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PORTLAND, Ore. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Catholic shrine in Oregon will feature a lesbian choir at a caroling event.
Located in Portland, Oregon is the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, known simply as "The Grotto." Every year, this shrine puts on a Christmas Festival of Lights that lasts from late November through late December. The 62 acres of green space are decorated in Christmas lights, and there are indoor choral performances almost every night. There are also hot beverages, a petting zoo and other forms of entertainment set up inside large tents. Purportedly, the Grotto's month-long event is the largest Christmas choir festival in the world.
Some local Catholics were upset to learn that one of the choirs performing at the shrine's Christmas festival this year is the Portland Lesbian Choir. One Catholic from Washington state was interested in seeing a parish choir perform at the Festival of Lights. Asking to remain anonymous, he told Church Militant that when he saw the lesbian group listed on the schedule, "I was in shock. My heart fell to the ground."
Another Catholic from the Portland area expressed a similar sentiment, writing to Church Militant on Wednesday:
Several years ago, I was told by a member of the Grotto Servite order that the Christmas Festival of Lights is their primary way of evangelizing to non-Catholics. This is due to the fact that this event draws thousands of people from Oregon and Washington, which have large agnostic, atheist and non-practicing populations. It is surprising then that the Servites would allow a lesbian choir to sing on the very spot where the altar is normally located, where the body and blood of Christ is consecrated. How can we expect visitors, who may never set foot into a Catholic Church again, to understand what Jesus taught about sin and our need to seek forgiveness? The presence of this choir is a scandal and will certainly lead to even more confusion in a time of moral ambiguity.
The performance schedule on the Grotto's website states that the Portland Lesbian Choir will be performing on Thursday, Dec. 27 at 7 p.m. (local time). On Tuesday, a post on the Portland Lesbian Choir's Facebook page mentioned the group's upcoming performance "at the Grotto Festival of Lights, Thursday, Dec. 27th at 7pm."
The Marian shrine is maintained by the Servite Friars — a religious order of priests officially named the Friar Servants of Mary.
Church Militant contacted the shrine on Wednesday with a request for comment. No response was provided by time of publishing.
Church Militant reached out to the archdiocese of Portland about the Portland Lesbian Choir's scheduled performance. A spokesman replied that the archdiocese does not run the shrine and recommended contacting the Servites. But he also said he would bring this to the archbishop's attention, as Church Militant requested.
The head of the archdiocese of Portland is Abp. Alexander Sample, who has a reputation of defending Catholic teaching. In May 2017, Abp. Sample issued a set of guidelines affirming the Church's perennial teaching that those culpable of grave sin are committing sacrilege if they receive Holy Communion without first repenting and making a good confession.
Earlier at this year's Grotto Festival of Lights, one of the groups performing was an a cappella group called Without Apology.
One photograph of their performance at the Grotto can be found on Facebook. In the photo, the group sings inside the sanctuary of the Grotto's chapel and one of the members is dressed as a woman.
A further review of the group's history suggests some strong ties with the LGBT community.
For example, a post on the ensemble's Facebook page back in July referred to Without Apology as "our rad queer TTBB a cappella group" (italics added).
"TTBB" refers to a four-part men's chorus with two tenor parts and two bass parts. It can be just four people — like a barbershop quartet — or a much larger ensemble. Without Apology apparently had eight vocalists in its performance at the Grotto.
Without Apology performed at a gay bar in February 2012 in connection to a drag show.
It was also on the list of performers for the 2014 Gay Fair on the Square — an annual LGBT event in Portland.
In 2015, local public schools stopped sending choral groups to perform at the Catholic shrine's choral festival, owing to pressure from atheist activist group Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The atheist organization threatened legal action, arguing that taxpayer-funded schools should not be officially involved in an event that has religious undertones and takes place at a house of worship.