About 25 students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict say they were turned away from communion because they were wearing rainbow buttons that indication membership in, or solidarity with a gay and lesbian student group.
Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, led a student mass at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, on Sept. 26, and offered the students a sign of the cross over their heads, but refused to grant them Eucharist.
“He took one look at that pin and it felt like he was saying, ‘you are not worthy of receiving Jesus,’” Elizabeth Gleich, a member of the student group PRiSM (People Representing the Sexual Minority), told the student newspaper, The Record.
A spokesman for the archdiocese said it’s church policy that people who publicly oppose church teaching shouldn’t get communion.
The Rev. Rene McGraw, a professor of philosophy at St. John’s, said he took issue with the archdiocese’s interpretation of canon law when it comes to who can receive communion.
“My understanding of church law is that one is not to deny communion to anyone unless he or she is a public sinner, and that has traditionally been interpreted very narrowly,” McGraw said.
The incident comes days after the state’s Catholic hierarchy spent thousands of dollars to send every Catholic in the state a DVD defending marriage as between one man and one woman.
Many parishioners have criticized the Archdiocese for spending its resources on such a divisive issue, while food banks and other critical services struggle for support.