Gay Catholics protest communion refusal

A news snippet from the Netherlands.

I’m trying to find out more.  The bit that intrigues me, is that “minister” Luc Buyens decided, after talking to the bishop, “not to give anyone at the service communion”, so as “not to discriminate”

From DutchNews

Monday 22 February 2010

A number of openly homosexual practising Catholics will attend a service at the St Jan basilica in Den Bosch next Sunday to directly challenge a bishop on giving communion to gay men and women.

The protest follows the refusal of minister Luc Buyens to give communion to an openly gay man who had been elected carnival prince in his home town of Reusel.

The carnival blessing is a traditional part of the festivities.

After talks with the bishop, Buyens decided not to give anyone at the service communion. ‘I do not want to discriminate,’ he was reported as saying.

UPDATE: Here is a fuller report, from Radio Netherlands Worldwide – but this has no reference to the non-discrimination.

A Catholic priest in the south of the Netherlands has stirred up controversy by refusing to allow the local Prince Carnival to receive Communion because he is openly gay. Father Luc Buyens of the small town of Reusel took his stand at last Saturday’s Carnival Mass.

Carnival is a major public holiday in the southern Netherlands: shops and schools close and normal life grinds to a halt for three days of fun and festivities. An important part of the tradition is the election of a Prince Carnival, often a prominent member of the local community, to lead the Carnival celebrations. This year in Reusel, the honour fell to openly gay resident Gijs Vermeulen, who made no secret of his five-year relationship with his partner Michael in the weeks leading up to the celebrations.

Both the Catholic church and Carnival are very much part of the social fabric in the Netherlands’ southern provinces. The two are closely linked, since the Carnival festivities mark the start of Lent, a Christian period of fasting and renunciation leading up to Easter.

Carnival Mass
In his capacity as Prince Carnival, Gijs Vermeulen was due to address the congregation at the Carnival Mass and then lead them to receive Communion. But one week before the festivities were due to start, Father Buyens called Gijs to tell him that he would not allow him to take the sacrament. The Catholic Church officially condemns homosexuality and priests can refuse to administer the sacraments to practising homosexuals, though the Dutch clergy rarely do so.

“I was on the phone with him for almost half an hour,” Gijs Vermeulen explained to Dutch gay magazineGaykrant. “I told him we’re not living in the 14th century anymore but he wasn’t prepared to change his position.”

Equal treatment
In the end, Mr Vermeulen attended the mass because he did not want to spoil the celebrations, but he continued his discussion with the church on Thursday. “I want to be treated the same as everyone else,” he insists. “I’m a Catholic. I made my first Communion and took Confirmation.”

The renewed discussion has not brought the two sides any closer together. After his conversation with Father Buyens, Mr Vermeulen told the press that he accepts that the church is entitled to exercise its rules, but he is saddened by the nature of those rules.

This may not be the final word on the controversy. Today’s AD newspaper reports that a Labour councillor from a nearby town has called on the gay community to protest at the church in Reusel until the priest admits the error of his ways. Both Father Buyens and Gijs Vermeulen have declined to comment on the initiative.

Indeed, there were protests:


Dozens of people protested outside the Roman Catholic church in the Dutch town Reusel on Sunday. The local priest, Father Luc Buyens, denied communion to an openly gay churchgoer at a service earlier last week. His actions have led to a storm of criticism.

The protesters, led by town council member Dick Boonman, handed out pink triangles to people attending Sunday mass. Several Christian gays had travelled to Reusel to attend the mass. The priest consequently decided not to administer communion to anyone attending the service.

After the service, Father Buyens explained he was still determined to hold his ground on the matter. “A referee on a soccer field does not discuss his decisions with a player who exhibits problematic behaviour,” he commented.


3 Responses to “Gay Catholics protest communion refusal”

  1. Phillip Clark Says:

    This is quite discouraging, and to be honest, extremely frightening for me as a gay Catholic.

    I’ve contemplated this dismal prospect on numerous occasions. First, I’ve seen the repercussions that sometimes have been exhibited towards gay Catholics who actively protest the Church’s stance on homosexuality; who are usually just outrightly denied Holy Communion.

    However, those who are gay, but don’t raise much fuss with the Church, except when their conscience urges them to, usually don’t get punished nearly as severely. In fact, most pastors probably allow them to receive anyway because ultimately, in less they are making a public declaration that they’re gay and that they don’t agree with the Church’s rules, there’s really no way to prove that they aren’t living in accordance with the Church’s teachings.

    But for those of us who are dedicated to enlightening the public both in and outside of the Church on this issue and the misinformed substance of the Church’s arguments on the matter, this is indeed both alarming alarming and deeply saddening.

    I had hoped that it would not come to this point. But when this happens in a nation as socially progressive as the Netherlands, in the land where the profoundly progressive “Dutch Catechism” was produced following Vatican II, this is extemely dissapointing.

    I know eventually I want to become involved in politics at some point in my life. I don’t think I would want to take the route of elected office; 1. I don’t think I’m qualified or have the charisma for the role, 2. It would put me in the perfect position of publicity and vuleralbility for the leaders of the Church to condemn my public stances as well as my “lifestyle”

    I do however want to have some sort of role in serving our nation’s agencies of foreign service, hopefully someday getting a job at the State Department and becoming a diplomat in some capacity. I’d also like to become accredited as a theologian as well at a Catholic institution (while I still can, given that the current attitude among the USCCB seems to wants to eradicate any kind of freedom of thought in our nation’s Catholic universities) and publish on theological topics, especially issues regarding reform of the Church and the injustice that is committed in the name of doctrine and dogma towards homosexuals, women, those who are civilly divorced and remarried and numerous other disenfranchised groups of individuals.

    This most recent incident makes me wonder whether I can remain safe and continue to receive Holy Communion regularly and attend Mass if I went through with my ultimate aspirations? I’ve realized that with today’s climate there’s very much that we can do within the Church to bring light to the injustice and discriminatory nature of its stance on homosexuality without being excluded from parish life in some fashion. If you don’t go out of your way to be loud about this issue in your parish but you raise the issue within the civic sphere (as John Allen has suggested that progressively inclined Catholics do in his most recent work “The Future Church”, working for justice “ad extra” rather than an “ad intra” fashion) can you still expect to be singaled out and punished for this? For Catholics in gay relationships who continue to attend Mass, can they now be refused Communion simply on a presupposition?

    All of this is intensely alarming and frightening, and I hope that as most prudent bishops have done here in the States, that they will not wound LGBT Catholics by using Holy Communion as a political weapon in such a manner… 😦

    • Terence@queerchurch Says:

      Thanks Philip. you raise some important issues which I want to take up, but cannot do properly right now. I will reply more fully later, in an independent post.

  2. Dutch Gay Catholics: Excluded from God’s People? « Queering the Church (towards a reality-based theology) Says:

    […] (For Phillip’s thoughts in full, see the comments thread following my original post) […]

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