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Letter on gays draws protest.

Injured activist says violence deserves bishop's attention

NEW YORK - Seated among members of the congregation at St. James Cathedral in Brooklyn one recent Sunday morning were several men and women carrying pictures of victims of antigay violence and wearing T-shirts with slogans hinting at their discontent: "Calling me evil promotes violence against me." These gay men and lesbians. were protesting to show their discontent with Brooklyn Bishop Thomas V. Daily's recent pastoral letter on homosexuality.

In it Daily called homosexuality "the result of original sin" and termed homosexual "desires and acts" as "gravely evil and immoral." He said, "Homosexual orientation violates a person's natural harmony in regard to the proper purpose of his or her sexuality and inclines the person toward |acts Which are contrary to the natural law."

While the bishop called violence, prejudice and discrimination against gays "unjust," at the same time he said that legislation "which seeks to legitimize homosexual activity or even gives the impression of doing so ... is of itself immoral and an injustice to the natural rights of all men and women."

The 29 protesters showed up 20 minutes before the start of the Aug. 29 Mass and took seats among the 30 other members of the congregation. In a surprise gesture Daily reversed the order of service and inserted the sign of peace just before his homily.

As the bishop walked among the worshipers, he shook hands with everyone including all but two gays, who reportedly refused his hand. During his sermon, in which he talked about the diocese's proposed mission in the Dominican Republic, the demonstrators - members of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project - silently left their pews and processed out of the church holding aloft photos of victims of antigay violence. A policewoman met them at the door, but no arrests were made.

The largest photo was that of former Irish seminarian Brendan Fay, 33, who was stabbed and suffered a collapsed lung six days earlier in what police have ruled a bias attack. Walking from a Brooklyn subway station to the home of friends, Fay was stabbed in his right side by a teenager riding a bicycle, who reportedly shouted "faggot" as he cycled past Fay.

The Irishman, a member of St. James Parish and a well-known activist for gay rights, was fired as a religion teacher at the Mary Louise Academy, a Catholic all-girl prep school in Brooklyn, a few days after he marched with the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization in the 1991 St. Patrick's Day parade. The city's Human Rights Commission ruled recently in an undisclosed settlement between Fay and the academy.

Three weeks before the stabbing, Fay received a President's Award in absentia from Dignity/USA at the Catholic gay rights group!s annual convention in New Orleans. Fay, who is on Dignity/New York's steering committee, was cited for "courageous and eloquent action" with regard to the St. Patrick's Day parade affair, his subsequent firing and his outspokenness on behalf of homosexuals, Catholic and otherwise.

Fay is now receiving outpatient hospital care. From his bed in Bellevue Hospital last week, he told Republican mayoral candidate Rudolph Giuliani that he wished Daily had written a pastoral on violence, not on homosexuality. The 3,000-word letter issued Aug. 27 was the bishop's fourth pastoral since he became Brooklyn bishop in 1990. Previous letters dealt with racism, the Eucharist and evangelism in the Americas.

Daily has been an outspoken critic of the New York school system "Rainbow Curriculum," which sought to curb prejudice by teaching acceptance of gays as part of primary school education.

In his letter, Daily cites the "pressure" being exerted by "many sectors of society to accept the homosexual condition as though it were not disordered and to condone homosexual activity as an accepted alternative to marriage." The bishop said there could be no true pastoral care of homosexuals without a "clear presentation" of the church's teaching.

However, gay Catholics in New York said that Daily's letter is anything but pastorally caring. Tom McLoughlin, national military of Dignity/USA, said "You can't call people |intrinsically evil and disordered' without setting them up as victims - no matter how much you use the word |discrimination' ... the church is speaking in forked tongues."

While Dignity member Jeffery Stone called Cardinal Joseph Rafzinger's 1986 letter on the pastoral care of homosexuals "Daily's blueprint," he said that the Brooklyn bishop's words help to "create a climate in which violent actions against gays can occur."

Some in the gay community noted that when two gay men, Julio Rivera and Henry Marquez, were murdered in 1990 and 1991 respectively, Daily did not attend their funerals, contact their Catholic families in Brooklyn or speak out against their killers, who were also Catholics. While Mayor David Dinkins, Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, Giuliani and dozens of others visited Fay in the hospital, Daily sent no message, they said.

Spokespersons for the bishop told NCR that Daily was prompted to write the letter when he was asked to preach at the annual convention of the church-sponsored gay group Courage last month in the Bronx.
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Title Annotation:Brooklyn Bishop Thomas V. Daily's pastoral letter
Author:Lefevere, Patricia
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Sep 10, 1993
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