, rather, seeing brothers and sisters sustaining the injury.

    The church is wounded...and the "hier" up the "archy" you probe, the more wounded it is.

  5. I don't understand why individuals who disagree with the Catholic church want so badly to be a part of it. If I don't like a certain group or disagree with their views I join a different group who agrees with and accepts my views. What is it about the Catholic church that causes members of the "Rainbow Sash" to feel they must be a part of the Catholic church and the must force the Catholic church to accept them? I can't help but laugh. It is like the wimpy kid on the playground demanding the rest of the boys play dolls with him. The kid needs to figure out that the other boys will never play dolls with him, he needs to go find a group of wimpy kids to play dolls with.

  6. Wearing the sash to the communion rail would appear be a statement that one should be given communion without having genuinely repented of homosexual behavior and received sacramental absolution. This statement would be contrary to Catholic belief to say the least. In the case of someone who has actually practiced this sin and not received absolution, receiving communion would be an act of sacrilege. Such people are obviously at Mass to cause trouble, not to save their souls.

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