Dirty Protest

Joseph Amodeo

Cardinal Dolan’s officials refused entry  into St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York to a group of LGBT protestors who had deliberately dirtied their hands in protest at a recent blogpost of his, in which he shared an anecdote from his childhood to do with his delight when his best friend was allowed to join them for dinner, but was told that first he would need to wash his hands:

I was so proud and happy.  Freddie was welcome in our house, at our table.  We both rushed in and sat down.

“Freddie, glad you’re here,” dad remarked, “but . . . looks like you and Tim better go wash your hands before you eat.”

Simple enough . . . common sense . . . you are a most welcome and respected member now of our table, our household, dad was saying, but, there are a few very natural expectations this family has.  Like, wash your hands!…

So it is with the supernatural family we call the Church:  all are welcome!

But, welcome to what?  To a community that will love and respect you, but which has rather clear expectations defining it, revealed by God in the Bible, through His Son, Jesus, instilled in the human heart, and taught by His Church.

Surely the point is clear enough? Everybody is welcome, rich, poor, young, old, black, white, gay, straight, married, single, but the Church has the same expectations of everyone regardless. One couldn’t ask for a greater definition of equality.

But no, in an overblown statement of victim rhetoric, Joseph Amodeo writing for the Huffington Post says, that the Cathedral is his home from which he has now been evicted and that now he is spiritually homeless. In colourful prose, he describes the ‘cold hard steel and the means by which the doors closed’ (what on earth does he mean by that, I’d never thought of door hinges as being particularly loaded with menacing metaphor and if he’s referring to the doors needing to be pushed shut, isn’t that exactly how they were designed?) capturing the sentiment that they were not welcome.

Actually all of the activists were more than welcome, but were requested to wash their hands first. Quite right. In a Mass, especially if one receives communion, we encounter Christ. Why would anyone deliberately make themselves filthy to meet their King and Redeemer. It’s a deliberate act of blasphemy. Whilst it makes for another good argument for receiving communion on the tongue, making oneself dirty in order to use a church to make a political protest is highly offensive. And what about shaking hands during the sign of peace? Would they have deliberately and ostentatiously rubbed their mucky paws and transferred grime onto other peoples’ hands who might be receiving communion. Even had they exercised courtesy and respect to fellow Mass-goers it still makes a mockery of the Holy Spirit, restricting sharing the peace with a small select clique.

A protest of this type has no place within a religious setting. I’d like to see them attempt to enter a mosque with their shoes still on. Like Lisa Graas, I cannot get my head around anyone who would intentionally make themselves dirty before receiving Christ in the Eucharist. Christ loves us and meets us where we are, but as Cardinal Dolan says, this encounter always involves a recognition on our part that we need to clean up first. The Eucharist is a meal, of course we should make every effort to be spotless, internally and externally before receiving of the body of Christ.

This protest or ‘silent witness’ subverted the Christian message to being about love of self. The Lord loves us in spite of our dirt and filth, He can certainly see beyond it, but that doesn’t preclude us trying to rid ourselves of it. Dirt or sin, matters, it keeps us from having the close relationship which we need.  Whilst Christ welcomed the poor, the outcast, the dispossessed, he touched those who were deemed unclean, none of those who came before him had deliberately put themselves in this state in the first place and certainly none were celebrating it and demanding that they should be healed, or that it was their right.

Filth is no barrier to encountering Christ. It makes it all the harder when we deliberately wallow in and celebrate it nonetheless. My children are prone to some absolutely physically disgusting behaviour. When one of  my daughters comes to me covered in sticky chocolate, sudacreme, liquid soap, caked in mud or worse, I’ll still love them as fiercely as before, but will literally hold them at arm’s length until I’ve dumped them in the bath. I don’t pander to temper tantrums about not wanting to clean up and being fine as they are. Particularly, when like the organiser of this vigil, they have a history of throwing their toys out of the pram and hurting other people when they don’t get their own way.

Christ always extends a welcome. But on His terms, not ours.

4 thoughts on “Dirty Protest

  1. What a sad thing to protest- the very modest, natural rules to which we are all held accountable and that give us the liberty to be holy. I’ve tried very hard to understand the kind of thinking that lies behind such actions. I think it rests on a phenomena that Philip Beneton calls “Equality by Default,” that I write about here http://thedemocracyofthedead.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/what-is-equality/, and a definition of tolerance that operates to overturn illiberal standards everywhere, which I’ve written on here: http://thedemocracyofthedead.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/tolerance-the-ever-shifting-goal-post/. Peace and blessings.

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