Human Rights Arts Festival Relocates From St. Mary’s Church After Archbishop Objects to Gay Content

St. Mary's Church.

St. Mary’s Church.

Organizers of the International Human Rights Arts Festival moved their event booked at St. Mary’s Church on Grand Street after Archbishop Timothy Dolan objected to two gay/transgender-themed performances.

The festival, a production of the Culture Project, was supposed to take place Sunday evening in the Grand Hall, a newly restored space in the basement of the Lower East Side Catholic church. Actress Kathleen Turner is headlining the event, which was relocated to St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, an Episcopal church in Brooklyn.

More from the New York Times:

Father Andrew O’Connor, the administrator of St. Mary’s, said in an interview that he had recently received a call from Bishop John O’Hara, the vicar for Manhattan, expressing concern on behalf of himself and Cardinal Dolan about the gay and transgender-themed performances of the festival. He wanted Father O’Connor to speak to the producers to make sure that the material was appropriate for the Catholic Church. Had there been more time, perhaps a compromise could have been worked out, Father O’Connor said. When Mr. Block asked him if the festival would be allowed as is, Father O’Connor said he told him “probably not,” and rather than ban some artists, Mr. Block decided to pull the show.

The festival includes an improvisational comedy piece, Thank You for Coming Out, and a series of cabaret songs from transgender artist Maybe Burke. These performances were apparently the ones that top officials in the archdiocese found objectionable.

The festival’s producer, Tom Block, said he had the option of removing the two pieces, but decided that was not a viable solution. “We are a human rights arts festival… We are not going to abandon people.” Kathleen Turner told the Times, “I think it’s absolutely, completely wrong.” Deciding who can and cannot be heard, she said, “is very much against the teaching of Christianity.”

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said, “Whenever parish property is used by an outside group of any sort, whether for a performance, speech, discussion, or other use, the expectation is that nothing would occur that would violate Catholic sensibilities and teaching.”

LES Community Invited For Reopening of St. Mary’s Grand Hall on Saturday

Father Andrew O’Connor Weaves Community at St. Mary’s Church

Father Neil Connolly Prepares to Leave St. Mary’s After Three Decades

Monsignor Neil Connolly, St. Mary's Catholic Church.

Father Neil Connolly, St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

A big change is in store for one of the Lower East Side’s most venerable religious institutions. After 28 years, Father Neil Connolly will be leaving St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Grand Street due to an Archdiocese retirement rule. He turns 80 in November.  The news was announced to parishioners a few weeks ago.  Connolly’s successor is Rev. Andrew O’Connor from Holy Family Church in the Bronx.

In a phone conversation Friday, Connolly explained that he’ll be taking on a new role as senior pastor at St. Francis de Sales on East 96th Street. The transition will happen in July.  Connolly has been a fixture on the LES since 1985 guiding the parish through a time of breathtaking change in a gentrifying neighborhood.

Young Undocumented Workers Seek Advice at St. Mary’s Church

St. Mary’s Church, 440 Grand Street.

There was a line out the door at St. Mary’s Church on Grand Street today, where the New York Immigration Coalition sponsored an informational event.  Beginning today, many young undocumented immigrants are eligible to apply for temporary work permits.  The “deferred action” plan, approved by President Obama, allows some immigrants who came to this country before their 16th birthdays to work legally for a two year period.