Last Sunday, Fr. William Lugger of St. Casimir Parish in Lansing Michigan gave a homily while wearing a pink "p*ssy hat" - the;anatomically-shaped clothing accessory adopted by the Women's March as an ironic protest symbol.
As far as I know, the homily was well-received by his congregation. He then put a picture of it up on his public Facebook page with the comment, "The Kingdom of God is at hand!" Aside from a few grumblers, this was well-received by his Facebook friends, many of whom were members of the parish.
As should have been foreseen, a critic then shared the picture on the Facebook page of Lugger's diocese. Lugger oddly responded to this by putting the picture up again on his public page along with a note saying how angry he was that the picture had been shared to the diocese. (It had also been shared to other pages at least 70 previous times - no doubt including many pages of members of the diocese.)
The "p*ssy hat priest" story became a minor viral sensation among foes and friends alike, but "Fr. Bill" was unapologetic. He did however, feel it was important to reassure everyone that the hat was "only a prop" (what else would it have been?), and raced to put an audio recording of the homily up on the parish website so that his critics would understand how innocuous the whole thing really was, or how profound his homily was or whatever.
As of today, all pictures of the p*ssy hat have disappeared. But the homily itself remains.
The transcription below was taken from that recording. As far as I know, it's the only transcript in existence.
The historical record owes me one. Big time.
As one might have expected, there's nothing particularly surprising or unusual about the homily. It's thirteen minutes of cloying liberal cliches - in other words, a fairly typical homily from a Catholic parish, circa 2017. To be fair, Fr. Bill does acknowledge that Jesus suffered and died primarily for us to "get to salvation." But he then spends the remaining 90% of his time outlining how we can best bear witness to Jesus' ministry by becoming anti-Trump social justice activists - just as Jesus was the original anti-Trump social justice activist. And, of course supporting the Women's March is part of that effort.
We've all heard this sort of thing before, even and especially from Catholic priests. But I want to quickly remark on just one point:
The monstrous arrogance of the man and people like him.
Judging from the homily, the primary - indeed perhaps the only - principle of Fr. Bill's political philosophy is that all people are well, people. And it's wrong to treat people differently because they're, well, different.
Not only does he believe that this was the primary teaching of Jesus' earthly ministry but he seems to believe that most people at most times, even and especially after the time of Jesus, were not aware of this insight. So he disses the historical Catholic Church and historical America. He disses Donald Trump and presumably most Trump voters. According to Fr. Bill, he, his parishioners and liberals in general do in fact "get it," but most others, including many Christians, past and present, do not.
He's the Pharisee who thanks God he's not like the other guy.
For Lugger, the Kingdom of God is at hand (finally!) because at long last enough people are hip to the basic proposition that a wealthy American straight white male is not any more morally valuable than your average working-class Congolese lesbian.
And yes, it is Fr. Bill who brings up the Congo (see below). He seems to think the Women's March was about it.
His Kingdom of God is at hand. Or at least it was at hand until Donald Trump came along. This is why he fights.
Now imagine all that with a vagina on his head.
From the audio recording on the St. Casimir Facebook page:
[Unintelligible]...it's not why I'm doing this. I put this on today [the p*ssy hat] for a number of reasons, mainly because of what the Scriptures speak of. These last few days, we have seen many of our brothers and sisters, not only in our country but around the world, wearing this. It symbolizes a whole number of things. For the most part it symbolizes pushing back against theories or ways of thinking that do not do justice to our sisters and brothers.
In the second reading today from St. Paul, he's hearing all of this dissension about the coming Church. Some are saying that they made their allegiance to Paul and Peter and Caiphus and Apollos. And he says, look my brothers and sisters, Jesus died on the cross for all of us. It wasn't Paul. It wasn't Peter. It wasn't Caiphus. It wasn't Apollos. Jesus died on the cross for all people
So, we often have the symbol that we use as Christians, which is the cross. And for us. This is out hope of unity. That when we either wear this around our neck, or we place it on the altar, or we hang it on the ceiling, it is a reminder to us that the life of Christ was not just about dying and rising on the cross. That was the main reason he came - for us to get to salvation. However, in Jesus' ministry, he reached out to all the marginalized people that He encountered. Everybody that Jesus reached out to that we hear about in the Scriptures are basically outcasts of the society in which Jesus was living. He showed them, or tried to explain to them they were valued members of society. So He touches the person with leprosy and heals them. He speaks to the women at the well from Samaria. He goes down to the banks of the pond and raises up people who were sick and bleeding. He speaks to the tax collector and invites himself to his house.
We come here today and we listen to the voices of many many people who are feeling very much afraid and threatened by many other different people. They keep telling us that we need to not let them in to our country. We need to send them back to their own country. We need to get rid of these people or get rid of that person. And the reality is that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we cannot do that. We cannot allow that to happen.
We live in a world now that is very much a world community. We are connected to our sisters and brothers throughout the world. Our nation is a wonderful and powerful nation in lots of ways. The first thing that happens when some tragedy or catastrophe affects another country around the world, whether it's an earthquake or bombings or whatever, who do they turn to, they turn to the United States of America because they know it will help. The same thing has to go for the people who are marginalized by society. They must turn to our country to say, "we need your help" and our country has to be a model for that. We can't exclude anyone under the umbrella of freedom and justice and peace.
The opening song today - we sang about let us be a light for our sisters and brothers. Let us speak and live in justice and peace. We can't sing that song or live that out if women are looked down upon or not paid for their [unintelligible] of work. We can't do that when there are children who are suffering from poverty and nakedness in our world. We can't do that when veterans have no place to go because their country has shunned them. We can't do that when there are people who are killed for simply because of who they love or their background. We can't expect that to be justice and peace because Jesus [unintelligible].
We come today and the Scriptures announce to us that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But Jesus even know before he returned to the Father, he wasn't going to do this alone. He knew that he had to go back to Heaven and prepare a place for us. So who did he choose to continue his mission? Four skeevy, smelly guys who wreaked of seawater and dead fish. He didn't go to downtown Jerusalem to pick out the mayor or the wealthiest person in Jerusalem. He went to the seashore and picked out your average guy to follow him and to continue his mission and ministry. And even then in the course of his ministry, he picks out several women who are there to continue to help him promote the message of the Good News. And if you remember on Easter Sunday, the first one to receive the message that Jesus had died for the cross, is not one of the Apostles. It was Mary Magdalen - a woman God chose to shoulder the power of God's love.
But [unintelligible] for today is that as we come here and see those various scenes of marches over all of our, not only of our nation, but around the world - in Paris and Rome and Cairo and other places - people are tired of being marginalized or put into [unintelligible] boxes and are treated as less than human. It doesn't matter what your skin is like. It doesn't matter what color your hair or what nation you come from. God loves us equally. And he showed that in Jesus Chhist. Jesus didn't say, "I just died on the cross today folks, on Good Friday, for the people here in Jerusalem that they might change their minds around." Jesus told us he dies for all. Jesus' blood was not shed so that a few people in the central part of Israel would be free from sin. He did that for all people at all times. So we as brothers and sisters in Christ have the responsibility to continue to share that message with our sisters and brothers. Catholic social teaching is the foundation of Jesus' life. [Unintelligible] is revisiting that vision of Jesus and opening up the Church to many many [unintelligible].
The church is not perfect. You look over two-thousand years of the Church history, the Church has done some pretty awful stuff in the name of Jesus Christ. Even churches when I wa growing up - the French church would not have approached the Polish church because one was seen as less Christian or less holy than another church. There was dissension in Flint. One side of Flint was African-American, the other side was pretty much all white. And the first time I ever really interacted with an African-American person was when i went to junior high school. And then in the late sixties we all saw that in the rioting that took place, down not only in Detroit but around the country. We can't have that today in the guise of being Christian or even American.
America's a wonderful place, but in its two-hundred and something years there's been some pretty bad stuff here. Whether it's the Civil War. Whether it's the Civil Rights Movement. whether it's our brothers and sisters who have been hung from trees in the South. Whether it's our brothers and sisters who, because people see them and look at the color of their skin or whatever clothes their wearing, automatically think that they're a bad person or a terorist who will blow up someone. We can't do that in our world nowadays. We can't marginalize people [unintelligible]. We are called to be good and faithful members of the world community.
When we heard our newly elected president on Friday say, "America First," well I'm thinking, maybe fifty or a hundred years ago "America First" would be the right thing to say. But nowadays I'm not sure. Because we're not isolating ourselves from the rest of the world. America shares its resources. It gives food and money and clothing and medical supplies to the rest off the world. We're all brothers and sisters on this planet. Yes, we want jobs for our American brothers and sisters and we want health care and we want equal rights. But shouldn't that be the same thing for our brothers and sisters in the Congo or in the Middle-East or in South Africa. I think that was the message of the walks this last week. It's the message of the Gospels. It's the message of who we called to be as brothers and sisters in Christ.
So when we come forth to Communion today, where we see that nourishment that speaks to our unity, it also speaks to us that as we go forth from the celebration we're supposed to witness Jesus [unintelligible]. We're not all perfect. We all have our faults. We are all sinners. If we acknowledge that and gain strength from God's forgiveness and mercy, we can then change to be better people, We can be inclusive in our love, not exclusive of who we love or who we relate to.
The family for our Little House [the parish has designated a house for a refugee family] looks like they're coming not this week but the following Tuesday or Wednesday, First or second of February. When people have heard what we're doing, for the most part people have been very generous and very kind, lifting up our parish. But there have been people - some say, "why are you doing that, why do you have to do that now? Who are these people that are coming. Are they Catholic? Are they Muslim? Are they African-American or African? Are they different from us? Under the umbrella of God's love, it sent matter. That's why we're doing what we're doing, because we are called to do it. If we had the resources we could have twenty-five or fifty houses around the neighborhood for various people who need help in education in family in homes and food and clothing and shelter.
So listen very carefully to the Gospel. who Jesus picks out. He does the same thing to us. He says come and do my work. He doesn't care what kind of bank account we have, what country we were born in, what our background is, who we love. He just says come and do the work of freedom and justice and try to rid the planet of persecution and unhealthy un-wholeness. It's the message of the Gospel. I think that's what my sisters and brothers were trying to talk about in this weekend of protests. I know that for most of them, that's what it was.
So we come here. We ask God to empower us with the same gifts of the spirit to reach out to our sisters and brothers. And when we do that, when they see us treating our sisters and brothers in justice and peace and mercy and forgiveness, they can use the line that Jesus uses in the Gospels: "Today the Kingdom of God is at hand."