November 2002 Dateline

Volume 11, No. 11

A Statement from DignityUSA on the Abuse of Authority and Trust in the Catholic Church

By Pat McArron, President, DignityUSA

At its fall meeting, October 4-6, 2002, in Washington, DC, the DignityUSA National Board of Directors took up the challenge of a very full agenda. In addition to passing a budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year, the directors discussed several important issues facing Catholic GLBT persons. Among those issues are the tragic scapegoating of gay men in the current sexual abuse scandal, the lack of self-accountability on the part of many bishops, and the overall abuse of authority and trust.

The directors examined our position carefully and took a courageous step in recognizing the need for reconciliation, as well as accountability in the case of abusive clergy and lay persons at all levels.

Realizing the impact of the current sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the ramifications of a zero tolerance policy as proposed by the bishops, the DignityUSA National Board of Directors passed the following resolution:

•The Board of Directors of DignityUSA, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and friends, makes the following statements:

(1) We express our concern for anyone who has been abused in any manner by Catholic priests, bishops, brothers, sisters or other Church personnel and we urge that all steps be taken to assure that such abuse is not repeated.

(2) We urge that all necessary assistance be given to those who have been abused to help return them to physical, mental and spiritual wellness.

(3) We believe that all perpetrators of abuse, and those who help to cover it up, should be subject to the appropriate penalties of the civil law and we assure victims of abuse of our support in reporting instances of abuse to the proper civil authorities.

(4) In determining what action or penalty the Church will take regarding a person reasonably believed to have engaged in or covered up one or more acts of sexual abuse of minors, we believe that there must be distinctions made between the kinds of offenses, the frequency and other relevant factors. It is particularly important that the nature of any Church penalty take into consideration repentance, forgiveness and redemption that can well make a person still qualified for some form of ministry.

(5) We believe that the genesis of the present Church scandal, as well as the very manner in which it is currently being handled, give evidence of the need for systemic reform of the structures which exercise power in the Church. The bishops must be held accountable for their role in this scandal.

(6) Finally, we deplore any efforts to hold gay priests responsible for this scandal, or to deflect attention from the true causes.

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Board Meeting Summary

By Ben Boerkoel, Secretary, DignityUSA

At its meeting October 4-6, 2002, in Washington, DC, the DignityUSA Board of Directors:

  • Participated in a six-hour training session through a grant from the Gill Foundation,
  • Approved a budget for fiscal year 2002-2003 and accepted the audit for Fiscal Year 2001 (FY 2001), October 1, 2000 — September 30, 2001,
  • Adopted a fundraising plan to support the 2002-2003 budget,
  • Approved a budget for the 2003 DignityUSA Convention in Las Vegas,
  • Adopted a motion calling for accountability from priests and bishops as well as opportunities for reconciliation between a priest and the Church in the sexual abuse scandal,
  • Reviewed the nomination and election process of 2002 and began planning for elections in 2003,
  • Adopted a revision of the Chapter-In-Formation Manual,
  • Adopted a press release policy for DignityUSA,
  • Discussed actions around the November United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) meeting, and
  • Reaffirmed its commitment to stay connected with chapters and members,
  • Approved changing the frequency of sending financial statements to chapters from monthly to quarterly.

3rd DignityUSA Regional Event a Resounding Success

By Pat McArron, President, DignityUSA

Over 50 persons, from four progressive organizations, participated in the DignityUSA"We Shall Not be Silent" day-long conference, held October 12, 2002, in San Diego, CA. The conference was co-sponsored with Dignity/San Diego and Call to Action-San Diego.

People came from all over the west coast to participate in this historic event. Participants traveled from as far away as Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts and numerous cities in California.

Local Dignity chapter president, Tom Kirkman, opened the day with a very moving prayer. Following an extremely well received keynote address from Marianne Duddy, Executive Director, there were three outstanding focus sessions provided by Call to ActionCatholic Worker and PFLAG.

The luncheon was generously provided by the local chapter of Call to Action.

The traveling history documentary of DignityUSA was a moving experience for everyone, and for the first time included film footage of our founder, Pax Nidorf.

Our DignityUSA membership meeting was well attended and provided an excellent opportunity for dialogue.

The closing liturgy was a perfect ending to a very inspirational day. After the liturgy, 20 participants continued the celebration with dinner at a local seaside restaurant in San Diego.

On the day following the conference, there was a meeting of the DignityUSA National Convention 2003 Committee.

Fund Raising Gathering

On the evening prior to the conference, there was a fund raising dinner with guest Marianne Duddy, DignityUSA Executive Director, at the home of Pat McArron, our national president. Nearly $3000.00 was raised.

Muchas Gracias to all of our donors (angels) that evening.

Board of Directors Receives Gill Foundation Training

By Pat McArron, President, DignityUSA

On Friday, October 4th, in Washington DC, Gill Foundation trainer Jo Kenny, with over 20 years’ experience in nonprofit-organization management, provided the DignityUSA board of directors with six hours of professional leadership training on "How to Build a Better Board."

The training was provided via a grant from the Gill Foundation.

Everyone on the board agreed that this training was not only worthwhile, but essential to the future development of our organization. All of the directors came away from this session feeling enriched and reinvigorated. It was a great prelude to an otherwise very busy board meeting.

Our thanks to the Gill Foundation and to Jo Kenny for this opportunity to learn and to grow.

DignityUSA Membership Meeting During Call to Action Conference

DignityUSA will hold a membership meeting, a welcome reception and staff an outreach table at Call to Action’s National Conference, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov. 1-3, 2002.

The membership meeting, open to everyone, will be held on Saturday, November 2nd, during the conference lunch break. There is no charge for the meeting, or for the box lunch which will be served. Donations greatly appreciated.

Call the DignityUSA National Office at 1-800-877-8797 to register for the meeting and reserve a box lunch. For more information, email info@dignityusa.org.

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