A San Diego Catholic church has been vandalized with homophobic graffiti aimed at a gay employee.
Aaron Bianco, a pastoral associate at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in the city’s University Heights neighborhood, found “no fags” spray-painted on an office wall when he arrived at the church Monday, local TV station KNSD reports.
“I had to step back and kind of get my breath. Just the thought that people are so hateful today,” Bianco told the station.
Bianco has been the target of antigay harassment repeatedly for the two years he’s been at the church, he said. The Rev. James Martin, a Catholic priest who is a friend of Bianco’s and has worked for LGBTQ inclusion in the church, detailed some of the actions in a Tuesday Facebook post.
“Aaron’s tires have been slashed; he has received threatening emails (some 60 over the last two months), including death threats; letters on his car have been left, one saying, ‘Sodomites not welcome in the church.’ One man physically attacked him at the end of Mass, and had to be prevented by other parishioners from hurting him. This is what hate does, especially the kind of hate whipped up online.”
Martin blamed right-wing websites such as Church Militant and LifeSite News for encouraging homophobia. One Church Militant article, for example, accused Bianco and the San Diego diocese of promoting an “LBGT agenda.” Another said “faithful Catholics” at Bianco’s parish “are suffering persecution by a homosexualist cabal” and that the church is being corrupted. LifeSite News has urged readers to sign a petition calling for Bianco’s firing. A far-right Catholic group called the Lepanto Institute has also objected to the parish’s employment of Bianco and called Bianco’s husband his “sodomitical partner.”
These groups and publications deny having anything to do with the attacks on Bianco. Martin did not accuse them of perpetrating the vandalism, however, but rather of creating the climate that led to it.
Pastoral associates in the Roman Catholic Church can be male or female, married or single. This differs from the priesthood, which is open only to men, who are expected to remain celibate. The church does oppose same-sex relationships for anyone. But the St. John the Evangelist parish prides itself on being welcoming and inclusive.
Attacks on the have increased since the release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, despite the fact that pedophilia bears no relation to homosexuality. The “no fags” graffiti incident marked the first time vandals had left their mark inside the church, KNSD reports. This violation of the church space made Bianco consider leaving his post, but he has decided to stay.
The attackers, he added, are not following the example of Jesus Christ. “Jesus was always welcoming, and even if you believe someone is sinful, Jesus was still sitting with them, eating with them and having a conversation with them,” he told the station. “There was never hate involved.”