A Denver-area Catholic church has denied four women communion because they were wearing rainbow face masks.
The four friends—Sally Odenheimer, 71, Susan Doty, 81, Jill Moore, 64, and Cindy Grubenhoff, 48—attended Mass at All Souls Catholic Parish in Englewood this past Saturday. As they were lining up to receive the Eucharist, the priest took one look at their rainbow face masks and shook his head.
“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 told The Denver Post. “I went back to my pew and wanted to cry, but I tried to hold it in.”
The four friends wore the face maks in solidarity with local teacher Maggie Barton, who was fired for being gay. Barton worked as a technology teacher at the All Souls Catholic School until the Archdiocese of Denver obtained a photo of her kissing her partner. She was fired on January 26, the day after Pope Francis condemned punitive measures for homosexuality.
”I’m at a loss right now with how the leader of the Catholic Church is saying things that feel very supportive of who I am as a person and then to have someone at the level of the Archdiocese saying something that feels the exact opposite and almost contradictory to what the Pope is saying,” Barton told the Post. “I’m confused. What am I supposed to do with that?”
Odenheimer, for one, knew what to do. She convinced her friends to attend the school’s affiliated parish the following Mass to show support. In addition to the rainbow face masks, Odenheimer had a Pride sweater, Moore wore a Pride ribbon, and Grubenhoff (who chose not to participate in the Holy Communion) wore a shirt with the words “Love, Empathy, Compassion, Inclusion, Justice, Kindness” in rainbow letters.
After the group was denied the Eucharist, Kelly Clark, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese, gave a statement seeming to confirm that the rainbow masks were the cause. “[Mass] is a time to worship God, not a time to seemingly make a statement or enter Mass with the intent of provoking a response,” she told the Post. “It is perfectly acceptable for a priest to decide to give a blessing instead of Communion if it appears the person isn’t ready to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”
Although they did not receive Communion, the four did accomplish their goal in the end. As Doty put it, “We were intent on not being disruptive at all but to be a witness to those who support the teacher.”