Award for lesbian Catholic educator withdrawn

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com May 22 2003 11:00 PM ET

Demonstrators staged a protest after a Catholic religious education coordinator was denied an award from the Archdiocese of Minneapolis-St. Paul because she is a lesbian. Approximately 200 members of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church demonstrated Wednesday night in support of Kathy Itzin, the church's religious education coordinator. Itzin was to be one of 18 archdiocesan workers honored for their work in teaching young people about the faith. She is in a committed relationship, and she and her partner have four children, ages 10 to 16.

Archbishop Harry Flynn withdrew the award for Itzen after Catholic Parents Online, a Minneapolis-St. Paul group that supports orthodox teachings of the church, sent him a letter pointing out that Itzin is a lesbian. An official statement from the archdiocese read, "After receiving the nomination [of Itzin] for the catechetical award, the archdiocese subsequently learned of her public expression of a lifestyle inconsistent with Catholic doctrine."

After the awards ceremony, which was held at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Edina, the honorees and their families walked past the demonstrators, singing "Amazing Grace" and "We Are Walking in the Light." The demonstrators held signs that read, "Hate is not a Catholic value."

Earlier the Reverend George Wertin, pastor of St. Joan's, said he "disagreed totally" with Flynn's decision. "Kathy is a wonderful, respected member of our parish community and our staff," he said. "The award recognized these outstanding qualities in her. To withdraw it simply because of her sexual orientation is offensive to all gays and lesbians and to all of us in her community."