Sophouen Chhin is a Cambodian-American at the College of St. Benedict, but the self-described “bi-curious” student said while the campus community is tolerant, the Catholic Church isn’t.
The archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis refused to serve Communion to members of a gay and lesbian student group who were wearing rainbow buttons at a Sept. 26 Mass at St. John’s University’s campus.
“One of the things that made me fall in love with this campus was St. John’s Abbey. When I walked into St. John’s Abbey, I sat in the balcony where a warm light enveloped me, coming from the stained glass above, and that’s when I felt the most loving presence of God,” Chhin said.
Chhin said she was at the Mass where members of the GLBT student group PRiSM (People Representing the Sexual Minority) were denied the Communion wafer by Archbishop John Nienstedt.
“After he came here, I felt it opened up my eyes even more, that maybe this kind of thing goes on outside in the world, beyond our perfect little spheres, here, that we live in,” she said.
The archbishop ordered the GLBT students back to their seats, according to Chhin, an art senior from St. Paul who was troubled by the presence of campus safety officers at last month’s Mass.
“The fact that Life Safety was even at Mass was what made me feel really uncomfortable because usually they’re not at Mass,” she said Tuesday.
The co-photo editor of the campuses’ newspaper, The Record, is a Buddhist but was at the Mass taking pictures. However, based on her recent experience, Chhin said she wants to get more involved with PRiSM and even recently proposed the group publish a biweekly newsletter.
“I had to come here (to CSB/SJU) because I felt God’s presence on this campus,” Chhin said. “And I feel that what the school has been teaching me and what I’ve learned from the community is that there is this air of wanting social justice.”
According to The Associated Press, a spokesman for the archdiocese said Nienstedt is traveling and could not be reached for comment, but that it is church policy from the Vatican downward that people who publicly oppose church teaching should not receive Communion.
“One of the things that I think is very important to note is that we (the GLBT community) are not trying to cause a scene,” Chhin said.“When I spoke with them, they said the whole purpose of them being there at Mass was not to incite a riot or anything like that but more, like, trying to learn why he does not like us so much.”
St. Cloud Times