Tagged: John Nienstedt

Pope Blesses Uganda’s Top “Kill the Gays” Lawmaker

Last March, Pope Benedict XVI explicitly blessed the anti-LGBT spiritual bullying campaign of the U.S. Catholic bishops in an address delivered to a delegation headed by Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt (one of the most outspoken homophobes in the American Catholic hierarchy). Many current and former LGBT Catholics, myself included, were horrified and disgusted by the Pope’s divisive gesture. I wrote at the time:

Pope Benedict’s words today, delivered to a group of bishops headed by one of the American Catholic Church’s most notorious homophobes, amount to nothing less than an official endorsement — no, a blessing — of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ all-out campaign of spiritual bullying and forceful political lobbying against American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, couples, and families.

The leader of the religion into which I was born has just cloaked anti-gay hatred with the mantle of faith to an unprecedented degree and explicitly endorsed malicious religion-based bigotry in a way I never imagined possible.

Awful, right? Well this week, Benedict pulled a stunt that was (unbelievably) even more reprehensible: he blessed Rebecca Kadaga, Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, who has promised to pass the infamous “Kill the Gays Bill” as a “Christmas gift” to the Ugandan people. Seriously. According to a report from Uganda’s New Vision News, Kadaga seemed almost breathlessly effusive as she described the encounter:

Kadaga who led a delegation of Ugandan legislators to the Vatican expressed delight at meeting the Pope and visiting St Peter’s Basilicca [sic].

“I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter’s Basilica but now we are here physically. “I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” she said minutes after meeting the Pope.

The Speaker dedicated to all Ugandans readings from the book of St.Mark which the Pope quoted in several languages during the Vatican mass. She handed over to the Pope a portrait of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo, a historical place where Christians were murdered because of their allegiance to their faith.

If you’ve just spat out your coffee, you’re not alone. Noted gay blogger David Badash says it best: “The deathly irony is inescapable.” And if that wasn’t ironic enough:

The Ugandan delegation was in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights.

I am stunned, folks. Apparently, even a person who wants to kill gays for Christmas can get a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI. Pure evil.


After you’ve shared this article on Facebook, check out and consider sharing this image from AllOut as well:

h/t: David Badash

Incidentally, Badash and Andy Towle both report that the Mass where Benedict blessed Kadaga was also the Mass at which the Pope sent his first tweet. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do a little tweeting myself, to let ol’ Pontifex know how I feel about his blessing a woman about to commit crimes against humanity.

Originally published at Back2Stonewall.

MN Archbishop Nienstedt’s Homophobia Makes for Awkward Dinner Encounter

nienstedtSo I was just poking around the Interwebs today, checking all of my usual news sources, when I stumbled upon a rather interesting little nugget –

Apparently, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune printed a Q&A with notoriously homophobic Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt earlier this month. The topic of the article was the archbishop’s role in the campaign to pass a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, and most of the questions were standard-issue fare for interviews like this. (Why do you believe marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples? Why do you believe your definition of marriage should be written into the constitution? Can a person be a faithful Catholic and still vote against the amendment? How do you answer critics who say the archdiocese should spend their money feeding people rather than fighting marriage? etc.)

But then the questions turned to the infamous anti-marriage equality DVDs that the Knights of Columbus produced and Minnesota’s Catholic bishops sent to each of the state’s 400,000 Catholic households. Nienstedt was asked the following:

In an interview with the Rev. Michael Becker, one of your friends and the rector at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, he recalled he’d heard that you were dining at the Lexington restaurant in St. Paul and a man came into the restaurant and threw one of the church’s DVDs at you. Fr. Becker said you remained composed and that the incident speaks to the way you’ve handled intense criticism amid the marriage amendment debate. What was your response to that incident, your recollection of it? What’s been your response in general to the often heated criticism lodged your way during this debate? Do you respond to your critics?

Woah! An angry gay publicly chucked a DVD at a Catholic archbishop? I can’t believe I missed the story of such a confrontation. (I also thought that, even though I don’t endorse attacking one’s opponents in any way, for any reason, throwing something at someone with such a high profile — in a public place, no less — takes some serious chutzpah!) Nienstedt responded, “In the face of this and other criticism, I try to respond to such emotional outbursts with reason, calm and patience. My goal is to always treat others with respect, even if I don’t agree with them.”

lavender_magazineBut a man has now come forward to challenge Nienstedt’s and Becker’s account. In the latest issue of Lavender magazine, the biweekly magazine for the LGBT community in the Twin Cities, reporter John Townsend interviews Gregg Larson, who says he was the man who confronted the archbishop that night while eating dinner with his partner of 35 years. Larson claims that almost everything about the way Becker recounted the confrontation is inaccurate. He told Lavender:

First off, I didn’t come into the restaurant. My partner and I were there before they arrived. Also, I did not throw the DVD at him. I would never have done that. In fact, nobody in the restaurant even was aware of the conversation that we had with them.

According to Larson’s account, when he saw Nienstedt waiting near the coat check to be seated, he approached the prelate and introduced himself. Larson mentioned that his elderly mother had received a piece of “junk mail” that he wished to return (the DVD). He then told Nienstedt that he had heard rumors that the archbishop was a closeted gay man, saying that if the rumors were true, the prelate was a hypocrite.

Larson then returned to his table, but then remembered that he had the DVD in his car. He retrieved it, approached the table where Nienstedt and Becker were now seated, and informed the archbishop that rather than return it by mail, Larson decided to return it in person.

“And with that,” he told Lavender, “I broke it in half and I dropped the two pieces into the middle of the table and I took the letter and I tore it up and I put that in the middle of the table.”

Larson then brought up the rumors about Nienstedt’s alleged homosexuality for a second time. The archbishop responded, “You shouldn’t believe rumors,” to which Larson allegedly retorted, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.” He continued:

And at that point he kind of raised his hand and snarled ‘Get out!’ And I responded that his behavior was unbecoming of an archbishop and that maybe we needed an exorcist here. There was no yelling. It was a conversational level. The restaurant was full of people. No one knew what was going on. The other priest said that we were ruining their dinner and my partner said that they were ruining people’s lives. The priest said, ‘We will pray for you.’ My partner said, ‘Please don’t pray for me. I was raised as a Congregationalist and we were taught to think for ourselves.’ The priest replied again: ‘I will pray for you.’ And at that point we both left.

Nienstedt did not return Lavender‘s request for comment on Larson’s allegations, so at this point it’s a he-said, he-said situation. Still, as a former Catholic who now fights for LGBT equality against the likes of John Nienstedt, I personally found the story terribly interesting. I’d like to know what you think of Larson’s response. Do you think it was warranted? Did it accomplish anything? If you suddenly and unexpectedly found yourself sitting just yards away from such an outspoken homophobe, would you confront them?

And of course, if you’ve actually done something like this, I’d be fascinated to hear that story too.

By the way, click here to read the full article from Lavender reporter John Townsend. It’s on page 51.

Lutheran Bishop in MN Rebukes Catholic Archbishop in Open Letter

chilstromIn an op-ed published last weekend in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, former Lutheran Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom respectfully but firmly rebuked Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt for his aggressive support and promotion of a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would permanently strip the freedom to marry from same-sex couples. Chilstrom — a Minnesota native who served as the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and as vice president of the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland — wrote that in his view the archbishop, who is frequently quoted in the media as having “drawn the line” on marriage, has drawn it in the wrong place — in a place, in fact, that would effectively impose the Catholic Church’s definition of marriage on all Minnesotans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike. He notes that previous attempts throughout history to do just that have failed miserably:

Eight hundred years ago, Pope Innocent III presided over church and state in most of what is now Western Europe. He left no room for dissent. Non-Catholics, including Jews, Muslims and nonbelievers, were even required to wear clothing that distinguished them from the church’s faithful.

Several centuries later, John Calvin held monumental sway over society in Switzerland, fostering regulations that prescribed much of daily life.

For years kings and heads of the churches in Scandinavia allowed only Lutherans to hold worship services. Believers who gathered without the presence of a clergyman were imprisoned.

Since Israel became a sovereign nation after World War II, some Orthodox Jews have tried to form a government ruled by religious law. They have been firmly resisted.

But in neighboring Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is now attempting to force Islamic law on every citizen.

As these efforts have failed in the past, I believe they will fail in the future as well.

Bishop Chilstrom also notes that Nienstedt’s authoritative-sounding words and decisive actions leave the misleading impression that the Catholic Church is a monolithic institution intolerant of dissent, then points out that Nienstedt’s predecessor in the Diocese of New Ulm (where Nienstedt was bishop before being promoted to his current position) spoke openly and publicly about the need for the Catholic Church to consider ordaining married men and women to the priesthood. “He clearly understood,” writes Chilstrom, “that one could be a good Roman Catholic and still be open to change.”

Chilstrom acknowledges that both he and Nienstedt are entitled to their own opinions as private citizens of our republic, but that the enactment and enforcement of laws should be left to the legislature and the judiciary. He concludes by pointing out that dissent in the Catholic Church isn’t just limited to the hierarchy: “There is evidence that many in your church will vote ‘no’ on this amendment,” Chilstrom writes. “I stand with them and with all who will vote ‘no.’”

Read Bishop Chilstrom’s full op-ed here.


MN Football Star Chris Kluwe Defends Mom of Gay Son Against Homophobic Archbishop

chris_kluwe3Earlier this week, I reported on a 2010 letter written by Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt to the mother of a gay son. When the woman contacted him and pleaded for acceptance on her son’s behalf, Nienstedt responded by warning that her eternal salvation was potentially at risk unless she changed her view and accepted the Catholic Church’s anti-gay teachings — essentially demanding that she choose between accepting her son and saving her soul.

The awful story apparently caused enough of a stir to attract the attention of Chris Kluwe, a Minnesota Vikings football star who also happens to be an amazing spokesperson for marriage equality. This outspoken ally responded in an eloquent letter to Nienstedt and Pope Benedict XVI that Kluwe posted on his blog:

Do you presume to speak for God, Archbishop Nienstedt? Will you tell these children, faithful children who attend Sunday school and earnestly pray every day, that they are somehow lessened in God’s eyes? Will you grasp that millstone, Archbishop Nienstedt, grasp it all the way to the bottom, clutching at the heavy weight of earthly power and influence even as it drags you down?

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

“Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Tell me, Archbishop, Pope, what purpose does the Church serve attempting to influence the affairs of a secular state? The federal benefits under law currently denied gay couples certainly fall under the realm of Caesar, don’t they? No one is forcing the Catholic Church to marry gay couples if that is not the Church’s wish. You can keep the sanctity of Catholic marriage solely between heterosexual couples if you feel that is what’s required (again though, I caution you on the dangers of presumed infallibility). All we are asking is for you to extend the open hand of tolerance instead of the closed fist of fear and hate. As American citizens, we respect the right for everyone to practice whichever religion they so choose, including the right to not practice one at all. Haven’t we learned enough from the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Talibans of the world? What does it benefit the Church to attempt to influence secular policy in this country, especially when that influence is to deny basic human rights to others? Will you now assume Caesar’s throne, grasping the transitory ephemera of worldly power and control, while forsaking the eternal kingdom of Heaven?

I’m not a religious man, but the only thing I can think to say in response is a big, resounding “amen!”

H/t: Will Kohler at Back2Stonewall

Photo by David Bowman for Out Magazine. Click for link.
Photo by David Bowman for Out Magazine. Click for link.

MN Abp. Nienstedt To Mother of Gay Child: Accept Anti-Gay Church Teaching or Risk Your Salvation

nienstedt_bigotLongtime readers will know that I’m no fan of Twin Cities Catholic Archbishop John Nienstedt. In fact, I believe that Nienstedt has inserted himself more deeply into the battle over civil marriage in his state than perhaps any other Catholic bishop across the country. (And considering some of the competition, that’s quite the accomplishment!)

A two-year-old letter written by the archbishop has been making the social media rounds this weekend. According to the Star Tribune, the letter from May 2010 was a response “to a mother who pleaded for acceptance for her gay child” and apparently surfaced in the battle over a proposed marriage discrimination amendment to Minnesota’s constitution. I decided to share it with you because it shows just how deeply-held Nienstedt’s homophobic views are.


In my view, telling the parent of an LGBT child that they “ought not to participate in the sacramental life of the Church” unless they renounce their pro-equality views — and that their “eternal salvation may well depend upon” their ability to accept the Catholic Church’s anti-gay teachings — is spiritual bullying of the highest order, and nothing short of monstrous. As I’ve said just once before, this disgusts me on such a visceral level that if I hadn’t already left the Catholic Church before reading Nienstedt’s letter, I’d be walking out the door at this very moment.

Minnesota Catholic High Schoolers Not Happy With Mandatory Marriage Discrimination Lecture

nienstedt_bigotEven among the virulently homophobic American bishops, Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt stands out. More than perhaps any other prelate in the country (with possible competition from New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan), Nienstedt has turned the fight against marriage equality into an all-out crusade. He’s inserted a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass, turned that church’s holiest sacrament into a weapon against LGBT people, ordered his priests to organize grassroots political committees in their parishes — at parish expense — for the express purpose of drumming up support for Minnesota’s proposed constitutional marriage discrimination amendment, and essentially told those same priests that if they opposed the Minnesota Catholic Church’s war on LGBT people, couples, and families, they had damn well better keep their traps shut about it. (And incidentally, Nienstedt’s spiritual bullying was recently endorsed by none other than the Pope himself.)

With so many malicious anti-gay attacks to his credit, one could be readily forgiven for overlooking another one that I mentioned only briefly in a previous post:

 ”. . . Nienstedt also spoke about sending teams consisting of ‘a priest and a married couple’ into Catholic schools to discuss marriage discrimination with schoolchildren.”

That’s right: Nienstedt planned to send teams of adults into Catholic schools to teach children that, if the Minnesota Catholic Church has its way in November, only some of them will be worthy of marriage when they grow up.

Awful, no? Well now, thanks to Jon Tevlin of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, we know that these mandatory marriage discrimination lectures are indeed taking place at Catholic schools across the archdiocese. But in at least some of those schools, students are very unhappy about being forcibly subjected to such a decidedly un-Christian message. Tevlin interviewed Matt Bliss, a senior at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, about what happened at his school’s assembly:

“The first three-quarters of the presentation were really good,” said Bliss. “They talked about what is marriage and how marriage helps us as a society. Then it started going downhill when they started talking about single parents and adopted kids. They didn’t directly say it, but they implied that kids who are adopted or live with single parents are less than kids with two parents of the opposite sex. They implied that a ‘normal’ family is the best family.”

“When they finally got to gay marriage, [students] were really upset,” said Bliss. “You could look around the room and feel the anger. My friend who is a lesbian started crying, and people were crying in the bathroom.”

I don’t know about you, but reading stories like this makes my blood boil. But check out what happened next:

Bliss was one of several students who stood up to argue with the representatives from the archdiocese. One girl held up a sign that said, “I love my moms.”

Mike O’Keefe, a spokesman for the school, said that other students were mad that some of the students spoke out and thought that some of them were “rude” to the visitors from the archdiocese.

“We weren’t being rude,” countered Lydia Hannah, another student who spoke out. “But people were upset, and we weren’t just going to sit there.”

The students had ample reason to be angry. According to Hannah, she and her fellow DeLaSalle students were suspicious when they found out that only current seniors would be required to sit through the marriage lecture. She said, ”We put two and two together — all of us will be able to vote next fall [on the constitutional amendment that limits marriage to same-sex couples].” These suspicions were confirmed when the presenters directly addressed the proposed amendment, albeit briefly due to the angry reaction it elicited from the students.

The priest-couple team didn’t stop there, though. Bliss told Tevlin that when someone in the audience stated that two men, for example, were perfectly capable of enjoying a loving, committed, stable relationship, the diocesan couple onstage equated that loving same-sex relationship with bestiality. Hannah was shocked by these comments, and she was equally shocked to hear one of the presenters characterize adopted children as “sociologically unstable.” Hannah herself is adopted.

Bliss eventually decided he’d had enough:

At one point, Bliss raised his hand and, “as politely as I could,” began to argue with the presenters. He used his knowledge of history to refute many of their points, and explained that various cultures have accepted and embraced homosexuality going back hundreds of years.

“I think they were surprised by the history I gave them and surprised that I was so calm,” said Bliss. “I don’t think they expected the response they got from the students.”

Since the diocesan priest and DeLaSalle administration officials abruptly ended the assembly after it became clear the students weren’t exactly drinking the punch, Bliss’s assessment appears to be accurate. Angry students were allowed to stay afterward and continue the discussion with archdiocesan officials, which resulted in a more civil atmosphere, at least temporarily. However, Tevlin wrote that ”the more questions the presenters tried to answer, the worse it got.”

And it didn’t end well. Said Bliss, ”It was a really awful ending. It was anger, anger, anger, and then we were done and they left. This is really a bad idea.”

Predictably — as you probably deduced from the above comment by school spokesman Mike O’Keefe — the school appears to be relatively unconcerned about the lesbian student reduced to tears after being told her sexual orientation renders her unfit to love in a meaningful way, the traumatized teens crying in the restroom after hearing their LGBT friends slandered and humiliated, the adopted children accused of having mental problems, the boy calmly refuting anti-gay lies with historical facts, or the girl bravely standing up for her moms even as she’s forced to hear them belittled in a public forum. No, the school thinks they were being a nuisance, being rude.

I beg to differ. Far from being rude, these kids are standing up for justice and equality. They are speaking truth to power, even when that means challenging the teachings of the very church that many of them presumably have spent their whole lives in. I wouldn’t call that rudeness. I’d call it courage.

BREAKING: Internal NOM Documents Reveal Race-Baiting Strategy

Last night, the Human Rights Campaign released a slew of previously-sealed internal documents from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation’s largest, most visible, and most insidious group of marriage discrimination proponents. The documents, marked “confidential,” were unsealed yesterday afternoon in Maine as part of that state’s ongoing ethics investigation into NOM’s campaign finances. NOM, notoriously dogged in its efforts to fight internal disclosures of any kind, had sued in state court to block the investigation, and now we know why: the documents disclosed yesterday reveal the group’s vile and repugnant strategy of setting minority groups against each other through the shameful exploitation of race.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, check out some of these whoppers below. All emphases, unless otherwise noted, are my own.

Here’s how NOM plans to set the Latino and LGBT communities against each other, from page 17 of a “confidential” 2009 strategic report entitled National Strategy for Winning the Marriage Battle:

. . . by searching for these leaders across national boundaries we will assemble a community of next generation Latino leaders that Hispanics and other next generation elites in this country can aspire to be like. (As “ethnic rebels” such spokespeople will also have an appeal across racial lines, especially to young urbans in America).

. . . we will develop Spanish language radio and TV ads, as well as pamphlets, YouTube videos, and church handouts and popular songs. Our ultimate goal is to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist association to the bad side of “Anglo” culture.

And from a 2009 report to its board of directors, also marked “confidential:”

The Latino vote in America is a key swing vote, and will be so even more so [sic] in the future, both because of demographic growth and inherent uncertainty: Will the process of assimilation to the dominant Anglo culture lead Hispanics to abandon traditional family values? We must interrupt this process of assimilation by making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity – a symbol of resistance to inappropriate assimilation.

In that board update, NOM is just as candid about its attempts to divide LGBTs and African Americans :

The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies. Find, equip, energize and connect African American spokespeople for marriage; develop a media campaign around their objections to gay marriage as a civil right; provoke the gay marriage base into responding by denouncing these spokesmen and women as bigots. No politician wants to take up and push an issue that splits the base of his party. Fanning the hostility raised in the wake of Prop 8 is key to raising the costs of pushing gay marriage to its advocates. . . find attractive young black Democrats to challenge white gay marriage advocates electorally.

The name of the “strategic project” to which the above quote refers? NOM’s “Not a Civil Right Project.” Just last week I wrote a column for the Huffington Post in which I said that the movement for LGBT rights and the movement for African American rights are both part of the same civil rights movement, and that it is crucially important for us to continue asserting so. I also wrote that equality-minded people of all races, ethnicities, orientations, and identities needed to push back against any attempt to avoid equating LGBT rights with civil rights — from either the right or the left — because it sets minority groups against each other, reinforces false hierarchies of oppression, and makes unjust accommodations for bigotry. Little did I know when I wrote those words that I was essentially outlining the strategic plan of the National Organization for Marriage. It’s more than a little chilling, if you ask me.

maggie2The NOM document dump is a veritable gold mine. For me, one of the most frightening revelations contained therein (at least in the documents I’ve read so far — stay tuned here and elsewhere for further details) is that the organization admits that it plans on exporting its hateful models overseas. In their own words, NOM is engaged in the process of “creating [templates] that can be used abroad” because it recognizes that “marriage needs to be a national (and ultimately international) effort.”

The 2009 strategic report also discusses NOM’s “American Principles Project,” which aims to “expose Obama as a social radical,” “develop side issues to weaken pro-gay marriage political leaders and parties and develop an activist base,” and “raise such issues as pornography, protection of children, and the need to oppose all efforts to weaken religious liberty at the federal level.” If this sounds strikingly similar to the presidential campaign strategy of one Rick Santorum, that’s because he’s been working with NOM since at least 2009. The same memo notes, in a section titled “Two Million for Marriage,” that Rick Santorum “has served as the face of this effort through e-mail and direct mail” and “has recently agreed to use his voice in a nationwide automated call effort to solicit activists and donations.” No wonder Maggie Gallagher endorsed Santorum earlier this year — her group is the one writing the former senator’s playbook.

Finally, a section on NOM’s “Catholic Clergy Project” touts the group’s “close relationships with Catholic bishops” and reveals its plans to use those relationships “to equip, energize and moralize Catholic priests on the marriage issue.” (Interestingly, it also describes Catholic priests as “notoriously difficult to personally reach.”) We’ve seen NOM’s Catholic-centered strategy play out all across the country, from then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan taking the lead in opposing marriage equality in New York to Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt injecting a prayer for marriage discrimination into the Catholic Mass and silencing any dissent among his priests on the marriage equality issue. And it has worked, at least to some degree, on the local level as well — in parishes and Catholic-affiliated institutions — with LGBT people in committed relationships being denied communion, gay Catholic school teachers being fired for daring to marry, prominent theologians being marginalized for openly supporting their loved ones in same-sex marriages, and homeless shelters having their Catholic funding yanked when their leaders hold pro-equality views.

All in all, the NOM documents are a smoking gun. Even though we knew — or at least suspected — that this was going on, reading NOM’s putridly divisive strategy in print is remarkably unsettling. The newly-released memos reveal a remarkably cynical, shrewd, callous organization that is willing to say and do whatever it takes — be it blatant race-baiting, spreading anti-gay lies through propaganda campaigns, or using religious leaders as weapons with which to bludgeon LGBT people from the pulpits and in their parishes — in order to prevent loving, committed same-sex couples from winning the freedom to marry. And they’re not satisfied with bullying LGBT people at home either — they also seek to spread their hateful bigotry across the world. The fallout from these damning revelations could and should be widespread and far-reaching. Stay tuned: we may well be witnessing the beginning of the end of the National Organization for Marriage.