Rainbow Flag “Nothing Short of Spitting and Laughing in God’s Face,” Says Priest

Fr. Jerome Lavigne

Canadian Catholics are seeking apologies after a priest claimed the rainbow flag used to represent LGBT pride was invented by Satan and represents “lawlessness.”

The offending comments were made by Fr. Jerome Lavigne in a homily recorded and posted online until it was deleted after media inquiries. Lavigne, who was appointed vicar of education for the Diocese of Calgary in 2017, gave a homily in February of that year entitled “The Rainbow.” In it, he said the rainbow flag was “sacrilege of unfathomable proportions” and “nothing short of spitting and laughing in God’s face.” PinkNews quoted him further:

“‘And who’s the master behind all of this? It’s not flesh and blood. It’s way too ingenious. . .There is only one who twists truth to this level. Who unleashes unfathomable proportions by means of taking that which exists as a covenant that God established, and completely turning it on its head so that it represents, once again, the very evil from which God’s reprimanding hand was unleashed upon creation in the very first place? His name is Satan. . .’

“‘. . .a priest in his 80s can’t even be seen in public wearing rainbow suspenders without people automatically associating the symbol of God’s covenant with some movement that’s taken root and bore malicious fruit around the entire world.'”

The Calgary Star reported that “The Rainbow” was not Lavigne’s first homily attacking LGBT people, and that in 2016, the priest hosted white nationalist speaker Faith Goldy to participate on a panel about sexual education in schools during which Goldy referred to being transgender as a “mental illness.”

As vicar for education, Lavigne regularly visits church-affiliated schools even though he is not employed by the publicly-funded Calgary Catholic School District. The Calgary Star reported that there is online evidence he worked with students in at least grades 1, 3, and 6. The priest’s role makes his homophobia particularly concerning. Kristopher Wells, a professor on LGBT youth at MacEwan University, said such comments “make it open season on LGBTQ youth.” Wells added:

“‘It’s not fine to bring those beliefs into a public school environment. . .These are the kinds of comments that breed hatred, violence and discrimination. . .We’re talking about a vulnerable community, which has much higher rates of suicide. . .I think the priest’s comments are deeply disturbing and absolutely create an unsafe environment in our schools for (LGBTQ) youth.'”

Still, neither Lavigne nor his bishop, William McGrattan, are apologizing for the priest’s homophobic remarks and the potential negative impacts they may have had. McGrattan, appointed in 2017, has continued his predecessors’ negative record on LGBT issues.

As 2019 commences, we know there is still much work to do in promoting education and building relationships to build a church where all are unconditionally welcome. But the cases of Jerome Lavigne and of the many pastoral ministers who have used similar rhetoric  offer a more attainable goal: stopping the use of hyperbolic, nonfactual, and abusive rhetoric to castigate LGBT people. Using discourse which is accurate, contemplative, and well-informed is simply Christian behavior. If a priest sees the smoke of Satan in any pair of rainbow suspenders, we need to question whether he is suitable for ministry.

In this new year, let us, as the Bondings 2.0 community, start by committing to such a goal for this online space we create together, a witness to the wider Church and to the world of the fruitful dialogue that love makes possible if only we allow it to guide our thoughts and our words.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 3, 2019

9 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Fr. Lavigne cannot actually know any gay people. I would imagine if he did, he would be far less likely to make such an outlandish remark . What is he so angry about? Or is it just fear ?

    Reply
  2. Steven Stencil
    Steven Stencil says:

    Sadly, as we know so well, the clergy is not free of ignorant & foolish individuals who prefers themselves in the center of the spotlight rather than Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

    Reply
  3. Don E Siegal
    Don E Siegal says:

    Nothing Short of Spitting and Laughing in God’s Face

    Here we are just three days into the new year and up pops this report of a very appalling event. I have difficulty responding politely to this horrendous report. For that reason, I shall say nothing. One may fill-in the blank as they see fit.

    Reply
  4. Greg
    Greg says:

    This makes me quite sad. Lavigne’s words display more than hatred and ignorance. He displays a grave disrespect for the Creator who fashioned all of humanity in a Godly image, and who spoke of humans as “good.” Scripture has no asterisks or fine print proclaiming gay folks as less than Godly. All in God’s image, all beloved by their Creator.

    Reply
  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    This looks to me like a case of incipient senile dementia, manifesting as a particularly ugly form of professional malpractice. The man is in his 80s (by his own statement). He’s now abusing and insulting has parishioners, instead of serving as a kind and concerned pastor for them. If he won’t retire gracefully and voluntarily, it’s now incumbent upon the top diocesan officials to exercise their authority to remove him from his active ministry. Does anyone disagree? If so, why so?

    Reply
    • Richard Boyle, OSM
      Richard Boyle, OSM says:

      Dear “Friends”: I think you may have mistaken the reference to “a priest in his 80’s” with Fr. Lavigne himself. If you look at the photo of Lavigne at the head of the article it would appear to me that Fr. Lavigne is in his mid-40’s at best. I think he was making a refernce to “a priest in his 80’s” as a made-up example of a person who (in Lavigne’s) eyes would be a “victim” of the association of wearing “rainbow colors” with being LGBTQ (Oh my, the HORROR! My satire…).

      Reply
      • Friends
        Friends says:

        I quite agree with you, Richard: the reference is ambiguous. But he looks to me to be much closer to 80 than to 40! Could he be implying that wearing rainbow suspenders does not have any automatic significance of endorsing GLBT civil rights? Who knows…and in the end, who really cares what he says or thinks. We know this much: he is no friend or pastor or mentor to faithful GLBTQ Catholics.

        Reply
  6. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    The Church is not the same as the hierarchy.

    Our brothers in the clergy are human and capable of embracing and promoting ignorant beliefs. It is important to listen to the wisdom of the Church as a whole. This includes the LGBTQI Community. Creating an unwelcoming atmosphere that freezes them out is sinful…….I would dare say it is a sin against the Spirit……because, after the wisdom of the Church is banished, all that will be left is ignorance.

    It is also sinful to promote a lie. Rape has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Rape is a crime of violence. Our brothers should be ashamed and should repent for spreading falsehoods.

    Reply

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