The June 8 and 15 bulletins of San Francisco’s St. Agnes parish included the following announcement: “Show Your Catholic Pride Sunday, June 29! Make plans now to join Bay Area LGBT Catholics as we march in the 2014 Pride Parade! Our motorized cable car departs Most Holy Redeemer Church, 100 Diamond Street in the Castro at 9:30 AM sharp on Sunday, June 29. Ride your cable car to the staging area, then step off amid the cheers along Market Street. It’s not only great fun, it’s an important outreach to everyone—that St. Agnes and other Bay Area parishes are welcoming places! Contact (name redacted) at MHR for more details.”
While Most Holy Redeemer’s parish bulletin did not include an announcement about participating in the city’s annual celebration of sodomy, it did include the following on June 15: “Pick up your Pride T Shirts! People who ordered PRIDE T-Shirts can pick them up during the coffee hour after the 10:00 am Mass today (June 15). There are a limited number of shirts available for sale if you did not order earlier.”
The T-shirt announcement coincides with the departure of Most Holy Redeemer’s pastor, Brian Costello, who, the week before the ‘pride T-shirts’ announcement appeared, published what must surely be the shortest pastor’s goodbye in history:
“Dear Friends, As of July 1st, I will be heading up north to Novato to become the new pastor of Our Lady of Loretto Church. I am very, very happy! Have a great Pentecost Sunday! Fr. Brian”
Father Costello’s pastorate at Most Holy Redeember was notable for his concern for the spiritual well-being of his flock, one indicator being the lack of Gay Pride Parade announcements in the parish bulletin during his tenure.
Both Most Holy Redeemer and St. Agnes have a long history of homosexualist advocacy in defiance of Church teaching. The two parishes partnered in hosting the Queer Perspectives colloquia in 2006. On February 12, 2006 Most Holy Redeemer hosted USF’s Professor Vincent Pizzuto in the discussion “Queer Perspectives: Is it Ethical to be Catholic?” Since the openly homosexual Pizzuto has left the Catholic Church and been ordained as a priest in the Celtic Christian Church, one can conclude he answers that question with a resounding “no.” Despite his repudiation of the Catholic faith, the Reverend Pizzuto is now the chair of the department of theology and religious studies at the University of San Francisco.
Queer Perspectives was followed on March 26, 2006 by a similar event at St. Agnes called Alienated Catholics: Establishing the Groundwork for Dialog. Professor Pizzuto spoke at that event too, and was joined by an openly lesbian professor from another Jesuit institution, Santa Clara Univeristy’s Professor Catherine Murphy. St. Agnes’ then-pastor, Father Cameron Ayers, SJ spoke as well. In 2005 Father Ayers had led a group of St. Agnes parishioners to the Gay Pride parade. Like the Reverend Pizzuto, Father Ayers has since left the Catholic Church, and now serves as assisting priest at San Francisco’s Holy Innocents Episcopal Church.
Most Holy Redeemer’s participation in the parade was a constant from the mid 1990s until 2008, when ongoing efforts from concerned Catholics finally caused the archdiocese to request the parish no longer march in the parade. Since then it has been an on-again-off-again thing. By 2011 Most Holy Redeemer was back. According to a blurb in the April 2011 issue of Communion, the monthly newsletter of “Catholics (sic) for Equality,” parish members would march “not under the banner of MHR, but as private Catholic citizens. We have reached out to other Catholic parishes, and have received enthusiastic responses.” But, as CalCatholic reported at the time, although parishioners might not be marching under the MHR banner “the parish is allowing organizers to meet on archdiocesan property, coordinate parishioners’ attendance at the event, and inviting members of other parishes to join them – with the apparent blessings of (then-pastor) Fr. Meriwether.” Most Holy Redeemer’s group was joined by members of St. Agnes Church and St. John of God Church.