On July 18, CalCatholic reported on a long article in the July 17 issue of Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, on the city’s notorious Most Holy Redeemer parish. The Catholic San Francisco author managed 1100 words on the parish without mentioning any of events that have made Most Holy Redeemer infamous worldwide.  Now, in a bizarre and perhaps unprecedented editorial decision, the July 24 issue of Catholic San Francisco will include the puff piece for the second straight week.

In the Catholic San Francisco article, the two Missionaries of the Precious Blood at the parish, Fr. Matthew Link, and Fr. Jack McClure said that seeing Most Holy Redeemer through its “media reputation as the nation’s largest ‘gay parish’” is short-sighted, implying  that the parish is not just about homosexuality. How right they are. While homosexuality must be the inevitable first word at Most Holy Redeemer, it is certainly not the last word.

51fvYa2SenL__SX330_BO1,204,203,200_In 2011 Professor Jerome P. Baggett published a book called Sense of the Faithful: How American Catholics Practice Their Faith. Baggett was then serving as an associate professor of religion and society at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA. Baggett studied the parishioners at six San Francisco Bay Area churches, to see how they understood their faith. The six churches were Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco; St. Monica in Moraga; the dual parish of St. Mary/St. Francis de Sales in Oakland; St. Augustine in Pleasanton; St. Louis Bertrand in Oakland, and St. Margaret Mary in Oakland. Towards the end of the book, Professor Baggett published a helpful chart where parishioners answered a series of questions, prefaced by the question “Please tell me if you think a person can be a good Catholic without performing these actions or affirming these beliefs.”

Question 1 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without obeying the Church hierarchy’s teaching on birth control?  95% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 2 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without going to Church every Sunday? 83% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 3 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without their marriage being approved by the Church? 90% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 4 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without believing in the infallibility of the Pope? 95% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 5 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without obeying the church’s teaching against engaging in homosexual relations? 93% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 6 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without obeying the church hierarchy’s teaching regarding abortion? 78% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 7 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without believing that, in the Mass, the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ? 34% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

Question 8 was: Can a person be a good Catholic without believing that Jesus physically rose from the dead? 28% of those asked at Most Holy Redeemer said yes.

On every single question the largest percentage of parishioners repudiating Church teaching and, in the cases of questions 7 and 8, two of the most fundamental dogmas of the faith, were those from Most Holy Redeemer. The numbers were seldom close. The MHR parishioners’ negative responses to the faith were also far above the national averages, which Professor Baggett also included.

The following comes from a July 23 post by Joseph Sciambria on his blog, How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Homosexuality, Pornography, and the Occult.

From a recent article which appeared in Catholic San Francisco about Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish in the Castro:

“We didn’t come here to change anybody,” said Father McClure who sat with Father Link near the parish’s memorial fountain where the founders of the parish’s 30-year-old AIDS Support Group ministry are honored, including ninth pastor Father Anthony McGuire. Behind them on a stone wall are the words of Corinthians 1: 13:13: “But now faith, hope, and love remain – of these three, the greatest of these is love.” [See California Catholic Daily‘s July 18 article].

Yet, as someone who lived through the horror of the AIDS epidemics of the 1980s and 90s, things are clearly not well in the Castro; and, to you Fr. McClure, they clearly need to change. A bit about myself: I dropped into San Francisco as a rather naive and impressionable young man in 1988; death was literally everywhere, but I had grown up tortured, teased, and alienated and I knew that I belonged in the gay community; there – I thought I would find comfort and understanding. What I did find were hundreds of older gay men willing to be a surrogate father, willing to take me home and have sex with me, but not very willing to offer anything else.

In San Francisco, we came searching for a new family and a new home. For myself, it seemed to work for a while; then, I could no longer tolerate the endless and meaningless hook-ups, the sense of emptiness that never went away, and the mindless plague that was all around me. I started to think that something needed to change. Then, for some strange reason, I went to talk to a Catholic priest; I knew little about him, but I quickly surmised that he found nothing that was objectionable in the gay lifestyle. He told me to me to stay put, that I was who I was, and to try to settle down with one guy. In hindsight, he could have been sending me back to my death, but I never contracted HIV and I survived.

Eventually, I burned out from my repeated attempts at happiness. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I went back to the Church: I received absolution and reassurance that I was making the right decision from a kindly and humble priest. Yet, right away, I wondered what future there was for me – after all, I am gay; Aren’t I? Where am I to go? What am I to do? I felt lost, as I belonged nowhere. Then, one night, while looking for any ray of hope – I scanned the internet and found out about Courage. I attended my first meeting in San Francisco, a city that I didn’t want to return to, but again I needed friends and male companionship. For a time, it was an oasis: everyone there shared my new found realization that homosexuality was a literal dead-end and that we needed something else- namely God. At the same time, I read: books by Father John Harvey and Dr. Joseph Nicolosi. Surprisingly, I wasn’t alone – there were thousands of men who similarly found the gay lifestyle shallow, empty, and ultimately self-destructive. I remembered that priest: did he even attempt get to know me? Why didn’t he ask if I had been molested? Or if I had been abused or neglected? But, he sent a damaged boy back to a life that was clearly out of control. Didn’t I deserve to know the Truth? That I did have choice.

When Father McClure first arrived at Most Holy Redeemer, I contacted both him and Father Link; I had a proposal: a short presentation about my experiences and about Courage; I assured them, I was not there to judge or to tell anyone that their lifestyle was wrong or evil; that’s their decision to make – not mine. I simply wanted to present an alternative; that they did not have to live this way. I was turned down.

Dear Father McClure: you state that you didn’t come to Most Holy Redeemer to “change” anyone, but things need to change. According to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation: “Almost one in four gay or bisexual men in San Francisco is living with HIV and 86% of new HIV diagnoses are among gay and bisexual men…In 2013, there were 359 newly diagnosed HIV cases…Of those newly diagnosed with HIV in 2013, nine in 10 (91%) identified as male, 86 percent were men who have sex with other men, a majority (54%) were between 30-49 years old.” How many have to become infected? And how many have to die before you realize that the status-quo is no longer sustainable? You rightly heralded the history of charity and Christian generosity at Most Holy Redeemer, as I stated some of my friends were given funerals at Most Holy Redeemer when no one else would do it, but when are we going to stop burying people? When is enough enough? It needs to change and it needs to change now. Unlike what happened to me, these men should be given the choice: allow Courage at Most Holy Redeemer.

Your friend in Christ: Joseph Sciambra