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LGBT event at local church cancelled by Minneapolis archdiocese

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis forced the cancellation of an LGBT event Saturday at the St. Frances Cabrini Church in Minneapolis. Pressure on the Archdiocese came from an anonymous Catholic who created a fake press release for the event and sent it to select religious media outlets, eventually prompting a campaign from CatholicVoter.org.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese confirmed with the Minnesota Independent on Wednesday that an event at the Franklin Avenue parish for the Catholic Association of Lesbian and Gay Ministries (CALGM) was canceled late Tuesday. The Archdiocese declined to discuss the incident further.

CALGM was hosting a fundraising dinner at the church complete with an LGBT chorus and silent auction.

In a blog post titled “Dissent: Catholic Parish in Minneapolis to host Gay & Lesbian fundraiser with ‘same-sex marriage activist’ pastor,” blogger Thomas Peters called for the event to be canceled.

“Practically speaking, this event should be canceled because it deceives Catholics into thinking the Church does not teach what it does about the homosexual lifestyle,” he wrote. “I would prayerfully urge the Archdiocese to take action.”

He added, “Priests like [Cabrini's Father Leo Tibesar] and organizations like CALGM cannot continue to be allowed to deceive Catholics and lead them into sinful lifestyles while simultaneously claiming to be Catholic. It’s really that simple.”

It’s not the first time Tibesar has created controversy over his support for the inclusion of LGBT people in the Catholic church. In 2006, conservative Catholic bloggers attacked him for his support of Minneapolis-based Dignity, a group that works for LGBT inclusion. In 2007, those same bloggers claimed that Tibesar was blessing same-sex marriages, a charge that turned out to be false. Also in 2007, the Archdiocese called for the cancellation of a talk by a Catholic lesbian and her 82-year old father.

According to Michael Bayly of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), someone using the pseudonym “Peter Canisius” had forged a press release to make it appear to come from the CALGM group.

“It seems to me that it was clearly meant to be a low-key event – the aim of which was not to question or challenge church teaching on homosexuality but to simply raise funds for a rather non-activist Catholic group that, from my experience, does its utmost to work within the church to promote respect for LGBT people – efforts that are actually mandated by the Roman Catholic Church,” wrote Bayly. (On its website, CALGM states that it strives “to clearly present Catholic doctrine on homosexuality” and lists the church’s doctrines and “core magisterial teaching on sexuality and sexual orientation from the last four decades.”)

He noted that the anonymous “Peter Canisius” had been behind a press release that distorted the event, as he has done in the past.

“This latest media release concerning the fundraiser for CALGN was deceptively written to sound as if it came from those organizing the event; to sound as if, in other words, it was an ‘official’ media release,” wrote Bayly. “Yet sprinkled among the legitimate information (time, place, venue, purpose, etc.) are clear attempts to stir-up the local traditionalists to inundate the chancery with calls demanding that this ‘scandalous’ event not take place on church property.”

He added, “That this stirring-up is undertaken using misinformation and outright lies seems not to bother [Peter Canisius].”

Bayly added that “Peter Canisius” has engaged in a campaign of deception and lies when it comes to events promoting respect for LGBT people within the Catholic church.

“His actions are nothing less than despicable,” he wrote. “He pretends to represent a group of people with whom he is clearly at odds; he deceives and spreads lies; and he causes hurt and pain to fellow Catholics who, in good conscience, are attempting to interact with LGBT persons in a spirit of ‘respect, friendship and justice.’”

CALGM, the group organizing the event, did not return requests for comment.

Archbishop John Nienstedt, whose office called for the cancellation, has moved the Archdiocese in a decidedly anti-LGBT direction since he took over in 2007.

“I believe that the dissent and theological speculation of the 60s and 70s is on the wane,” Nienstedt told the Catholic World Report in response to questions about dissent in the Archdiocese over LGBT rights. The magazine ran a lengthy profile of Nienstedt in its February edition.

He says that outrage over his decision to send out 400,000 anti-gay marriage DVDs in the weeks before a major election.

“In my recent attempt to catechize our Catholic people on the question of the theology of marriage, I have been quite surprised at the overt rejection to the teaching of the Church by a number of people who consider themselves good Catholics,” he added. “They appear to have been seriously impacted by the secularization of our time and the influence of the media. For example, when the media scooped the mailing of our DVD on marriage, the most hostile letters I received were within the first week of the media announcement. The DVD did not actually arrive in the homes of our Catholic people until later because we had sent it bulk mail in order to save money. This indicated to me that the people who wrote such negative commentaries had not even viewed the DVD before condemning it…I never thought that I would see in my lifetime a new persecution of the Church in this country. But there are signs around us that this is certainly a possibility.”

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