On June 22, 2022, the “Young Adult Group” at the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s Most Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Parish (MHR) will host a “Pride Month Parish-Wide Happy Hour” at The Mix Bar in the Castro District. The Mix is described as a “small gay bar that has a patio and pool table, plus frequent happy-hour specials.”
The Catholic parish of Most Holy Redeemer in the Castro District of San Francisco has a long history of dissent. Fr. Donal Godfrey. S.J., who wrote the definitive history of MHR (“Gays and Grays: The Story of the Inclusion of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish in San Francisco”) described the parishioners stand in relation to the institutional Church as a “defecting in place.”
The transformation of MHR from neighborhood church to what silenced dissident Sister Jeannine Gramick described as “a model for other parishes,” “in terms of how it meets the needs of gay and lesbian people,” did not take place overnight. Probably beginning in the 1980s with the presence of Pastor Anthony McGuire, who tried to respond to the then growing AIDS crisis with noticeable care and compassion, the parish had an increasingly predominant gay membership.
From then on, the pastoral approach at MHR has been singularly focused on a welcoming spirit, making people feel comfortable, and, as Donal Godfrey pointed out, “…to accommodate the new reality.” Later, with the next MHR Pastor, Zachary Shore, according to Godfrey: “gay partnerships were almost routinely acknowledged.” By the time Shore left MHR in 2002, a number of openly gay and lesbian parishioners held leadership positions as well as serving on liturgical committees; with the most famous being Patrick Mulcahey, who was vice president of the MHR Parish Council until 2008; in 2013, Mulcahey taught a course in gay bondage for “Daddies,” Masters, and their slaves. The class bio included this description: “He has served as a judge for the International Master/slave and International Leather SIR/boy contests…” Godfrey then described how Archbishop Levada took “an aloof, hands-off approach to the Parish.” In 2012, Fr. Brian Costello became Pastor, but his stay at the Parish proved short-lived.
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, openly gay “Parish Manager” Mike 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…..”
The only possible “hateful statements” those at MHR could be referring to is the inclusion of the term “intrinsically disordered” in the 1986 “Letter to the Catholic Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexuals.” In gay-affirmative Catholic ministries and parishes, the term “disordered” remains particularly contentious. From the February 2012 issue of “The New Wine Press,” the official Newsletter published by The Missionaries of the Precious Blood, in an article titled “A Place at the Table: Just Say the Words” by David Matz, C.PP.S., Matz wrote:
“Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered. You can’t believe how powerful a message is sent when people just say these words. In just speaking these words we validate these persons’ realities and the one who hears these words who is LGBT validates their inner most being.”
Following on this celebration of self-identification as “gay,” which in their words, will validate “their inner most being,” Matz continues:
“In ‘saying the words,’ we begin the journey of faith and healing – from stereotypes and prejudices to welcoming and hospitality. We begin the journey from being ‘objectively disordered’ to created in the image of God.”
In a September 1, 2016 Facebook post, MHR stated the following:
Our congregation is 65 – 75% LGBTQ. Many of our parishioners are married to their same-sex partners and have adopted children which are baptized at our parish. BTW, none of the parishioners feel that we are “intrinsically disordered” and we have told that to the Archbishop.
In 2014, Fr. Costello requested a transfer. Concerning his departure, he said: “It just didn’t work out. I did the best I could. My best was just not good enough for a lot of people here. There are real challenges here…” Costello died at age 67 in 2020.
Subsequently, Fr. Jack McClure and Fr. Matthew Link C.PP.S. were assigned by Archbishop Cordileone to MHR from the highly gay-affirmative Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The Missionaries, according to their web-page for the Kansas City Province, one of their main apostolates is to the LGBT community. It states: “We bring a radical love to the world through service that affirms LGBT people and works for changes in institutions that cause oppression.” And 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 when he showed up at a women’s ordination conference.
In October of 2015, Donal Godfrey headed a retreat for the “Young Adult Group” of Most Holy Redeemer. In his book “Gays and Grays,” 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?”
Over the years, MHR has essentially become a separate church within the Catholic Church; again Donal Godfrey stated:
“…many of the Catholics at Most Holy Redeemer live out of just such a space, in the same way that Catholics in other parishes practice artificial contraception while remaining Catholics in good standing. Gay Catholics in relationships are in a similar situation. Catholics can dissent and remain loyal despite what some Catholic fundamentalists would want us to believe. Most gay Catholics at MHR do long for that day when the institutional Church will accept and recognize their reality, just as the church now recognizes how wrong we were on slavery.”
Probably the most outspoken person associated with MHR’s “Young Adult Group” is openly gay “religious studies” teacher Ish Ruiz. According to his bio. at the dissident pro-gay and pro-women’s ordination group “Call To Action:”
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.
Regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize gay marriage, Ruiz said:
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.
During his workshop at the 2018 Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, concerning how to instruct students about Church teachings on homosexuality, Ruiz stated:
We can teach Church teaching and explain the context in which Church teaching is being dialoged about…The goal of teaching, and Church teaching, on morality, in my opinion, is to help the students form their own conscience…some people are like – Oh, that’s creating cafeteria-Catholics, their gonna come and pick and choose what teachings they want to follow. Great! That means they are following their consciences about each of the items in the cafeteria…
Every year, the MHR Young Adult Group offers an “LGBT” Stations of the Cross.