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Ohio Trans Churchgoer Threatened After Calling Out Priest's Anti-LGBTQ+ Remark

Ohio Trans Churchgoer Threatened After Calling Out Priest's Anti-LGBTQ+ Remark

Saint Raphael Roman Catholic Church

“Queer and trans people also carry the Holy Spirit," Avery Arden told the priest.

When their priest said during a sermon the Catholic Church is under attack from LGBTQ+ forces, transgender attendee Avery Arden felt the need to speak out.

Arden, a Georgia resident, was visiting family in Ohio in May and attending Mass at Saint Raphael Roman Catholic Church in Bay Village, a Cleveland suburb. Arden had been active in the church as a child, and it was like a homecoming for them, Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealerreports.

During the service, the Rev. Timothy Gareau referred to the controversy involving the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a satirical group whose members dress as very alternative nuns and raise money for charity. The Dodgers invited the L.A. chapter of the Sisters to the team's Pride Night, then revoked the invitation, then reinstated it after receiving criticism from LGBTQ+ groups and others. The Sisters will receive the Dodgers' Community Hero Award.

“Look at the Los Angeles Dodgers,” Gareau said, without mentioning the Sisters by name, according to The Plain Dealer. “Look what’s happening. Defaming the name of Jesus Christ. Defaming the name of every Christian here on Earth. It just burns a hole in my heart, angers me and embitters me. And it should you.” For the record, the Sisters have said they aren’t defaming anyone but are spreading laughter and happiness.

Some congregants applauded Gareau, and then Arden approached the altar. They said the priest’s remarks were hurtful and noted that “queer and trans people also carry the Holy Spirit.” Three parishioners then escorted Arden from the church.

While Arden was standing outside, a couple who’d left during the sermon commiserated with them. But soon an angry congregant approached and told them to leave the property.

“I look up, and there’s someone storming towards us from the church building,” Arden told The Plain Dealer. “He did say that if he saw any of us [at the church], he would shoot us.”

Police were called, and the couple are considering pressing charges against the man, the paper reports. Bay Village police said the matter is still under investigation.

The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland issued a statement saying it does not condone the man’s angry response, but neither does it condone interruption of the Mass. “The act of disrupting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the most sacred part of Catholic life, is a serious matter, and Catholics rightly feel outraged and violated when such a disruption occurs,” the statement said. “In keeping with the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, virtually all present at the Mass responded to the disruption with prayers for the person who interrupted the service and for the Church.”

Arden, a seminary graduate, said they won’t return to Saint Raphael but still loves the church. “Saint Raphael is more than this hate,” they said. “I truly love Father Tim. And I do believe that he didn’t mean to promote violence. And I have hope that once he’s able to process what happened after his homily, that he will see how he did have a role and reflect on that.”

They added that the Sisters are no threat to Catholicism. “They’ve been around for decades, and the Catholic Church is still going strong,” Arden said.

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