SF Archdiocese Denies Crackdown on Drag Queens at Church Events
Well, that didn’t take long.
When Salvatore Cordileone took over as the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, academics I interviewed said he might pressure churches that welcome lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. They noted that he has campaigned actively against same-sex marriage.
That was July 27. Now, reports are surfacing that Most Holy Redeemer, a Catholic church in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood, is falling in line with Cordileone’s views — reports that the archdiocese denies.
According to a report on Thursday by The Bay Area Reporter, the church has told the Castro Country Club it can’t hold fundraisers on the premises if it continues inviting drag queens as entertainment. The newspaper interviewed Reverend Brian Costello:
“I am the new pastor,” Costello added. “There is a new archbishop. The archdiocese told me straight out, ‘No drag queens.’”
Also on Thursday, the church told the San Francisco Gay Softball League it can’t hold its annual SwitchHitter’s Ball fundraiser there, according to KTVU TV. From the report:
The church’s business manager Mike Poma told KTVU some events held there have gotten out of hand, which include simulated sex acts and nudity.
“A review of drag queens and boys in their underwear … This is a church first and foremost. This is sacred to a lot of people,” Poma said. “To have that type of stuff going on, this (bothers) a lot of people.”
Update at 2:41 p.m: Returning my call, archdiocese spokesperson George Wesolek told me the church did not ban cross-dressing, it simply closed its facilities to groups not affiliated with the church. The change took place about two months ago and it had nothing to do with the appointment of the new archbishop, who doesn’t take office until Oct. 4, Wesolek said. He added that many parishes have similar policies for many reasons.
Here’s our conversation, edited for brevity:
George Wesolek: One example is that sometimes an outside group will come in and perhaps do something of a political nature. That can be disadvantageous to us because we are not supposed to be doing any kind of political activity with candidates. We can with issues, but not with candidates. So that is a somewhat usual policy for parishes.
Laird Harrison: So there was no connection with the appointment of the new archbishop?
George Wesolek: I know for a fact there is no connection at all. I would be very surprised if the new archbishop knew anything about this.
Laird Harrison: Then why would Costello have attributed the change to the archdiocese?
George Wesolek: He’s new there and I’m not quite sure what he had meant about that. He may have talked to someone at the archdiocese — in the legal team for example — and he was talking about a way of instituting a policy or was trying to understand the policy because it was in place before he came.
Laird Harrison: Does the archdiocese have any sort of policy about drag queens?
George Wesolek: We would pretty much leave that up to the parish. I would think that most parishes would not consider that appropriate.
Update at 1:21 p.m: I contacted the Castro Country Club, Holy Redeemer Church and the Archdiocese for comment. So far I have heard back from the Castro Country Club. In accordance with Alcoholics Anonymous tradition, the club doesn’t make members available for interview. However, it released this statement:
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. We are a Castro neighborhood nonprofit and we would like to keep the fundraiser in the neighborhood.
We were disappointed when we were notified by the church last week that we would not be able to hold the dinner if any drag queens were part of the program. In previous years, we have had Ivy Drip and Heklina, both well-known entertainers and community fundraisers, serve as MC’s of the event, and we felt we could not in good conscience abide by the church’s new policy.
It is our organization’s policy to be inclusive and welcoming to all. Drag queens are no exception. We are currently seeking an alternative venue for the Harvest Feast, which provides an important source of revenue for our annual budget.”
Here’s an Ivy Drip video, by the way.