Catholic priest under fire for supporting Hamilton LGBTQ+ community

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Published June 19, 2023 at 12:49 pm

FATHER JAREK PACHOCKI VIA TWITTER
FATHER JAREK PACHOCKI VIA TWITTER

A Hamilton Catholic priest says he was called “nasty” names and told he should be removed from the priesthood and would go straight to hell because he has publicly shown his support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Father Jarek Pachocki recently shared with parishioners in Hamilton during Mass that he received dozens of “hateful” messages on social media in the wake of his publicly stated position. He estimates he may have received as many as 80 such messages.

In another incident, after Father Pachocki had attended a Pride flag-raising ceremony at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, he said a staff member approached him to raise his objections.

“He kind of told me that I shouldn’t be here. Why I’m supporting this, and he was quoting the Bible passages, how homosexuality it’s forbidden and evil and all this stuff,” he said in a phone interview with inthehammer.com. “So I just listened, I told him I appreciate your opinion, but I’m here to support the students and I’m here for the students because I believe that raising the flag itself sends the message to the students that you’re safe here, we see you, we notice you, we care about you and we hope that you feel like you belong to this place.”

Father Pachocki, vocation director and Roman Catholic priest at St. Patrick Parish in inner-city Hamilton, recalled receiving backlash about the incident on June 1 during a conference dedicated to celebrating Pride with LGBTQ+ students from Bishop Ryan, Cardinal Newman, Cathedral High School and St. Jean de Brébeuf.

Whether or not they support Pride events, priests and Catholic clergy who speak publicly about the controversial issue have been called brave by some.

Critics have accused those who support Pride events as betraying the faith while those who oppose them have been called homophobes.

The backlash comes as Hamilton police launched an investigation into possible hate crimes earlier this month after Pride flags were stolen from four schools and two residences on Hamilton Mountain.

The Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board confirmed that four Catholic schools were affected. The school board condemned the thefts. It is not known if the suspects were part of the Catholic community. It is unclear if any of the incidents are connected.

Hamilton police also announced on June 18 that they are investigating two other “hate-motivated” incidents involving Pride flags at a residence.

Hamilton priest hopes to ‘build bridges’ with LGBTQ+ community

Father Pachocki has been open about his support for the LGBTQ+ community, including on Twitter. On Tuesday (June 20), he’s participating in a panel discussion as part of Pride Month about exploring ways to “build bridges and extend true hospitality” to 2SLGBTQ+ Catholics.

Father Pachocki, who has been co-pastor at St. Patrick church in Hamilton since 2012, said most of the “mean and nasty” messages were from strangers or anonymous people on Twitter responding to his posts supporting raising the flag at Catholic schools and Pride Month. He has since deleted and reported the “hateful” messages.

Father Pachocki explained that as a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he is carrying out the religious order’s mission to serve the poor, needy and marginalized.

As part of his duties, he visits Catholic schools throughout Hamilton providing pastoral assistance, including doing Masses and prayer services. St. Patrick’s church also runs De Mazenod Door, an outreach program supplying lunch and breakfast to nearly 500 people a day.

He is guided not only by Catholic teachings of loving others, but also by Pope Francis highlighting the importance of “listening to people,” he added.

“LGBTQ people feel like they’re being excluded or marginalized, they don’t feel like they fully belong to the Church and Pope Francis wants to listen,” he said. “First, let’s help them to recognize that they are loved by God, show them dignity.”

Father Pachocki feels energy and effort should be focused towards showing others dignity and that “they are loved by God,” including turning attention to urgent issues such as feeding the hungry, helping the homeless and dealing with domestic violence.

Not all Catholics agree with supporting Pride Month and raising the flag. When Catholic trustees voted in favour of the motion to raise the Pride flags at Hamilton schools last year, Teresa Pierre of PAFE (Parents As First Educators) wrote on her group’s blog that the trustees had betrayed the Catholic faith.

“Catholic parents expect their children to receive an education replete with Catholic moral teaching when they send them to Catholic schools … not radical political indoctrination,” the mother of four wrote on March 6, 2022. “Raising the ‘pride’ flag suggests approval of sexual morality which contravenes Catholic Church teachings on chastity. Activists use the rainbow flag as a declaration of victory for their very political and anti-Catholic agenda.”

Father Pachocki said raising the Pride flag is not political and supporting it does not contradict the Church’s teachings. Nor is he “advocating for same-sex marriage or encouraging a homosexual lifestyle.”

First and foremost, he said supporting raising the rainbow flag means showing love to LGBTQ+ people.

“I’m advocating, though, for a listening Church and compassion,” he said. “The Pride flag in the Catholic schools is a simple message to LGBTQ students: ‘we see you, we respect you, we care about you, you belong, you are not alone.’ It’s very much within the line of the Catholic Church teaching. …

“Everybody has a place in the church; people who are on different journeys, different experiences, different backgrounds, some people who are questioning their faith, some people who lost their faith, some people who are struggling, but everybody belongs.”

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