A former aide to Detroit cardinal Adam Maida barred three gay Catholics from taking communion with the nation's Catholic bishops at the bishops' national conference in Washington, D.C., Monday evening, according to the Detroit Free Press. The turning away of the three Catholics at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception sparked a nonviolent protest and drew criticism of the priest, the Reverend Michael Bugarin, Maida's former secretary, who now is director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center near the basilica.
The three denied communion are lifelong Catholics: Mike Perez of Seattle; Ken Einhaus of Arlington Va.; and Kara Speltz, a eucharistic minister in a Berkeley, Calif., parish.
The three were in Washington Tuesday to join in silent vigils on behalf of Soulforce, a gay rights group protesting outside the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is meeting at the Hyatt Hotel on Capitol Hill through Thursday. The Reverend Mel White, a Protestant minister and founder of Soulforce, shouted, "Won't some bishop come and serve our brothers and sister the Eucharist they were denied last night?" Soon after, White and the three were surrounded by D.C. police, and were handcuffed, arrested, and charged with unlawful entry to the hotel.
Marianna Thompson, communications director for the diocese of Paterson, N.J., said, "What was done to these people was inappropriate. They were Catholics who were acting appropriately, and they were left in disbelief and very great distress."
Bugarin apologized Tuesday, saying he had made an unfortunate mistake. Bugarin said he misinterpreted the rainbow crosses worn by Perez, Einhaus, and Speltz. He said staffers in the archdiocese of Washington, D.C., had instructed priests not to give communion to members of the Rainbow Sash movement, who previously had worn rainbow sashes and publicly stated that they would seek the sacrament as a protest against church teachings on homosexuality. "If they're receiving [communion] in active opposition...of the church's teaching, I have an obligation to hold up the dignity and belief that we have in the Eucharist," Bugarin said. "I regret that there was a misunderstanding on my part, and I regret the whole situation."