David Haas, a composer of contemporary Catholic liturgical music whose pieces are sung in parishes across America, told HuffPost he wrote the refrain on Sunday as a “gift” to his friends in the LGBTQ community who will be involved in Pride activities this month, and for Catholic and Protestant clergy who minister to them.
The simple, meditative refrain, titled, “You’ve Made Me Wonderful,” is based on Psalm 139:13-14. Haas said the Bible verses speak of a God who “knows us better than we know ourselves” and “loves and accepts all of us.”
The refrain is:
I will praise you God; you have embroidered me;
For all these myst’ries I thank you.
You have created every part of me;
You’ve made me wonderful, you’ve made me wonderful.
The composer, a lifelong Catholic from Eagan, Minnesota, said he hopes the song illustrates how deeply God loves every human being, and how “we are called to love.”
His efforts for Pride Month showcase the diversity of opinions American Catholics have on how welcoming to be toward LGBTQ people. Haas’ song was written days after Thomas Tobin, a Rhode Island bishop, sparked backlash for tweeting that Catholics should not support or attend Pride Month events because “they promote a culture and encourage activities that are contrary to Catholic faith and morals” and are “especially harmful for children.”
The bishop’s post prompted thousands of responses ― with some conservatives stepping in to defend him and other people criticizing him for the stance. Many pointed out that Catholic churches haven’t been safe spaces for children in the past, as the church continues to deal with fallout from its clerical abuse scandal. Rhode Island Pride, a group that is helping to organize Pride events, held a rally outside the Diocese of Providence’s headquarters on Sunday night.
While official Catholic doctrine teaches that gay and lesbian relationships are “intrinsically disordered” and can never be accepted, American Catholics in the pews have gradually become more accepting of queer love. Most Catholics (61%) now say that they support same-sex marriage, according to the Pew Research Center.
Haas told HuffPost he didn’t know about Tobin’s tweet when he wrote the song, and that the piece was not a response to that message.
“Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” he said of Tobin. “I don’t agree with his opinion and many bishops would also disagree with him about his stance that Pride events are dangerous to children.”
Haas said his song isn’t meant to encourage people to attend Pride events, or present a specific political stance about same-sex marriage. He said he hasn’t participated in Pride events himself.
“If this refrain can add a spiritual dimension to the activities that happen during Pride Month that’s great,” he said. “And if you don’t want to use it, that’s great too.”
Haas said while the reception he got for the song has been mostly positive, he’s also received some “horrifically negative” critiques. He posted about the piece on his Facebook page this week, but chose to take that post down because some of negative responses were “very hurtful to a lot of my gay friends.”
LifeSite News, a conservative Catholic website, published an article about Haas’ refrain this week that presented the song and Pride events in general as fundamentally opposed to Catholic teaching.
Haas said he personally isn’t bothered by the backlash to his piece. And despite the criticism, he said he’s received over 400 requests for copies of the score, which he is distributing for free.
“The adult Catholics that I know who are more progressive, if we need to use those kinds of labels, we listen to the teaching and we pay attention to that. But conscience is a very subjective thing,” he said.
“The church is diverse, there’s a diversity of thinking within it,” he added. “There’s a disconnect between church leadership and folks in the pews about lots of things.”