Avery Arden, a transgender person, was not going back to their home church in Ohio only to listen to the pastor speak about how the Catholic church was “under attack” because of a pro-LGBTQ+ NGO.
“Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Look what’s happening. Defaming the name of Jesus Christ. Defaming the name of every Christian here on Earth,” Rev. Timothy Gareau of St. Raphael professed in a sermon last week. “It just burns a hole in my heart, angers me and embitters me. And it should you.”
While the priest said he didn’t “want to give these people a name,” Arden realized he was talking to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and told Cleveland that avoiding the group’s name “felt like a dog whistle.”
So the 28-year-old parishioner got their turn at the altar.
“Queer and trans people also carry the Holy Spirit, and that was really painful to hear. That was really hurtful,” Arden said.
According to Yahoo News, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence are an LGBTQ+ advocacy organization comprised of “a leading-edge Order of queer and trans nuns” noted for their colorful drag makeup and outfits. The nuns were recently pushed into the national spotlight after the Los Angeles Dodgers invited, then uninvited, the nuns to their annual LGBTQ+ Pride Night event. The team apologized and promised to award the sisters of the Los Angeles chapter with the Community Hero Award on June 16.
In their debate with Gareau, Arden acknowledged that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence appear to be “defaming the Catholic faith” from the outside, but emphasized that “the spirit of God moves through all people.”
“The idea that the church is under attack in this way that needs defending is laughable,” Arden said in an interview. “If I can’t convince people that what [the Sisters] do is not offensive, that’s fine. You can at least agree they don’t actually pose a real threat to the Catholic Church.”
Arden’s rebuke infuriated fellow churchgoers, and three members of the congregation took them out of the church. According to Arden, a parishioner began “storming towards” them and reportedly threatened to “shoot us.”
“I am a real Catholic. I go to mass every day, okay? I go to mass every day,” the man yelled, according to a video obtained by Cleveland. “Don’t defame the Lord Jesus. Get out of here.”
A “possible assault in progress” was reported at the church at about 10:46 a.m., according to a police report. The situation is still being investigated, and the information is still preliminary.
A spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland condemned the man who yelled at Arden, but said that “Catholics rightly feel outraged and violated when such a disruption occurs.”
“The act of disrupting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the most sacred part of Catholic life, is a serious matter,” the spokesperson said. “In keeping with the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, virtually all present at the Mass responded to the disruption with prayers for the person who interrupted the service and for the Church.”
Arden, a former active member of the community who now lives in Georgia, went by the church while visiting family in the area. Despite having witnessed the devotee’s baptism, first Holy Communion, and confirmation, Gareau’s new remarks marked the devotee’s final visit to St. Raphael, Cleveland said.
“St. Raphael is more than this hate,” they said. “I truly love Father Tim, and I do believe that he didn’t mean to promote violence. And I have hope that once he’s able to process what happened after his homily, that he will see how he did have a role and reflect on that.”
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