Catholic World News News Feature
Archbishop Niederauer's unacceptable apology October 12, 2007
After causing grave scandal by administering Communion to homosexual activists who were mocking the Catholic Church, Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco has issued an apology Unfortunately, it is an apology that no discerning Catholic could accept.
In his column for the archdiocesan newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, Archbishop Niederauer claims that he saw no disrespect for the Eucharist when he celebrated Mass at Most Holy Redeemer parish on October 7. No one who has seen the videotape of that encounter can take that claim seriously.
The archbishop acknowledges that he noticed "two strangely dressed persons." That in itself is a grotesque understatement, apparently put forward to satisfy readers who have not seen the pictures. Niederauer goes on to say that he "did ot recognize either of them as wearing mock religious garb." Perhaps not. But he could not have failed to recognize that they were wearing garish costumes, clearly designed to attract attention and to make a point.
And what was that point? Someone who stopped into Most Holy Redeemer parish after having spent the last several years on a remote desert island might not have been able to discern the purpose of this strange demonstration. But ordinary residents of San Francisco knew exactly what was going on, and the archbishop is taxing our credulity yet again when he claims that he was in the dark.
Most Holy Redeemer is a notoriously gay-friendly parish, in a hotbed of gay activism. Just a week before the archbishop's visit, the parish had hosted a competition among "the Bay Area's Most Delicious Drag Divas." Archbishop Niederauer himself disclosed that he had once ordered the parish administrator not to host an event for the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a militant group whose main purpose is to mock Catholicism.
When he visited the parish, therefore, the archbishop must have been keenly aware of the likelihood that he would encounter homosexual activists in general, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in particular. When these two demonstrators approached him in their bizarre attire, he should have known-- must have known-- what he was facing.
In his "apology" the archbishop says that he did not recognize the two men as members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. But can he seriously expect us to believe that he did not recognize them as homosexual demonstrators?
The archbishop's statement suggests that the protestors' main offense was membership in a group that mocks the Catholic faith. But whether or not they belonged to a particular organization, these two men were quite clearly challenging the Church by their presence at Mass, and especially by presenting themselves for Communion. The Church, in the person of the archbishop, failed to meet that challenge.
If Niederauer really did not notice anything unusual about the demonstrators, then he would have no reason to apologize-- except, perhaps, for being spectacularly obtuse. But even when he expressed his regrets about the incident, the archbishop failed to grasp the essential element of the scandal.
"The manner of dress and public comportment of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is deeply offensive to women religious," Archbishop Niederauer wrote. That is true, but terribly incomplete. The behavior of these defiant homosexual protestors is deeply offensive to all Catholics. Far, far more important, it is deeply offensive to Jesus Christ, whose Body and Blood they desecrated with the archbishop's compliance.
A priest, and particularly a bishop, has a sacred duty to guard the Blessed Sacrament, to protect our Eucharistic Lord from disrespect. The archbishop's failure to carry out that duty-- and not the attendant public-relations brouhaha-- is the true scandal here.
Personally, I can't accept Archbishop Niederauer's apology, because I cannot believe that it is candid or accurate. But it is not I to whom an apology is due.