On March 22, 2017, the LGBT Ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Church will host a “Spring Social” at the Hell’s Kitchen gay bar Bottoms Up. A similar event took place on February 28, 2017, when the LGBT Ministry at St. Francis of Assisi Church hosted a Mardi Gras party at another Hell’s Kitchen gay bar – the Rise Bar. Both bars feature shirtless bartenders, and various drag shows; at Bottoms Up, contestants from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” have been recurring featured entertainers.

According to the website GayCities, Bottoms Up hosts a weekly “FREAKY FRIDAYS;” described as “our personal pass for you all to let your hair down–come out of the corner you’re trying to hide in (despite the glow of your iphone screen 😉 and live your lives like Rihanna…judgment FREE!”

The Out at St. Paul Ministry, located at St. Paul the Apostle Church, the mother church of the Paulist Fathers, has a long history of radical dissent. The Pastor, Fr. Rev. Gilbert Martinez, CSP, is an adamant supporter of Out at St. Paul; offering a yearly “Pride” Mass to coincide with the New York City gay “Pride” Parade, but he was particularly outspoken in his advocacy for the “Owning Our Faith” video project which featured many of the Out at St. Paul members offering their testimony on Catholicism and homosexuality. In 2015, Martinez traveled to Rome and personally gave a copy of the video “Owning Our Faith” to both Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper. Here are a few excerpts from the program:

“God doesn’t make junk—we are His creation. And we might not fit into some traditional box of human relationships, or marriage, but our energies are real, our reality is real, and it’s not just a matter of accepting us, you have to, or tolerate us, you have to encourage us to be who we are. We are God’s creation, and to deny that is to deny that He knows what the hell he’s doing.”

“I’ve found a place where I can live as an out, gay man who’s dating, and has great friendships and has a full life and can also come every Sunday night and talk about faith.”

“My gender transition was immensely spiritual to me. It was a journey…I think a lot of people think of this as just a physical journey, they just look at the physical aspects of transition, but it’s an emotional one, it’s a spiritual one.”

“If we leave it, if we abandon the Church then it’s never going to change. So we have to continue living here, being an example and encouraging other people to be that example because that’s what’s going to change the Church.”

“I think what’s interesting is that the Catholic Church probably thinks that it is accepting of gay people, because its message is ‘gay people exist and we should love them and not discriminate against them. But because the Church also tells gay people essentially that they need to be celibate, what the Church is saying is ‘you cannot live fully. You can be gay but you can’t live that life.’ And so that inherently is discriminatory.”

On March 12, 2017, Out at St Paul hosted the event, “Building Bridges: A Conversation with Fr. James Martin, SJ.” In a recent article, “We need to build a bridge between LGBT community and the Catholic Church,” Martin argued: “Saying that one of the deepest parts of a person—the part that gives and receives love—is ‘disordered’ in itself is needlessly cruel.”