From March 16-20 the National Catholic Reporter published a five-part series about San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer parish. The article was by Thomas Fox, publisher of the newspaper. He is familiar with the parish, having spoken there at least once, on December 28, 2013. The tone of the series received its vanilla flavor because of significant omissions, a situation which caused the paper to take the unusual step (for them) of closing its comment functions:
“It is with deep regret that we have decided to end commenting on this series of stories. We gave a fair hearing to those who object or question aspects of this story, but too often, the same few points were being raised multiple times, which is against our user guidelines and was disrespectful to some of the people portrayed in the article. We encourage respectful discussion in our comments threads but reserve the right to close them when discussion is no longer productive, which has happened in this case.”
Unfortunately for Fox and the National Catholic Reporter, Jesuit Father Donal Godfrey’s dissertation Gays and Grays: the Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church covers the same ground with more detail and accuracy. Gays and Grays refutes much of what Fox says and supplies what Fox omits. It shows why Fox decided the combox needed to be closed. A few examples of the omissions:
In part three of the series, Fox quotes parishioner Bob Barcewski: “There’s nothing in this church — no functions — that are gay here. There’s nothing gay about what we do here.” This is the opposite of the truth. On page 124 of Gays and Grays Father Godfrey quotes parishioner Charles Bold: “So one Sunday I went to Mass, and I thought, oh my, this place is so gay…My older sister, she probably belongs to Opus Dei, I brought her here one time, and she wrote a letter saying that all these men who have sex with other men are going to communion. My sister said, ‘You know, it is social at [Most Holy Redeemer], and that should not be part of religion. You go there to save your soul.’” On page 140, Godfrey quotes parishioner Jeff Farris: “It started to dawn on me how gay it was only after I started going there—you know the whole social thing, they are looking for boyfriends!”
Godfrey’s book was published in 2007, so let’s look at recent events. The calendar of events for Contemplative Outreach of Northern California lists current speakers at Most Holy Redeemer. February 21: USF Theology Professor and Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, author of God Has Made it Plain To Them: An Indictment of Rome’s Hermeneutic of Homophobia; March 7: Dr. Richard Hardy, author of Loving Men: gay partners, spirituality, and AIDS; April 11, Father Terry Ryan, who in 2012 wrote “Many same sex unions are quite holy” ; May 16, Father Tom Bonacci, frequent retreat leader for Dignity San Francisco (including a 2013 retreat for Dignity & Dignity’s ‘leather’ affiliate The Defenders cancelled by Bishop Soto of Sacramento following a CalCatholic story). On January 22, as CalCatholic reported, Most Holy Redeemer hosted Equality California, an event unthinkable in any other Catholic Church. The ostensible purpose of the event, to address issues of immigration and health care took up about five minutes of the hour-long presentation. The other 55 minutes were devoted to Equality California’s legislative agenda, including how to increase homosexual indoctrination in the public schools and how to kill conscience protections for those religiously opposed to having to further the LGBT agenda.
Fox does not mention perhaps the best known parishioner: three-time Emmy award winner Patrick Mulcahey. Mulcahey, considered by many the best writer of soap opera dialogue in Hollywood, is a past vice-president of the Most Holy Redeemer pastoral council. For years he has been quoted in articles about the church in the New York Times, the SF Bay Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Examiner, the Bay Area Reporter, etc. He is extensively quoted in Gays and Grays and is effusively thanked for his help by Father Godfrey in the acknowledgements. In addition to serving as vice-president of the parish’s pastoral council and as a Eucharistic minister, Mulcahey is a well known advocate of the “leather” s/m lifestyle, keeping a “slave” and giving workshops on keeping “slaves.” In 2014 Mulcahey was nominated to be grand marshal of the San Francisco Leather Contingent in the Gay Pride parade.
Nor does Fox mention David Differding, a past coordinator of the Most Holy Redeemer worship committee. Like Mulcahey, Differding is an afficionado of the leather lifestyle, publicly participating at various leather events, and receiving at least one Golden Dildeaux award from the s/m group the Golden Gate Guards. Differding may no longer be a member of the church. Like other Catholic homosexuals, including Jesuit Father Cameron Ayers, and USF theology professor Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, he has apparently joined the Episcopal Church. He is listed as a delegate to the 2015 General Convention of the U.S. Episcopal Church on the webpage of San Francisco’s St. James Episcopal Church. Having such a high profile parishioner as the coordinator of the worship committee leave the faith would cause consternation bordering on crisis in many parishes. But Fox does not mention it.
Nor does Fox address the issue of Most Holy Redeemer’s hosting of the Golden Gate Guards and other s/m groups at the church’s parish hall from 2000-2008. That situation only came to an end because of pressure from concerned Catholics in the archdiocese of San Francisco. Photographs of these s/m events at a Catholic parish can be found at the richtrove.com website, which chronicles such activities.
Fox does not mention the best-known event in the parish’s history: Archbishop George Niederauer being ambushed in the Communion line by two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence—at a Mass where David Differding was serving as master of ceremonies. He does not mention the obscene Revival Bingo produced by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and hosted at the parish. He does not mention the Switch Hitters Ball, a transvestite event held for years at the parish.
He does not mention pastoral council member Matt Dorsey, who in 2009 successfully lobbied the Gay Pride parade committee to award the Pink Brick award to Archbishop Niederauer for his defense of natural marriage. Dorsey is the press secretary for the San Francisco City Attorney’s office. He does not mention the appointment of Hugo Gonzalez, an ex-priest from Arizona, as coordinator of lectors at the parish. Gonzalez made news when he signed the pro-gay Phoenix Declaration then left the priesthood following the appointment of Bishop Thomas Olmstead, over “philosophic differences.” He served as lector coordinator through at least January of 2014, although he no longer does.