Communication ETDs

Publication Date



Rainbow Sash Catholicism refers to several LGBT Catholic groups practice of wearing rainbow sashes to Pentecost Mass to denote their opposition to the Roman Catholic Church's stance on non-normative gender and sexuality. Utilizing ideological rhetorical criticism, this study analyzed the act of sash wearing itself along with multiple publicly-available articles, letters, and other rhetorical artifacts generated about sash wearing. The rhetorical artifacts examined were generated by multiple parties to sash wearing: (1) sash wearers themselves, (2) members of the Catholic clergy, and (3) lay Catholics who do not wear the rainbow sash. The principal purpose of this study was to understand how sash wearing is used to construct LGBT identity in relationship to the Catholic Church, and how publicly available rhetoric about sash wearing mediates that construction process. Analysis ultimately suggest that sash wearing is not used to construct LGBT identity in relationship to the Church, but instead necessitates the (re)construction of LGBT identity in relationship to the Church by queering the Church's most definitive ritual: the sacrament of the Eucharist. Thus, the public rhetoric generated about sash wearing by sash wearers, non-sash-wearing lay Catholics, and the clergy respectively represent ideologically-driven attempts to make sense of the queered sacrament. On the basis of this analysis, I derive several conclusions about rainbow sash rhetoric. I argue that queering is a rhetorically useful strategy for small or under sourced groups to elicit a reaction from larger groups in which they are marginalized, but that this strategy virtually eliminates marginalized groups' control over how others interpret and respond to their perspectives. I also argue that ritual and the logics of ritual are useful (and underused) analytical lenses with which to approach ideological rhetorical criticism.




Queer, Ideological Criticism, LGBT, Catholicism, Rainbow Sash

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Advisor

Milstein, Tema

First Committee Member (Chair)

Schuetz, Janice

Second Committee Member

Nepstad, Sharon