By Emily Drooby
A park outside a tavern became a gathering place to pray.
But it wasn’t just any tavern, it was The Stonewall Inn – the so-called birthplace of the gay rights movement.
Meghan McKeever is a member of ‘Out at Saint Paul’, the L.G.B.T. ministry of the Mother Church of the Paulist fathers, St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan. Members of the ministry planned this outdoor mass and the group is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York.
“It’s just really special to be out here in the open in an affirming, sort of open loving environment and celebrating Mass together,” said McKeever.
The holy Mass comes on a special anniversary, 50 years to the date of The Stonewall Riots, when members of the L.G.B.T. community led a series of demonstrations against an excessive and violent police raid.
For McKeever, this Mass is a way of combining two parts of her life, faith and her sexuality.
“I’m a cradle Catholic so it’s something I was born with and I was blessed to be born with. It’s a foundation for me and it routes me anywhere I am and it’s my community,” said McKeever.
The Church teaches that marriage is only between a man and a woman. At the same time, the catechism teaches that L.G.B.T. people must be “accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.”
Recently, more churches have been trying to reach out to all the people they minister to, and that includes the L.G.B.T. community.
In July 2013, Pope Francis said “if a gay person, is a person of good will who seeks God, who am I to judge?”
For the gay community, that comment from Pope Francis aboard the papal plane on his way back from a trip to Brazil in 2013, seemed to echo around the world.
It was made in the context of Pope Francis suggesting that he would not judge priests for their sexual orientation.
This made many hopeful for inclusivity, a hope that perpetuates through Greenwich Village today.
Some here believe that there has been a shift for Catholics who identify as L.G.B.T. But still, many members of clergy are holding fast to church teachings.
Ahead of pride month, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence Rhode Island asked Catholics to not support L.G.B.T. events in a tweet saying, “promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals. They are especially harmful for children.”
It’s an idea that was backed in a recently released Vatican document on gender ideology that urged Catholic educators to teach that biological sex and gender are naturally fixed at birth and part of god’s plan for creation.
There was another recent incident in Indianapolis. The Archbishop there defended his decision to require their Catholic schools fire gay teachers on the basis of them not following Church doctrine, adding they addressed it because it came to their attention.
“That’s when he addresses it. We’re trying to address how to reconcile it in order to go forward there comes moments however when we can only accompany people far before some sad hard decisions have to be made,” said Archbishop Charles Thompson.
Still, what matters here in front of The Stonewall Inn is this moment of unity and faith. It’s a stark difference from what happened during that early morning fight on June 28th, 1969.
“You could just feel the energy, you could definitely feel the holy spirit just passing through and bonding us. And his words to us, love, fidelity, acceptance, I mean that’s, that’s powerful,” said Charly Debiasse-Calle, a parishioner from the Brooklyn Diocese.