Kentucky Catholics March to Cathedral During LGBT Pilgrimage of Mercy


Catholics rallying outside Louisville’s Cathedral of the Assumption

Kentucky Catholics participated in the fifth annual “Pilgrimage of Mercy” last weekend, calling upon the church and civil society to respect LGBT people more fully during this Year of Mercy.

Organized by Kentucky Catholics for Fairness, dozens of LGBT advocates walked several blocks through downtown Louisville before concluding outside the Cathedral of the Assumption. There, Catholics rallied before evening Mass and called upon church officials, including Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, to be more accepting. Loretto Sr. Mary Swain told WHAS 11 she was marching against discrimination and would be back next year, adding:

“Discrimination is not a good thing, this country has been against discrimination for a long time and discrimination against LGBT people still exists. . .We live our lives in certain ways and try to do what’s right and I don’t think discrimination is right, so I don’t do it, but it takes a while for institutions to catch up.”

Gerard Mattingly, who participated in the march told WDRB that Catholics “should be accepting of everyone” because that is “what Christ models. . .what Christ is all about.”

The Pilgrimage of Mercy was spearheaded by Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon, named the National Catholic Reporter  as “Persons of the Year” for 2015 for their role as plaintiffs in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality case. They wrote In a Courier-Journal commentary, they wrotethat the Jubilee Year of Mercy inaugurated by Pope Francis should extend to LGBT communities. They included a specific proposal for how the local church could enact mercy:

“There could be no better time than this Extraordinary Jubilee Year — only the third in Catholic history — for Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz to join in a show of mercy and compassion for LGBT Kentuckians, who continue to be marginalized and face legal discrimination in our commonwealth. . . Archbishop Kurtz’s support could help our state become the first in the South to update its Civil Rights Act to include LGBT people. . .

“Time and again, we have been made to feel shame and exclusion by the very church that teaches love, compassion, and mercy—our church. It is a travesty of God’s true love for LGBT people and there is no better time for it to cease than this Jubilee Year of Mercy.”

Bourke and De Leon wrote in the column about discrimination they faced as gay Catholics in both church and society. Bourke resigned as a Boy Scout leader in 2012 over his sexual identity. Even after the Boy Scouts of America reversed their ban on LGBT leaders last year, Archbishop Kurtz barred Bourke from the Scouts permanently. While Louisville has LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in place, only seven other municipalities in the state provide such protections. The Pilgrimage of Mercy aims, in part, to involve more Catholics in the cause of LGBT nondiscrimination protections, as Bourke explained:

” ‘We think it’s important for our local catholic church- the Archdiocese of Louisville- to be aware of the fact that there are people in this community who are advocating for change and inclusion in the Catholic church for LGBT people.’ “

In a letter to The Courier-Journal,  Louisville citizen Pat Chervenak commended Bourke and De Leon’s efforts, and also warned that the concept of mercy can often be misunderstood and misapplied:

” ‘But when others apply the word ‘mercy’ as taken from the lexicon of the world’s beloved Francis, the meaning can subtly change. Often what is missing is the total loving acceptance of one’s own self and of the other person exactly as that person is, with no judgment or condescension.  I believe this missing piece is the milieu from which the word arises as Francis speaks it.  And, I might add, the milieu of Jesus of Nazareth’s apparently warm, mutual acceptance among people judged to be pariahs in his time.’ “

As Jamie Manson wrote in the National Catholic Reporter several weeks ago, mercy without justice for LGBT may be a questionable or even harmful cause. In Kentucky, the Catholics who marched last weekend are ensuring that entwined with the call for mercy are actions of solidarity and the seeking of justice through structural changes along with tonal shifts.

With many state legislatures, including Kentucky, weighing anti-LGBT bills that would grant people a “right to discriminate,” and/or bar restroom access for transgender persons, this Pilgrimage of Mercy is an invitation to Archbishop Kurtz and other church officials  to take action to show that Catholics will not tolerate any forms of discrimination or injustice against marginalized LGBT communities.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


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  1. […] their parish of 28 years. Earlier this year, Bourke and De Leon helped organize the fifth annual Pilgrimage of Mercy which called upon Catholics to support LGBT non-discrimination […]

  2. […] year, Kentucky Catholics marched through downtown Louisville and rallied outside the cathedral to foster support for LGBT non-discrimination protections. U.S. Catholics elsewhere, including at least two […]

  3. […] year, Kentucky Catholics marched through downtown Louisville and rallied outside the cathedral to foster support for LGBT non-discrimination protections. U.S. Catholics elsewhere, including at least two […]

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