Three Catholic gay activists were convicted of unlawful entry Friday in D.C. superior court by a judge who then declined to sentence them, saying she was sympathetic to their cause and apologizing on behalf of the Catholic Church, reports The Washington Post.
The activists--Ken Einhaus of Arlington, Va.; Mike Perez of Seattle; and Kara Speltz of Oakland, Calif.--told Judge Mildred M. Edwards in the nonjury trial that they went to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the annual Conference of Catholic Bishops was being held, on November 12, seeking Holy Communion. They also wanted an explanation of why they were refused communion the day before during Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass was part of the conference's activities.
Edwards, who is also Catholic, told the activists that she had to convict them but that she would do something she had not done in 15 years on the bench--dispense with a sentence.
"Tremendous violence was done to you...when the Body of Christ was denied to you," Edwards said, referring to the contention of the three that refusal of Holy Communion had prompted their actions. "As a member of your church, I ask you to forgive the church."
Edwards declined to comment after the trial. Chief Judge Rufus King III said that judges have the latitude to voice their opinions from the bench.
Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Washington, said a member of the shrine staff misidentified the three, telling the priest they were members of the Rainbow Sash movement. The priest declined to give them communion at the November 11 service, Gibbs said, because the Rainbow Sash group had informed the church that members planned to receive communion as a form of protest. "The Eucharist is the core of our faith and a sign of our unity," Gibbs said. "It is very rare to deny communion, but since it was publicly announced it would be a protest and not a sign of faith, the Rainbow Sash group was denied the sacrament."
"This was a case of mistaken identity," Gibbs said. "[Einhaus, Perez, and Speltz] were not members of that group."