Saint-Pierre-Apôtre, which was established by the OMI in the 1850s, has for decades now served the Gay Village near Montreal’s historic Old Port in a very pro-LGBTQ fashion. It claims to be a Catholic assembly that “advocates freedom, inclusiveness and reflection in today’s Church.” While respectfully acknowledging “the force of the great Catholic tradition”, under its pastor, Fr. Yoland Ouellet, it professes “to live our faith in an adult and responsible way by agreeing to dialogue on all matters that require pastoral and ethical reflections, always with the aim of taking personal and community decisions rooted in the Gospel.”
Matthew Richardson, formerly of Cirque Du Soleil, recently produced a dance routine and asked to film it in the church, including the sanctuary. It is a homoerotic routine, tastefully done as such things go, to Leonard Cohen’s moving (and widely covered) song “Hallelujah”. Permission was granted and the film released. A story appeared shortly after in the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News (SDGLN), which noted that this is the first installment of five in Richardson’s CircusQueer Project. The idea sprang from “a conversation he had with his mother about people of faith using scripture and sermons as expressions of hate”:
“I started thinking about all the protesters with hate signs that I see at every Pride,” explains Richardson. “I was thinking about all the hate messages I received after my first LGBTQ creation ‘The Arrow‘ (many using their religion as their reasoning) and immediately I thought I wanted to address this. My video ‘Hallelujah’ is a response to anyone who uses their beliefs as a weapon. It’s meant to be a gentle reminder that no matter what we believe in, we can still choose kindness towards those we don’t understand.”
The SDGLN remarks that “one might think leaders of the stoic and sanctimonious space would not welcome an intimate performance by two men expressing their love for one another, but the dancers are only its heart, the church its body, taking on perhaps the most important role in the video: An example of inclusivity through servanthood.” It notes Richardson’s pleasure that no impediment was placed in his way in this “incredible space that does a lot of outreach for the LGBTQ community in Montreal.” Indeed, says Richardson, “they welcomed me, my message, and our creation with open arms.”
In view of the hate and rejection his Queer community faces, Richardson says he hopes that others “will watch and question if they need to consider more kindness and understanding towards those who are different.” As for religion, they also may be different, but they are not so very different on his view:
I believe in all religions, we are all essentially worshiping the same thing just with different names and in different ways. So I prefer to reflect and give thanks to my ‘creator,’ rather than pretend to know exactly who or what that force actually is.
When a controversy broke around this story, the Archdiocese announced a new policy that would require pastors to seek permission for such things and indicated that nothing would be granted permission that did not conform to the Church’s own purpose and mission, which this apparently did not. No disciplinary action was mentioned – that seems to be reserved for priests who speak out on the other side, to judge by what happened in the nearby Archdiocese of Kingston – nor any remedial action related to the apparent desecration of the sanctuary of Saint-Pierre-Apôtre.
The new policy, sensible as it may be, does not substitute for doing what actually needs to be done, which is to face the question as to whether this parish still serves the Church’s dominical mission per Matthew 28 or whether it has invented its own private and contrary mission in league with the LGBTQ movement. If that is so, and it looks to be so, then the pastoral staff should be removed, with or without OMI approval, and a pastor installed who is willing and able to bring the gospel committed to the Church, in all its glorious contradiction of this present world, to the Gay Village.
But that of course would involve massive resistance, for which the Archdiocese is not prepared. Its unwillingness or inability to bring this parish into line is just one instantiation of a problem faced in almost every archdiocese in North America. Those who think like Richardson (of which there are many even in holy orders) take over a parish and utilize it as a base camp for changing the Church. Faithful bishops need to get to grips with the reality here, seeking the wisdom and mustering the courage to act decisively in removing these camps, which are in reality outposts of a foreign mission.
Why do they not do so? In some cases, because they secretly share Richardson’s view that we are all worshipping the Unknown God as best we can. In many cases, however, because they fear the men of the land of Canaan, or rather the land of Sodom. There are so many priests and laity within the Church who have allied themselves, or would ally themselves, with the enormous forces outside the Church who champion the LGBTQ cause, that they fear they would be routed. They also know that many of their fellow clergy would be ‘outed’ in that rout. And there seems to be no Joshua or Caleb or Gideon or David among them capable of persuading them to carry the fight for the soul of the Church, trusting in God to give the victory. Nor have they any support from Rome to carry the fight. Witness what Archbishop Paglia has been given permission to do with the John Paul II Institute.
So the wilderness journey of the Church continues, as God apparently waits for this unbelieving generation to die off – this generation that, all things considered, is content to see the Church turned into a chaplaincy for the ‘gay’ culture and just about any other popular culture that comes along with its own counterfeit gospel. That includes the euthanasia culture, as I pointed out in my essay “Discernment of Situation”, which will only help it die off all the more quickly.
But why am I using military imagery, you might ask – is that not just what Richardson is artistically critiquing? He says he is offering “a response to anyone who uses their beliefs as a weapon,” a gentle and beautiful response that bespeaks understanding and forgiveness. And here I am talking of war! Have I missed his point entirely?
I have not missed it. Art, too, can be a weapon and that is exactly how Richardson is using it, with material cooperation from Saint-Pierre-Apôtre. (Paglia’s former cathedral in Terni might have served better, but perhaps in one of the remaining installments?) I understand why he would do so. But what Richardson does, in fact, does not greatly concern me. I have known other gifted and persuasive people, not a few in my own profession, who take their view that God cannot be known for who or what he is in truth, not even by Jesus Christ. That was John Hick’s view, for example, and Professor Hick also weaponized it in his own genteel way, as have Catholic scholars and prelates.
No, it is what the Church does that concerns me. And what the Church does not do that it ought to do, and must do if it is really to be and to remain the Church of Jesus Christ. Namely, fight back, “with genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute” (2 Cor. 6). A fearful Church, a Church afraid of being routed, is the Church of Simon Peter the denier of Christ, not of Saint Peter the Apostle.
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