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If Cardinal Dolan is Serious about Welcoming Gays

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke and Fortunate Families Co-Founder Mary Ellen Lopata co-author the following op-ed, featured in the New York Times. The two groups collaborate on LGBT Catholic issues through Equally Blessed.

See the original Op Ed piece here. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/06/opinion/if-cardinal-dolan-is-serious-about-welcoming-gays.html?_r=1&

Op-Ed Contributors

If the Church Is Serious About Welcoming Gays...

By MARIANNE DUDDY-BURKE and MARY ELLEN LOPATA
Published: April 5, 2013Opinion Twitter Logo.
IN an Easter morning appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, spoke words that some gay and lesbian Catholics thought they might never hear.
 
Asked by the host, George Stephanopoulos, what he would say to people who felt excluded from the Roman Catholic Church because of their sexual orientation, the cardinal said: “Well, the first thing I’d say to them is, ‘I love you, too. And God loves you. And you are made in God’s image and likeness.’ ”

Just words? Perhaps. But many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics have been waiting for decades to hear words of solace and comfort from a church hierarchy that has too often repaid their fidelity with marginalization and condemnation. To hear Cardinal Dolan, arguably the most prominent Catholic prelate in the United States, say that “Jesus died on the cross for them as much as he did for me,” was an unexpected gift to gay Catholics and their families and allies.

But the cardinal continued his message to those who felt excluded by saying, “We want your happiness. But ... you’re entitled to friendship.” He also hesitated when Mr. Stephanopoulos asked him how the church might show its love to people that it often seemed intent on demonizing. “I don’t know,” he said. “We’re still trying. ... We’ve got to listen to people... We’ve got to do better to see that our defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people.”

In the spirit of compromise, then — and realizing that we and the cardinal are not soon going to agree on how the church and state should treat same-sex couples who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other — we offer a few suggestions that do not require the hierarchy to adjust its teachings on the nature of marriage, but would send a clear message against distaste and mistrust.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops should drop its opposition to including the gay and lesbian partners of American citizens in the immigration-reform proposals now being developed in Congress. Allowing gay and lesbian citizens to obtain permanent legal status for their partners, some of whom face deportation, confers no legal status on same-sex relationships. It simply keeps two people who love each other from being separated.

The bishops should support anti-bullying programs in Catholic schools. Despite repeated urgings from the faithful, the bishops’ conference has refused to state clearly and forcefully that bullying young people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong. Surely the bishops share our conviction that children shouldn’t be beaten or bullied for any reason.

The hierarchy should also change its tone. Cardinal Dolan spoke beautifully at moments in his interview with ABC. Others have not. In December 2012, Cardinal Francis E. George, the archbishop of Chicago, compared a gay pride parade to a Ku Klux Klan demonstration (in remarks for which he has since apologized) and in September 2012 Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., said that parishioners who supported candidates who favored gay rights risked eternal damnation. Those statements conveyed the very opposite of the love and mercy that Cardinal Dolan expressed.

The church hierarchy should also publicly dissociate itself from the National Organization for Marriage. The American bishops and their allies, especially the Knights of Columbus, have poured millions of dollars into the organization, which has sought to turn African-Americans and Hispanics against the gay community in fights over ballot initiatives regarding gay rights. The bishops would not tolerate such divisive behavior in other political allies, and they should not make an exception for National Organization for Marriage.

The bishops should abandon their opposition to placing adopted children with same-sex couples. The church believes that children flourish best when raised by their biological parents, but — leaving aside whether that teaching is always correct — the reality is that that is not an option for every child. The bishops would improve the lives of many children, and many potential parents, if they would acknowledge the basic fairness of evaluating all couples seeking to adopt children according to the same standards.

Perhaps most important, the bishops should stop hiding from us. There is no reason the bishops, priests and deacons of every diocese in the United States cannot hold regular meetings with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families to allow them to speak honestly about their experiences within the church. The result might not always be agreement, but at least it could be a spirit of respect and openness.

We suspect that some of these recommendations will be received more warmly than others. But having them received at all would be progress for which we might one day have Cardinal Dolan to thank.

Marianne Duddy-Burke is executive director of DignityUSA, an organization of gay and lesbian Catholics. Mary Ellen Lopata is a founder of Fortunate Families, which represents Catholic parents of gay and lesbian children.

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