www.rainbowsash.com AUSTRALIA!
Where it all started!

 The Rainbow Sash Movement - An International Action for Gay rights and Spiritual freedom!

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Our Core Statement
'History and Vision'
'A Momentum Grows'
'A Vision Embraced'
'Our call today'

The Rainbow Sash Movement is an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Catholics, with their families and friends, who are publicly calling the Catholic Church to conversion of heart around issues of human sexuality. 

 Members of the movement are committed to bringing the gifts, the witness and the challenge of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people into the heart of the church.  Through our public, prayerful, visible presence at the Eucharist and in the ongoing life of God's People, through our work for justice, through speaking the truth of our lives and our loving, we call the whole church to build with us a future of liberation, reconciliation and joy for all people.

We are also supported by Non-Catholics and 'Straight' people.

 Our Core Statement

 In wearing The Rainbow Sash we proclaim that we are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender people 
who embrace and celebrate our sexuality as a Sacred Gift.

 In wearing the sash we call the church:
-- to honour our wisdom and experience;
-- to enter into public dialogue with us;
-- to work with us for justice and understanding.

 Together, let us seek a new appreciation of human sexuality in all of its diversity and beauty.

The movement's core action, or ritual expression, involves the symbol of the Rainbow Sash.  The sash is a strip of rainbow coloured fabric which members wear over our left shoulders when we attend the celebration of the Eucharist.  Carrying this symbol, we publicly claim our place at Christ's table, sacramentally expressing the truth of our lives, and calling the church to embrace a new day of integrity and freedom.


 A Question Asked

 The movement has its roots in a question asked by a young Catholic gay man in 1997: 
               "Are gay Catholics who publicly proclaim their sexuality truly welcome at holy communion?"

 After writing to church authorities, this man attended Mass wearing a Rainbow Sash as the symbol expressing his sexuality.  In both Melbourne, Australia, and Westminster, London, he was refused Holy Communion by the local Bishop ( in London, Cardinal Basil Hume; in Melbourne, Archbishop George Pell.  Cardinal John O'Connor, in Melbourne at the time, publicly supported this refusal.) A gay priest who wore the rainbow sash with him, was also refused communion.
In the face of this public rejection, and feeling that he had received his answer, this young man laid aside the rainbow sash.

A Movement Begins.
On Pentecost Sunday 1998 a group of 70 people attended Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, wearing the Rainbow Sash.
A core group of  leaders had been preparing, over a six-month period of prayer and discussion, to take up the sash again and transform it into a symbol of pride, dignity and challenge.  Central to this process was the development of the movement's Core Statement.
After writing a formal "Letter to Pope John Paul 11", and a "Letter to the Church", the leaders of the group wrote to the local Archbishop and informed him of their intention to attend Mass wearing the sash.  They assured him that their presence would be prayerful, reverent and peaceful in word and action.
In order to establish the Rainbow Sash as a recognised symbol, and to provide to the movement with a public voice in a church which refuses to listen, the leaders of the group also informed the national and local media.

On Pentecost Sunday, after meeting for prayer and preparation before Mass, the group moved across to the Cathedral.  Amongst them were parents, family members and friends who, in response to the " Invitation to Friends and  Supporters" chose to stand in solidarity.
At Mass, as the Opening Hymn began, these 70 people, dispersed in small groups throughout the congregation, put brilliant rainbow coloured sashes over their left shoulders.  They participated in the Mass in the usual way, with reverence and respect.
As the distribution of Communion began, the Rainbow Sash wearers stood up in their places in silence.  Then, as their turn came, they joined the line to receive Holy Communion.
Every one of the Rainbow Sash wearers was refused Communion, including mothers and fathers of gay children.  People wearing small rainbow ribbons were also refused.
On returning to their places, the Rainbow Sash wearers continued standing in silent witness.  As the Mass concluded the Archbishop read a statement rebuking them, and most of the congregation applauded.
Outside the Cathedral, the interest amongst national and international media was intense.  One person interviewed was a 76 year old woman: "I go to Mass twice a week and say the rosary every night, but today I was refused communion by my own Bishop.  If I can learn to love my gay son, why can't the church?"
Members of the group distributed hundreds of copies of the "Letter to the Church" at the gates of the Cathedral.

As the controversy developed over the next few weeks, all of Australia's Catholic archbishops told the media that they, too, would refuse Holy Communion to Rainbow Sash wearers.  At the same time, the movement emerged as a strong, new voice of challenge within the Catholic Church



 Over the past two years the Rainbow Sash Movement has grown and matured.
Members have made a practice of organizing a high profile action in the local Cathedral at least twice a year, and especially on Pentecost Sunday.  The movement has developed its public role, using regular articles, letters, and media commentary to build awareness and call for change.  

As part of our actions we have highlighted  various issues in the church's treatment of gay people:

-- the damaging effects on young people of the church's teaching and discrimination against gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transgender people.....youth suicides, harassment, homophobic violence etc; 
press release   (Post Event Release and pix)

-- the actions and strategies of "gay cure" groups like Courage and the Exodus, now active in Australia, and welcomed by the local Archbishop;

  -- the church's ongoing demand that it receive exemption from all anti-discrimination legislation passed by Federal and State Parliaments, and its refusal to hire openly Gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transgender people. press release


The movement has also focused on alerting the gay community to the policies, power and influence of right-wing Catholic leaders, and also on encouraging gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transgender people to stand up within their churches, and claim the right to their own spiritual heritage.

In addition to high profile events at the Cathedral, individuals and small groups of members have chosen to perform the Rainbow Sash Action at various times in parishes and at key events in the life of the diocese, always informing church leaders, and always with quiet strength and dignity.

In spite of being repeatedly refused Communion, they continue to come forward with faith and dignity.



 The Rainbow Sash Movement began as a question.

It developed into a form of  visibility, protest and challenge.

Today it is deepening into an ongoing expression of sacramental witness and an embodied call for justice.

The Rainbow Sash is also a gift.  Wearing it requires perseverance and generosity, and the recognition that the church deeply needs the grace and wisdom of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

When members attend the Eucharist wearing the Rainbow Sash they become a living symbol of the grace and presence of gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transgender people in the heart of the church.

They expose the injustice and break through the fear that have long poisoned the church's approach to human sexuality.

In wearing the Rainbow Sash, members change the actual story, the "the event" of the Eucharist,  becoming visible as gay members of God's People, claiming their place at the table, and so changing the church. 

As our Spokesperson, Michael Kelly, recently said at our Annual General Meeting:

 "I believe that our call today is to move beyond the status of protesting, oppressed victims.

We refuse to accept the marginalisation and exclusion that fearful church leaders seek to impose on those who will not maintain the code of silence and invisibility that have, for so long, imprisoned the lives of God's gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender children.  Within our own movement, we need to develop a deeper understanding of the potency, beauty and gift that the Rainbow Sash carries.

It is time to move into a new phase where we recognize the dignity of the call we have received, the power of the courage we share, and the grace of the witness and challenge we generously offer the church.

Wearing the Rainbow Sash is an act of celebration, a prophetic proclamation, and a ritual honouring of the gift of gay, Lesbian, bisexual, transgender people, and, even more deeply, of the whole human mystery of erotic love.  We are a unique and extraordinary group of people, following the Dance of the Holy Spirit into the midst of a rigid and fearful institution.

What an amazing grace that we are called to, and find the courage to, carry this gift and this truth!

Wearing the Rainbow Sash is a joy - we should be dancing up the aisle!  If the hierarchy cannot embrace us, and the gift we carry, then the shame is on them -- and I believe people in the church our increasingly sensing this.

And so the challenge we make today is not so much to say "stop persecuting us", but to call the People of God to share in our joy, to open their minds and hearts to the diversity and delight of human living, and to become the community of celebration, liberation and justice that Christ intended!

If we, as individuals and as a movement, can increasingly embrace these qualities in our hearts, and express them in the spirit with which we wear the Rainbow Sash, then we will be already living out the freedom, the joy and the future we hope for."