As TFP member Norman Fulkerson and I arrived at St. Anthony’s Franciscan Monastery in downtown Boston, a feeling of apprehension seized me. It was Ash Wednesday and we knew that St. Anthony’s held Masses and distributed ashes all day long. With the droves of Catholics we expected to pass by, it was a perfect opportunity to distribute our flyer promoting the American TFP’s new hard-hitting book Defending a Higher Law: Why We Must Resist Same-sex Marriage and the Homosexual Agenda.
However, my feeling of apprehension remained. I had been following reports of the controversy over homosexual “marriage” in Massachusetts and I feared that we would face opposition, perhaps even strong opposition, from Bostonians who disagree with Church teaching.
As we began to distribute the flyers, with the help of local TFP friends Pat Hobby, Helen Callahan, Lillian Smith and Jean LeRiche, I became more confident. The vast majority of passersby expressed their support of traditional marriage and their repudiation of sodomy.
After about an hour, I noticed that several self-proclaimed homosexuals, after rejecting our flyer, proceeded to go into the Church. That seemed strange. Even stranger was when a security guard from the Church came out to talk to me.
He was very kind, but firm. “I am in total agreement with you,” he said. “But some of the friars inside are really getting angry. They want you to leave.” Despite my surprise, I explained to him that since I was standing on a public street, my actions were protected under the First Amendment. I told him that if it would help calm things down, I would move a little bit away from the doors, but that I was going to stay.
Next a friar came out to talk to my colleague. After angrily disputing our right to distribute the flyer, he threatened to call the police and stormed back into the church. Aware that we were not violating any law, we continued our work as we waited for the policemen to arrive.
In a short time, three Boston policemen arrived and approached me. I showed them the flyer and explained what we were doing. One officer looked puzzled as he went inside the church.
In a few minutes he emerged even more confused. After confirming that we could continue our distribution, he innocently said, “I don’t understand. You are Catholic, they are Catholic…shouldn’t they be happy that you are out here?”
One of the other officers also expressed his consternation and I must admit that I did not know what to say. After all, shouldn’t Franciscan friars have welcomed faithful Catholics, willing to face cold weather and attitudes in defense of the Church’s moral teaching?
The answer is that these two friars oppose Church teaching. This became clear when my colleague, Mr. Norman Fulkerson, called one friar’s attention to the fact that three bishops and several priests, including EWTN show host Fr. John Trigilio, support the TFP book. His reaction was to ignore what Mr. Fulkerson was saying and use vulgar language that surprised me.
As the day wore on, we received all sorts of reactions; thankfully most of them were favorable. Undoubtedly, the worst reaction we received all day long, came from two of the friars at St. Anthony’s, who continued not only to harass us, but called the police twice more.
My experiences that day provided me with a lot of food for thought. Without disparaging the many good clergymen who struggle against the crisis in the Church today, and undoubtedly feel its sting more intensely than I, this episode made this crisis more palpable.
Indeed, it was a tragic reality check. Seeing reality is a good thing…regardless of how tragic that reality may be.