Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish


In what appears to be the new San Francisco archbishop’s first intervention at the city’s gay-friendly Most Holy Redeemer parish, drag queens will no longer be allowed to be part of a neighborhood organization’s fundraising dinner which has been held in the parish hall for several years.

B ay Area Reporter article reveals:

“For the past couple of years the Castro Country Club has held its event in the church’s social hall and had drag queens as entertainment.
“As a statement issued by the country club’s board of directors explained, the new no-drag-queen policy at the church is simply unacceptable.
” ‘The Castro Country Club had planned to hold our third annual Harvest Feast on October 20, 2012, at Most Holy Redeemer Church, where we have held this and other events in the past,’ the directors said in a statement.
“But that changed when the club was notified by the church last week that they would not be able to hold the dinner if any drag queens were part of the program, the board said.”
The Most Holy Redeemer pastor explained the reasons for the decision, noting that a new archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, is now at the head of the San Francisco Archdiocese:

Fr. Brian Costello

“Most Holy Redeemer’s new pastor, the Reverend Brian Costello, confirmed over telephone on Monday, August 6, that drag queen performers and emcees are no longer permitted to participate in events at the church.

“Costello said that during a telephone conversation with a Castro Country Club representative, when the topic of drag queens came up, he told the person, ‘That is not going to work under the present circumstances.’

” ‘I said work with me. You can still have the dinner. You can have a regular emcee, but not drag queens on church property,’ Costello said.

“It seems the directive is the result of several factors.

” ‘I am the new pastor,’ Costello added. ‘There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, “No drag queens.” ‘ ‘”

Reactions from local and national organizations were critical of the decision to exclude drag performers:

” ‘It’s really ridiculous and discriminatory,’ said Zachary Davenport in a phone interview. ‘I mean it’s like, who’s next?’

“The drag queen ban is personal for Davenport, who, in drag as Laybelline has served as emcee for a variety of sobriety-related nonprofit events held at Most Holy Redeemer.

” ‘What constitutes drag?’ he said. ‘If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello.’ “

Dignity/San Francisco’s spokesperson was similarly angered:

” ‘This is an unfortunate development between Most Holy Redeemer and the Castro County Club,’ said Ernest L. Camisa, treasurer of the Dignity/SF chapter, speaking for the organization by e-mail and over the telephone.

” ‘It looks like the Archdiocese of San Francisco wants to protect its image by not condoning cross-dressers. By doing so they show that they care more for their image than they do for gay people trying to overcome alcohol addiction. Here the church looks like it values its own image more than it does human life. This is not Christian, but callous,’ Camisa said.”

Joe Murray of the Rainbow Sash Movement said:

“I think this is a very difficult and complex time for not only the pastor and the people of Holy Redeemer parish, but also for members of the drag community. All three groups are an example of ordinary people being called to do some extraordinary things for their neighbors. The pastor and parish of Most Holy Redeemer have to be very careful not to throw out the baby with the water in the name of homophobia. Jesus, not homophobia, should guide us in this matter.”

New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo stated:

“Drag is a historically-based, time-honored entertainment tradition that has existed, at least, since classical times.

“Canceling this program without any explanation or substantial reason is simply caving into fear of reprisals from higher authorities. If the [Most Holy Redeemer] community has supported this event for years, there has obviously been a relationship that has developed between the sponsoring organization and the parish, and it would be great if the two groups could work together to find some resolution. Reconciliation is what any and every parish should be about. If the parish does not offer a substantial intervening reason, we can only assume that other forces have had influence.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of San Francisco acknowledged the difficulty of this decision:

“Reached by phone, George Wesolek, department head for communications and public policy for the archdiocese, said he was not in the policy conversation ‘loop.’ Nonetheless, Wesolek acknowledged, the situation is ‘difficult pastorally,’ particularly in ‘very divided and fractious church.’ “

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry



24 replies
  1. Radical Mary (@RadicalMary)
    Radical Mary (@RadicalMary) says:

    This story is an absolute shame, and a scandal to the community at Most Holy Redeemer, which I have never be blessed to visit, seems the cornerstone of ministries to Queer Catholics around the world.

    I say, let the women and others who stand in solidarity with the drag queens of Most Holy Redeemer dress up as KINGS instead!

    They may very well ban the magi from the creche of the infant Jesus!

  2. Gerald
    Gerald says:

    Well, well. . . .It appears Holy Redeemer knows who is “the boss” – the Chief Servant of the Church of/in the San Francisco Archdiocese. The new pastor is caught in the middle of this: it would appear Fr Costello has been told what to do or not to do. So, if the truth be known, there is nothing he can do if the new archbishop has, in fact, made this decision about entertainment at a parish-sponsored event. To coin a phrase, in the original language “Roma locuta est. Causa finita est. Ipse dixit.” The archbishop has spoken.
    So. . . .what is more important? — that the event be held as usual. . .or that there be drag-queen entertainment? That is the only decision for Holy Redeemer to make. That is the only option left to them.

    Personally, if I were the new archbishop — and thanks be to God I am not! — I do not think I would like my ministry to begin and go down in history thus. . . . . However, I would humbly suggest that those planning the ceremonies of installation of the new archbishop might be wise to forego the usual “medieval pomp and circumstances” regarding the vesture and clothing of all clerical participants. Perhaps a black business suit and clerical collar might be the ceremonial dress for this occasion, under these circumstances. .BTW, did anyone consult “the Sisters” ?

    May the Gracious God, Father of us all, bless and protect us. Amen.

  3. Rita Garcia Warren
    Rita Garcia Warren says:

    The more I see and hear of the various Archbishops actions, I can’t help but think WWJD. Perhaps we should suggest they read the New Testament to see what Our Lord Jesus would do in these incidents. I believe He would sit down and enjoy the show, welcome gays and lesbians into His Church and hold them close to his heart.
    It is the peoples church not the Archbishops. Shame on these narrow minded men. God made all creatures, why do these men think He made a mistake?

  4. Jenny Nugent
    Jenny Nugent says:

    Bullying comes in so many forms!!! And from men who regularly wear dresses and lacey ones at that!!!This is just too pathetic.

  5. Michael B Kelly
    Michael B Kelly says:

    I would be fascinated to hear the theological or doctrinal basis for this decision. How is cross-dressing as performance against Church teaching? Think of the British tradition of pantomimes, or of the “trouser” roles that women take in some operas – there is a long and varied and rich tradition of all kinds of cross-dressing in theatrical and festive contexts. The archbishop should set out his precise objections and explain their basis. I suspect that he won’t because they would be easily critiqued on many levels. This is not about Church teaching because there simply IS NO church teaching about drag queens !! After this deeply hurtful and divisive decision, imposed on one of the most beloved and iconic of San Francisco’s communities, perhaps all the city’s drag queens could dress up in the most fabulous silk, satin and lace vestments and add their glamour to the glitz of the new archbishop’s installation ceremony. Drag Queens may not dress up and host a dinner in a church hall – but the archbishop and his team will dress up to the hilt in outfits that cost a small fortune, and, with all their brocade, their silk, their lace and their gorgeous hats, parade up the aisle of St Mary’s cathedral. Perhaps the new archbishop is really worried he will be upstaged by the city’s fabulous drag queens – so he’s banning them in advance! However you look at it, this decision is petty, mean-spirited and bound to back-fire.

    • elmcc
      elmcc says:

      Our Lord’s
      dress code is what give honor to Him. It’s not about us. The vestments and accouterments come from the early Temple. EXODUS 28. Once again, IT IS NOT ABOUT US. It is about the Lord.

      • Rita
        Rita says:

        @elmcc Awful expensive these ‘vestments and accouterments (sic)’ while the poor have trouble buying clothes for their growing kids! And I’m pretty suspicious about the ‘why’. Jesus, our True High Priest, didn’t dress up in silk and lace. I have always been much more impressed with priests who dressed simply at Mass, often in homespun garments. This happened a lot right after Vatican II (may it’s precepts return) but not anymore. There are better ways to show honor to the Lord.

  6. Raph
    Raph says:

    “Queens are not the only ones to wear dress-like garments! Those dressed in robes, miters, copes, etc., ought not cast the first stones!” Don’t you just love the way those in authority engage in dialogue with those they censor!!!

  7. Over It
    Over It says:

    Drag Queenery –and queenery in general– is a combination of misogyny, gender confusion and internalized homophobia. And after ten predictable and derivative minutes, boring as hell.

    And although it will not make a dent, “drag” has nothing to do with the ornateness of clothing. Every male ruling class in history has dressed itself in varieties of finery, from Louis XIV to the Shoguns of Japan to the Caliph of Baghdad to the British Royalty. But such finery has been specifically male, restricted to males. “Drag” means aping the clothing and exaggerating the mannerisms of the opposite sex in order to make yourself look like a fool and worse.

  8. Ann J
    Ann J says:

    I agree with Over It says. Comparing dressing in drag to wearing ornate costumes or historical cross dressing in theatres borders on absurd. Drag entertainment which is typically sexually provocative and meant to mock our gender identity greatly disrespects the dignity of the human person. Christ would have embraced “drag queens” with complete love while trying to lead them to a different lifestyle that would ensure their salvation.

  9. Peter B. Towle
    Peter B. Towle says:

    The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco must speak for the Church and Her moral standards for which She must stand firm on. The Arch Bishop in his office as chief pastor of the Archdiocese has no choice before God but to uphold New Testament standards of morality in all situations where this standard is challenged.

  10. OverItToo
    OverItToo says:

    I agree with OverIt also. Drag is pure creepy, offensive misogyny. The Archdiocese made a good call. I am always surprised that the same people who fall into conniptions of political correctness when called upon to play Othello or Shylock, and who throw fits of outrage over every tiny fabricated slight to their own group, can’t hee-haw loud enough at this kind of vulgar, infantile minstrel show when the target is the female half of the human species. Good job, Sal.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, whose elevation to the See of St. Francis was announced July 27, has sent down word that drag queens will no longer be permitted to provide the entertainment for the Castro […]

  2. […] Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  3. […] a week ago, we reported that Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco had banned an annual […]

  4. […] a week ago, we reported that Most Holy Redeemer parish in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco had banned an annual […]

  5. […] This article indicates that it was Cordileone:  Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish […]

  6. […] Drag Queens Prohibited at Most Holy Redeemer Parish (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com) […]

  7. […] SF Church To Charity: No Drag Queens Aug9 by D Gregory Smith by Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry […]

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