At a special church service on Thursday night, Bishop Nicholas A. Di Marzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn opened what is known as a “canonical inquiry” into the cause of sainthood for a Brooklyn priest, Msgr. Bernard J. Quinn.
The basis of the cause is Msgr Quinn’s proud record of fighting against bigotry, inside the church as well as outside.
Monsignor Quinn, who died in 1940 at age 52, championed racial equality at a time when discrimination against blacks was ubiquitous in America, even inside the Catholic Church. In the Depression-era heyday of the anti-Semitic, pro-Fascist radio broadcasts of the Rev. Charles E. Coughlin, Monsignor Quinn encountered sharp resistance from some fellow priests when he proposed ministering to Brooklyn’s growing population of blacks, many of them fleeing the Jim Crow South or migrating from the poor Caribbean countries.
When Msgr. John L. Belford, an outspokenly antiblack priest in New York, wrote in 1929 in his church newsletter that “negroes should be excluded from this Roman Catholic church if they become numerous,” Monsignor Quinn took pains during the public controversy that followed to state his strong disagreement.
The bigotry that Msgr Quinn fought against was racial, not sexual – but the principle is the same. Racial discrimination was once commonplace, and was widely “justified” by spurious references from Scripture. Today, overt displays of racial prejudice are taboo, and many Churches like to cast themselves as models of racial justice. Why can the church not see that the injustice of discrimination in Church is every bit as distasteful when applied to sexual minorities, as to racial groups?
This will change, is already changing. In years to come, we could easily see a repeat of something very like the above announcement, requiring changes to only the name and a very few words:
At a special church service on Thursday night, Bishop Nicholas A. DiMarzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn opened what is known as a “canonical inquiry” into the cause of sainthood for a … priest/sister, Fr John McNeill / Jeannine Gramick/………….(insert your nominee).
Fr John McNeill / Jeannine Gramick/………….(insert your nominee)n championed sexual equality at a time when discrimination against sexual minorities was ubiquitous in America, even inside the Catholic Church. In the heyday of the heteronormative, homophobic campaigns against marriage equality waged by so many bishops and prominent lay Catholics, Fr John McNeill / Jeannine Gramick/………….(insert your nominee) encountered sharp resistance from some fellow priests when he proposed ministering to the growing population of openly gay and lesbian Catholics, many of them fleeing homophobic violence or migrating from countries same sex relationships could meet prosecution, or even the death penalty.
Will it happen? not necessarily in those exact words, but in principle, I am sure it will. When will it happen? only time will tell.
- Possible Sainthood For Brooklyn Church Founder (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Chicago Priests Call Cardinal George, President of U.S. Catholic Bishops, to Accountability (bilgrimage.blogspot.com)
- Celibacy and a Wounded Church: Readers’ Observations (queering-the-church.com)
- The Minnesota Bishops’ Unholy War (thewildreed.blogspot.com)