The Archdiocese of Denver is defending the decision of a Catholic parish to deny Holy Communion to three activists wearing rainbow face masks to protest a teacher’s firing.
Sally Odenheimer, Jill Moore and Susan Doty attended Mass at All Souls Catholic Parish on Feb. 11 wearing rainbow-colored masks. Odenheimer said they don’t usually attend All Souls, but did so to support Maggie Barton, a teacher recently fired from All Souls Catholic School for contract violations.
While Barton claims she was unfairly targeted for identifying as LGBT, the Archdiocese clarified she was fired for violating her contract, which includes a commitment to refrain “from taking any public position or conducting himself or herself in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
“When Maggie Barton’s story hit, it struck a chord in me and I felt compelled to do something,” Odenheimer told local Fox affiliate, KDVR. “Our whole intent was to support and stand in solidarity for Maggie and for all.”
Odenheimer said she chose not to receive Communion, but Moore and Doty were both denied when they went up to receive it.
“I had no idea that [Moore] was just standing there with her hands out waiting to get the host, the Eucharist, and she was just saying, ‘Amen,’ and that’s it. And [the priest] nodded for her to leave,” recalled Odenheimer.
Doty was also denied.
A spokesman for the Archdiocesan says the denial was justified:
“I will say, anyone who considers themselves a lifelong Catholic knows that the communion line is not the place for any political statement, especially when such statements highlight that the person is not in communion with Christ,” read a statement. “If anyone believes they were wrongly denied Communion, we encourage them to speak to the pastor of their church who, unlike secular media, is better equipped to answer their concerns and help them be brought back into Communion.”
Odenheimer was unmoved.
“Maybe it opens up the door for other people, other Catholics, to open their eyes about what’s going on in this community and for them to decide whether they believe in that or feel like that’s the right direction the Archdiocese is going,” Odenheimer said. “It’s up to them.”
According to the Catholic church, Holy Communion is a sacrament involving the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ present through a mystery known as “transubstantiation.” Receiving Holy Communion while not in a “state of grace” is deemed a “grave sin” in Catholicism, one that endangers the soul of the recipient.
Protesting during Holy Communion is seen as defiling the Eucharist and is never tolerated, regardless of the issue.