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If a politician stood before us and proclaimed, polemically, that his campaign would be entirely without polemics, would we believe him? Or, worse, if he said his campaign would try to avoid politics? Tyranny over language either works or backfires spectacularly in political movements, and each passing instance of it adds urgency to the need for “political” to be rescued from its current status as a slur.

Styled after the Rainbow Sash Movement, People Representing the Sexual Minority is a student group at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. Like Rainbow Sash, PRiSM’s favored method of protest is to disrupt Catholic Masses, as they did recently against Archbishop John C. Nienstedt of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The group expressed frustration after Archbishop John C. Nienstedt withheld the sacrament from them because they wore rainbow buttons and sashes signaling their support for same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality. The archbishop, who was celebrating his first student Mass at St. John’s on September 26, instead gave a blessing to members of the group, which included students from St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, as well as three nuns and a priest.

Though the group’s tactic relies upon denial of Communion for effectiveness, members nonetheless chided Archbishop Nienstedt’s withholding of the Sacrament as an “extreme statement.” And then there was the best line of all , from one of the students: “We weren’t the ones who made it political . . . .Once the archbishop denied communion, he made it political.” Immunity from politicking aside, the protesters truly didn’t seem to grasp how thickly they had layered the irony. Plainly, a statement that a protest is not political is itself a political statement. Second, if Nienstedt’s adherence to Church law is a political statement, it was a statement coerced by PRiSM members, which, of course, means it is properly attributed to them alone. An interesting episode, indeed, wherein Nienstedt’s purported political offense—in the eyes of PRiSM activists—almost seems to overshadow the primarily sexual issue at the heart of the activists’ cause.

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