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Vandals Strike Pro-Gay Catholic Church

Jim Burroway

January 5th, 2009

The Most Holy Redeemer Church, located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro district, was targeted by vandalsover the weekend, presumably over the Catholic Church’s support of Proposition 8. The parish church was spray painted with swastikas, the slogan “Prop H8,” and with the names “Ratzinger” (referring to Pope Benedict XVI) and San Francisco Archbishop Niederauer. San Francisco police are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime.

Impressively, the erudite vandals spelled Niederauer’s name correctly (a feat that I can’t accomplish without the old trusty cut-and-paste). Niederauer became an outspoken proponent of Prop 8 during the campaign, sending a pastoral letter to all churches in his diocese — including Holy Redeemer — calling on parishioners to vote for the proposal.

Holy Redeemer however is known in the Castro as being decidedly gay friendly despite the larger Church’s stance on homosexuality. Holy Redeemer bills itself as “your Catholic Church in the Castro,” and “an inclusive Catholic community,” welcoming everyone “regardless of their background, gender, gender identity, race, social status, or sexual orientation.” According to Rev. Donal Godfrey, some two-thirds of the Holy Redeemer parishioners are gay or lesbian. Many of them are married couples, and some of their children have been baptized in the church.

Holy Redeemer has had an active AIDS ministry since 1985, becoming one of the earliest Christian ministries to serve people with AIDS with compassion — a move that most Christian churches still have not embraced.  In 1986, the convent was converted into a hospice to care for people dying of AIDS-related illnesses. Contingents from Holy Redeemer also participate in community events like the Castro Street Fair and the annual Pride celebration.

Pastor Steve Meriweather told KCBS his parishioners actually share the vandals’ sentiment against Prop 8. “I think it’s unfortunate that they selected our community to attack,” said Meriweather, “because it’s the wrong one.”

But even if the vandal had picked “the right” target, this is still incredibly stupid. This episode will play perfectly into the hands of anti-gay activists. Those who successfully targeted gays and lesbians for constitutional discrimination will cry “discrimination!” and claim that this is yet another example of “persecution.” Which just goes to show that all hate crimes have one common thread: regardless of their particular grief, all hate crimes are committed by morons.

Update: Some anti-gay web sites are claiming that “gays” vandalized Holy Redeemer. In fact, we do not know who spray painted the graffiti on the church. It could have been opponents to Prop 8, or it could have been a prop 8 supporter trying to garner sympathy — and spelling Niederauer’s name correctly in the process. Who knows? We don’t, and unless police are able to shed more light on the subject, we won’t assume or speculate either way.



Mark F.
January 5th, 2009 | LINK

I’m surprised Pastor Steve Meriweather keeps his job.

January 5th, 2009 | LINK

Peaceful demonstrations and boycotts: appropriate, effective, and legal communication to send the message that we are sick of unconstitutional discrimination.

Vandalism of religious buildings: immature, ineffective, and counterproducive venting of personal anger. This does our cause no good, it makes one or a few people feel good for a short time at the expense the rest of us. No matter who it is targeted against.

Timothy Kincaid
January 5th, 2009 | LINK

Oh, and just on the off chance that some anti-gay activist is reading and hoping to say, “militant radical homosexual activists applauded the desecration”,…

Box Turtle Bulletin hereby officially condemns the vandalism and hopes for a speedy capture and appropriate punishment of the guilty parties.

January 5th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t know who did this, but I know he/she (probably he) has an IQ no higher than his young age.

January 5th, 2009 | LINK

Could it be that a pro-8 person is responsible? Could they have done this so that they can point at the LGBT community and say to the church, “See! See what they did to you after all you’ve done for them? They don’t appreciate you; you should stop supporting them!”

After all, who ever it was did spell [cut]Niederauer[paste] correctly.

January 5th, 2009 | LINK

Why does everyone assume that this was done by an anti Prop person? Just because it appeared to be?

Could there not possibly be any other person or group that would have motive to commit a crime that they knew would be blamed on anti Prop 8 activists, generating negative media at a time when the Pro Prop 8 side is losing favor in California and the anti Prop 8 side is gaining support?

Which side of the Prop 8 bruhaha will most benefit from the publicity that will result from this act of vandalism?

I think it’s completely inappropriate for people, ESPECIALLY in the gay community, to make these assumptions and to repeat them ad nauseam in the media, in blog posts and in comment sections.

The same goes for the stories alleging that white powder was left at/sent to Mormon Temples by anti Prop 8 activists.

Until an arrest is made or a confession is forthcoming, don’t presume to know who has committed these crimes and don’t assume to know the real motivation behind them.

If a gay activist is found to be responsible for any of these crimes THEN we can take action against them and apologize on behalf of the gay community.

January 6th, 2009 | LINK

As a former Catholic myself, I can’t understand why any GLBT person would remain a member of the Catholic Church; and I have my doubts as to whether or not this vandalism was done by someone opposed to Prop 8; if it was, why attack a church in the Castro as opposed to other parts of San Francisco?

Jason D
August 29th, 2010 | LINK

“Box Turtle Bulletin hereby officially condemns the vandalism and hopes for a speedy capture and appropriate punishment of the guilty parties.”

Commentator Jason D agrees and also condemns the vandals, hopes for speedy capture/punishment and…

that the church itself recovers, it sounds like a halfway decent place.

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