This photo was widely shared on Facebook yesterday after it was posted in a group called “Wipe Out Homophobia.” According to the initial posting, Vanessa Raymond, one of the group’s members, spotted an awful sign in front of a church on her way to work yesterday that read, “Two Men are Friends, Not Spouses.” She was so upset that she made a sign of her own with a pro-LGBT message, bought a rainbow balloon, and affixed both the sign and the balloon to a fence in front of the anti-gay message. Raymond’s handwritten sign reads:
You may not be welcome in this church, but ALL people are welcome in this community! Spread LOVE, not hate!!!
I wasn’t able to get in touch with Ms. Raymond to confirm the location or denomination of the offending church (although I assumed it was a Catholic parish, as Francis Xavier is a Catholic saint), so I held off on posting about it at that time.
Today, Andy Belonsky over at Towleroad was kind enough to fill in the gaps: the church in question is St. Francis Xavier Catholic Parish in Acushnet, Massachusetts, and malicious message was written and posted by the parish’s pastoral services director, Steven Guillotte, who insisted that it wasn’t really anti-gay at all. Said Guillotte, ““We don’t feel that there’s anything hateful in it.”
Two local women protesting outside St. Francis Xavier disagreed. One of them, Kim Miska, told the paper: ““I think it was bigoted … very ignorant. You can believe in what you want to believe in, but there’s no reason to shove it down everybody’s throat.”
Of course, the church removed Raymond’s balloon and sign, but interestingly, it also replaced the patronizing anti-gay quip with an inane reminder about tomorrow’s daily Mass. The pastor of St. Francis Xavier, Monsignor Gerard O’Connor, denies that the uproar over Guillotte’s divisive message factored into that decision.
This sign might not be remarkable except for the fact that it unmasks, in my opinion, the deep contempt that Catholic leaders have for the loving marriages of same-sex couples like my husband and me. Slick, media-savvy personalities like New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan can talk about how much they love LGBT people until they’re blue in the face, and church employees like Guillotte can pretend they’re not haters all they wish, but it’s all a lie. The sign in Massachusetts speaks to an ugly truth: Catholic leaders don’t simply oppose the recognition of our marriages, they deny even the fact that our marriages exist.
Enjoy that denial while you can, dudes. That whizzing sound you’re hearing is the sound of society blowing past you, discarding your Stone-Age views about LGBT people in the landfill of history where they belong. Or is it the sound of pro-equality Catholics scrambling for the doors?