Catholics Denied Communion in Denver for Supporting Fired Lesbian Church Worker

Susan Doty, Sally Odenheimer, and Jill Moore

Two Catholics in Colorado have said they were denied Communion for wearing rainbow masks in support of a lesbian church worker recently fired in the Archdiocese of Denver.

In January, Maggie Barton was terminated as a teacher at All Souls Catholic School over her same-gender relationship. Then, this month, to protest the discrimination, four Catholic women—Susan Doty, Sally Odenheimer, Jill Moore, and Cindy Grubenhoff—attended Mass at the parish with which the school is affiliated wearing rainbow masks and other Pride apparel. According to The Denver Post:

“Susan Doty lined up Saturday to receive Holy Communion much as she’s done her entire life. . .

“But, she said, the priest took one look at her rainbow-colored face mask and shook his head, denying her Communion, and motioned for her to move along.

“‘I felt demeaned, and I said to him, “This isn’t right,” and then I moved away feeling so sad and kind of unbelieving,’ Doty said in an interview Monday. ‘I went back to my pew and wanted to cry, but I tried to hold it in.'” . . .

“‘We were intent on not being disruptive at all, but to be a witness to those who support the teacher,’ Doty said.”

Along with Doty, Moore was denied the Eucharist and the priest would not give a blessing to Odenheimer. Grubenhoff chose not to receive Communion because, the Post reported, as the mother of “one nonbinary transgender child and another queer child. . .she could no longer bring herself to receive Holy Communion at an institution that opposes her children.” She commented:

“‘It’s hard not to conclude that the only reason they were denied is because they had a face mask on with a rainbow on it. . .Where does that end? Does that mean that anyone wearing a rainbow of any kind is going to be denied Communion? Does a little girl wearing a rainbow unicorn sweatshirt get denied because she’s wearing the mark of LGBTQ supporters? It’s a slippery slope and a scary place to be.'”

The Archdiocese of Denver refused to comment on the matter with a spokeswoman, Kelly Clark, saying on that Mass is “not a time to seemingly make a statement” or have “the intent of provoking a response.” Clark encouraged “anyone who feels they were wrongly denied Communion to speak to the pastor of the church.”

Despite experiencing pastoral harm, Susan Doty and others remain committed to the church and its reform. The Post reported:

“Doty — who has a master’s degree in theology, a doctorate in scripture and taught at Regis University — said she will remain a practicing Catholic. However, she did feel compelled to stop giving her money to an Archdiocese she believes discriminates against gay people. Her late brother was gay, Doty said, so she thinks of him as she stands in solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

“‘I love my church,’ Doty said. ‘We’re supposed to be seeking to enlarge the space in our tent like Pope Francis said. It’s not easy, but I won’t give up because there’s still hope.'”

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, February 20, 2023

12 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    Pope Francis not long ago said he had never refused Communion to anyone. Maybe these three women should write the pope about their humiliating experience of being denied not only Communion but a blessing as well.

  2. Claire Jenkins
    Claire Jenkins says:

    That’s a good idea stop paying to the church if they don’t behave with respect and dignity towards LGBT families and friends.

  3. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Weaponizing the Eucharist. Shameful.
    They should have stood stock still until the priest relented. The Eucharist isn’t doled out like a prize for conformity.
    Remember that Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well for water. . At the Last Supper, Jesus told the twelve “Take this, all of you.”
    The priest in Denver needs to refresh his understanding of Jesus’ intent.

  4. Lawrence Kavanaugh
    Lawrence Kavanaugh says:

    The Archdiocese of Denver refused to comment on the matter with a spokeswoman, Kelly Clark, saying on that Mass is “not a time to seemingly make a statement” or have “the intent of provoking a response.”
    AND YET, making a statement and provoking a response is exactly what the priest at All Souls was doing.

  5. Sarah Probst Miller
    Sarah Probst Miller says:

    This is very simply heartbreaking to see people denied the Eucharist for supporting others in a loving way. Just makes me sick to my soul. I can only be Catholic by simultaneously wearing something at Mass that shows I support my LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. I cannot imagine being denied the Eucharist for doing so. May God move and breathe on hearts of stone and make them hearts of flesh. Continued prayers and support for those living the beatitudes courageously. Continued prayers for those leading with blind and deaf hearts.

  6. Valerie Schultz
    Valerie Schultz says:

    This breaks my already-broken heart.
    Ms. Doty is supposed to bring her concerns about being denied Communion to the pastor who denied her Communion? Mother of God.
    I too have realized the most meaningful way (that may get noticed) to support my trans child: withholding my money from an archdiocese that rejects and vilifies them.

  7. Tom Rowan
    Tom Rowan says:

    Thanks for standing up for LGQBT Catholics. On this one, I believe Catholic Church teaching has got it egregiously wrong. It seems that the Bishops and the priests they ordain are stuck of the letter of the law and have abandoned the spirit of the law. Courage to follow Jesus integrally.

  8. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    To deny someone communion simply because of something they are wearing is unconscionable. It is spiritually abusive and no minister of the Eucharist — clergy or lay — has the right to make such a judgment. Even Pope Francis has famously said that he has never denied Communion to anyone.

    In addition to identifying these three woman, NWM should also identify the name of the parish, the name of the priest who committed this crime, the name of the pastor of the parish, as well as contact information for the Archdiocese of Denver. I would also suggest providing contact information for the Apostolic Nuncio so that this crime — and it is that! — may be reported.

    Shame on this priest who put himself above Jesus Himself in judging others so harshly.

    • Laura scanbell
      Laura scanbell says:

      The name of the Parish is mentioned. The name of the ArchBishop of Denver is ArchBishop Aquila. Their telephone number is 303.722.4687. Unfortunately they do not list the email address. Three topics are offered to contact the, directly on the site.


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