Under new leadership, the Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro district of San Francisco is saying “Halt Mary, giving face” now that drag queens are no longer welcome in in the loving house of Christ.
Gay recovery group the Castro Country Club has held its annual Harvest Feast fundraiser at Most Holy Redeemer for the past two years, so they were stunned to learn from new pastor, Rev. Brian Costello, that the church had recently adopted a no-drag-queen policy.
Dignity San Francisco’s treasurer Ernest L. Camisa called the move “not Christian but callous.”
“In previous years, we have had Ivy Drip and Heklina,” the board of the Castro Country Club said in a statement, “both well-known entertainers and community fundraisers, serve as emcees of the event, and we felt we could not in good conscience abide by the church’s new policy.” The board is currently seeking a new venue to host the Harvest Festival.
This change, it seems, can be traced back to the new archdioceses, whom Costello claims, “told me straight out, ‘No drag queens.’”
“What constitutes drag?” asked Zachary Davenport, aka Laybelline (maybe she’s born with it…probably not) in an interview with The Bay Area Reporter. “If we want to get funny, let’s talk about the priests. Hello,” he quipped, before adding, “There are members of our community who express their gender all the time, and are not necessarily performing, but would say, ‘Yes, I am in drag.’”
Davenport also criticized the church for going against the Castro’s long history of being a safe place for the LGBT community. “I know gay people who go to Most Holy Redeemer and love the church,” he said. But according to Joe Murray, founder of Chicago’s pro-LBGT Catholic Rainbow Sash Movement, this is not the first instance where homophobia has raised its ugly head in the Most Holy Redeemer.
Costello had attempted to bridge a compromise with the Castro Country Club, offering the church for their fundraiser as long as no drag queens were allowed on church property. “I am big on compromising,” he said. But “[Castro Country Club] would not work with me. It was all or nothing. And they got nothing.”
The pastor also cites some “bad experiences” the church has had in the past, most likely referring to an incident in 2007 when communion was given to two drag queens dressed as nuns from the activist group, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Following a public brouhaha, the archbishop at the time had to apologize for the incident.
“Either gay and lesbian people are welcome at Most Holy Redeemer or they are not,” Murray told The Bay Area Reporter. “It’s that simple. If the tradition of Most Holy Redeemer is to allow for drag queens to raise money for charity, then to fault those who are raising the money in the name of homophobia, I think, speaks volumes to what type of ministry is going on at Most Holy Redeemer; and that deeply disturbs me. If that is the case, I, like the parishioners of Most Holy Redeemer, have been misled.”