(Pictured above: Archbishop Cordileone at Most Holy Redeemer.)
The “Parish Manager” of the gay-affirmative parish of Most Holy Redeemer in San Francisco is Michael Poma. On his Facebook Timeline, he has posted several messages concerning “gay-marriage,” but also about contraception, abortion, and articles dealing with so called gay “Daddy” relationships. Furthermore, according to his Facebook “Life Events” section, in 2014, Poma is “In a Relationship” with another male.
Only, there is a long history of dissent at the Castro neighborhood Catholic parish. According to his LinkedIn page, Poma has been “Parish Manger” since 2012. That same year, saw the arrival of a new Pastor, Fr. Brian Costello, after two highly gay-affirmative priests, Fr. Anthony McGuire and Fr. Zachary Shore, held the Pastorship of the parish for most of the 1980s and into the -00s. In his authoritative history of Most Holy Redeemer, Donal Godfrey SJ, who is also involved with parish’s “Young Adults of Most Holy Redeemer,” wrote this about McGuire and Shore:
“Shore’s laissez-faire management style allowed parishioners to take certain initiatives McGuire might have stalled. Unquestionably, McGuire had a gift for embracing diversity, and brought about a tremendous transformation in the parish. He was, however, more aware of church politics and always had an eye on the line between what might and what might not be acceptable to the archdiocese. There were times when McGuire judged the time was wrong for some gesture his gay parishioners wanted to make – the incident of the lector announcing a gay couple’s anniversary, for instance. McGuire felt the time was not yet right for such public acknowledgements of gay relationships, even though they were de facto acknowledged by him and everyone else in the parish. Under Shore as pastor, however, gay partnerships were almost routinely acknowledged. The entire congregation applauded when among the announcements before mass on Sunday was congratulations on the thirtieth anniversary of Ken Dunphy and his partner Richard. I doubt Shore was responsible for the announcement, but he didn’t object to it. Father Shore did not compel: he allowed.”
According to Godfrey, in 2000, Shore spoke out publicly, reading a statement from the pulpit, against “The Knight Initiative,” which defined marriage between a man and woman in the State of California. Although a major contention for Shore was also that the California Catholic Conference had donated money to pass the initiative. Again, from Godfrey’s book: “When Father Shore read from the pulpit his anguished letter to the Archbishop protesting the gift of money to such a cause, he was met with the most thunderous ovation in memory…”
During an interview from 2015, Godfrey said: “As a church we need to accept that family goes beyond traditional lines. I don’t expect the teachings to jump to acceptance in one day, it will take decades. In the meantime we need to accept people pastorally as they are and where they are. For now, this would be sufficient. Later the teachings will catch up and evolve.”
Soon after arriving at Most Holy Redeemer, Fr. Costello was embroiled in his first public controversy, when he requested that drag performances, which the previous pastors allowed, no longer take place in the parish hall. According to news reports, at the time, Poma asked Costello to reconsider; in an interview, about the incident, Poma said: “I told him, this is just dinner. It’s not a strip show…I told him it was going to be a powder keg.” He continued: “We have to give [Costello] a break…He’s got a boss, you know. And he’s never been immersed in gay culture in his life. He’s learning.”
In 2013, another incident took place following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI from the Papacy; according to Fr. Costello:
“Two weeks ago, after Pope Benedict XVI had announced to the world that he would be resigning the office of Peter as of February 28th, I put the Pope’s picture, that usually hangs in the rectory, in the church. A handful of people told me that they would rather it not be there. They explained that the feeling was while he was Pope, as well as his time as a Cardinal, Pope Benedict had made hurtful and hateful statements regarding the LGBT Community and thus, his picture should not be placed on the altar of MHR. I was also warned, many parishioners would walk out of Sunday Mass if the picture was not removed. I spoke with a close priest friend of mine, and even though both of us were saddened by this, the wisest course, I felt, was to remove the Pope’s picture…..”
In 2014, Costello requested a transfer. Subsequently, Fr. Jack McClure and Fr. Matthew Link were brought in from the highly gay-affirmative Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Early on, McClure made his intentions well-known, when he stated: “We didn’t come here to change anybody.” McClure, after he stepped down as Pastor and became parochial vicar, was sanctioned in 2015 after he showed up at a women’s ordination conference.
In October of 2015, Donal Godfrey headed a retreat for the “Young Adults of Most Holy Redeemer.” In his book “Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church:” Godfrey wrote:
“If God must become Asian or African, then God is also in some sense queer…”
“Is it less appropriate for gays to imagine Jesus as gay than for African Christians to picture him as black, Asian Christians as Asian?”
A participant in the “Young Adults of Most Holy Redeemer” is Ish Ruiz, a Religious Studies Instructor at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in San Francisco. According to his profile at the dissident group “Call to Action:”
Ish Ruiz is a doctoral student in the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and a Religious Studies instructor at a Catholic high school in San Francisco. Ruiz has offered workshops to high school faculty and staff on the care for LGBTQ+ students in Catholic schools and is a member of the Marianist LGBT Initiative Team, which published a resource titled Addressing LGBT Issues with Youth: A Resource for Educators. He is also a leading member of the Young Adults group at Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco, which is known for its integration of LGBTQ+ Catholics into the life of the Church. Ruiz has made several contributions in the media and through his ministries regarding the protection of LGBTQ+ Church workers, the Catholic Church’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, and the contributions of LGBTQ+ teachers in Catholic schools.
In 2006, the Prefect for the Congregation for Bishops, Giovanni Battista Cardinal Re, wrote to then Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz concerning Call to Action, stating: “…to be a member of this association or to support it is irreconcilable with a coherent living of the Catholic faith.”
Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, Ruiz wrote:
“The Church has always taught that the Holy Spirit speaks through the laity as well as the hierarchy. I hope the decision from the Supreme court, combined with polls that show that the majority of Catholics support same-sex marriage, encourages the hierarchy to be more in touch with the people, the sense of the faithful.”
Author’s note: I think the “gay” community of the Castro District and San Francisco deserve better than Most Holy Redeemer. It’s tragic, but in a 1997 interview with the “gay” periodical “The Advocate,” Fr. Shore sincerely admitted that homosexuals within the Archdiocese are often shuffled off to Most Holy Redeemer; he said: “I’ve run into situations where a person will come to me in confession and say, ‘Father, I went to confession in another parish, and when I announced that I was gay, the priest told me to come to you.’” For, the evidence of any sort of orthodoxy concerning the issue of homosexuality at Most Holy Redeemer is not good. In many respects, and the historical documentation and anecdotes collected by Donal Godfrey substantiate this: it’s a parish gone out-of-control; in which the parishioners are the ultimate arbitrators. It’s a world in which the Truth is overshadowed by a game of “church politics” where there is always “…an eye on the line between what might and what might not be acceptable to the archdiocese.” And, while I am all for engaging in conversation with everyone in the “gay” community, which I regularly attempt to do at the various “Pride” festivals in San Francisco, there is a massive difference between honest discourse and the constant calling out of “sexier” and “hotter” men on Facebook.
In his 1986 “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” then Cardinal Ratzinger finished the “Letter” with this admonition: “It is in this spirit [of truth and compassion] that we have addressed this Letter to the Bishops of the Church, with the hope that it will be of some help as they care for those whose suffering can only be intensified by error and lightened by truth.”
Archbishop Cordileone’s most recent homily at Most Holy Redeemer: