Denying communion is not just for Catholic politicians
When a Catholic priest’s refusal to distribute communion to someone at Mass hits the headlines, it’s usually a U.S. Catholic politician supporting abortion rights who’s at the non-receiving end. Things are a bit different in the Netherlands, where the headlines these days are about a small town’s “carnival prince” turned away at the altar. That refusal led to gay protests at at some Sunday Masses, including the nearby cathedral, and decisions to refuse communion to everyone present. The protesters have vowed to continue for the next seven Sundays.
The reason for the dispute is that “carnival prince” Gijs Vermeulen, the man chosen to lead the Mardi Gras parade and other carnival festivities in Reusel near the Belgian border, lives with a gay partner. Tradition calls for the prince to lead townspeople to Mass on the Saturday before Mardi Gras, but the local pastor told him he could not receive communion there because of his gay relationship. That Mass went ahead, but news of it got out to gay activists around the country and several converged on Reusel the following Sunday. Faced with this protest, the pastor refused to distribute communion to anyone, not even life-long parishioners. He said this was decided with the support of the his bishop, Antoon Hurkmans.
When the gay activists announced they would then protest at Hurkmans’s St. John’s Cathedral in nearby Den Bosch, the bishop agreed to meet the editor of the Dutch gay magazine Gay Krant and the gay rights group COC Nederland, which claims to be the oldest LGBT organisation in the world. A Church communique said it was “an open and respectful discussion that touched a raw nerve” and announced there would be no communion at the Mass the gay activists wanted to attend.
On Sunday morning, an estimated hundred or so gay activists filled the pews at the cathedral for Mass, many wearing pink triangles saying “Jesus excludes no one.” Three in pink robes, with matching pink wigs, sat in a front pew. When the celebrant, Rev. Geertjan van Rossem, asked sexually active homosexuals not to come to the altar, dozens of the activists walked out of the cathedral booing and chanting. Some reportedly sang “We Shall Overcome.” Protesters handed out pink wafers outside.
COC Nederland said it would hold similar protests at the cathedral for the next seven Sundays. “Seven is a very important number in the Bible,” its vice-chair Vera Bergkamp said, “so we plan to come to this church for the next seven weeks.”
Here’s a short video headlined “Homos walk out of Saint John’s angrily.” The report is in Dutch, but you get the picture: