Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Catholics Object to Buffalo Diocese’s Expulsion of Gay Men’s Chorus from Cathedral

The Diocese of Buffalo has cancelled a scheduled concert by the city’s gay chorus, which was scheduled to be held at the local cathedral as part of a city-wide choral festival. However, some Catholics, including a U.S. congressman, have pushed back.

The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus was set to perform at St. Joseph’s Cathedral as part of an event by the Greater Buffalo Friends of Music, which also had invited several other singing groups. 

However, the Buffalo diocese eventually decided not to host the concert because “a choir identified to perform is a group whose values are inconsistent with Catholic teaching.” 

A diocesan spokesperson later confirmed that referred to the gay men’s chorus.

The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus issued a statement expressing its frustration with the diocese’s lack of inclusion, posting on Facebook:

“The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus is angered and deeply disappointed to learn the Choral Festival scheduled on Sunday, June 9th at St. Joseph Cathedral, was to be cancelled by the Catholic Diocese, in part due to the inclusion of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus.”

“This news, announced less than three weeks before an event that many groups have been preparing for nearly a year, came days after our concert, WALK TOGETHER, which promoted and celebrated unity, love, acceptance, community and standing up to those who deem us unworthy of dignity and life based on who we love, and within months of our traveling to Minneapolis to participate in the GALA Choruses Festival, to perform a set sharing our joy to be part of the Buffalo community.”

After St. Joseph’s Cathedral revoked their venue space, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in the same city offered to host the performance instead. According to Rev. Jeff Wilson, the church’s lead pastor:

“‘There’s something in the Lutheran church called Reconciling in Christ. And reconciling in Christ means that we as a church have gone through a process where we have a welcome statement that says that we are welcoming and affirming to all of God’s people.

“‘People may see that or think that we’re trying to be politically correct or espouse a particular political agenda. But love is not partisan. And so we feel that it’s an honor and privilege to welcome people.'”

Some Buffalo Catholics have objected to the diocese’s expulsion of the chorus.

Representative Tim Kennedy, a Democrat who represents the city, wrote a public letter to Bishop Michael Fisher asking him to reconsider the decision. 

Kennedy writes “as someone brought up in the Catholic faith, as part of a family of practicing Catholics,” he recognizes the church’s position on LGBTQ+ issues. Still, the decision is “antithetical to the Church’s own teachings, and should be reversed.” Kennedy continued:

“Furthermore, in our own Buffalo community in the shadow of a masscre that occured just two years ago, in part, due to societal intolerance for our inherent or perceived differences, I feel it is even more important that we cultivate a sense of love, tolerance, and belonging for all, despite our own personal disagreements or even disapproval of how one lives his or her own life.’

“As Jesus himself told the disciples, ‘Walk with me.’ Imagine what the Gospel would read if he only said, ‘Come to me if I agree with you, if not, find someone else to follow or somewhere else to go.’ . . .

“The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus should be celebrated, not canceled. I have seen them in all of their magnificence and glory. . .Their voices coupled with the beauty within St. Joseph Cathedral would capture the spirit of God in a way that would move us all.”

Courtney Scime wrote in The Buffalo News that, as a “a life long Catholic” who graduated from Notre Dame and has three sons at a local Catholic school, Scime was “compelled to briefly respond.” The letter explains:

“The decision to cancel the concert with a gay chorus is not only wrong but harmful. . .If Jesus was here he would welcome all of the marginalized people with open arms. Beyond the misguidance, the is most disturbing when there is an epidemic in our society of teen suicides and a political climate of increasing hate. The highest rates of teen suicide are in the LGBTQ+ population— why? Well because they are marginalized, bullied, mistreated — all of this cruelty is fueled by decisions like this, decisions that send the message ‘you are bad because of who you are.’ I could write volumes but I am limited— please consider the harm that is caused by decisions like this.”

Scime also noted that a third of Buffalo’s parishes will likely be closed or merged due to declining numbers, about which the writer comments, “there is a connection between decisions like this and decreased enrollment.”

Robert Strauss, artistic director of the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, was originally disappointed with the diocese’s decision, especially since the group was had been invited a year prior. He thanked Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for providing a “wonderful ending” to the situation, saying:

“‘The support that we’ve gotten, that the Greater Buffalo Friends of Music has gotten and the support that Holy Trinity has gotten has been amazing. So that just keeps our faith in the Buffalo community and the City of Good Neighbors.'”

Catholic institutions should learn from the gracious actions of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. 

That community’s outward support for the LGBTQ+ community shows that unconditional love and acceptance is possible within religious spaces.