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Until All Are Truly Welcome (from July 2011 Dateline)

By Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director, DignityUSA

As you read this, over 300 DignityUSA members and friends will be gathering in Washington, D.C. for our 20th Biennial Convention. As we have done every two years throughout DignityUSA‘s history, we will celebrate our identity as LGBT Catholics and supporters, learn from invited speakers and from one another, and affirm our giftedness in the context of worship that reflects our place in our Church. This year, for the first time, a number of same-sex Catholic couples will use the trip to our convention as an opportunity to have their marriages legally recognized by the civil authorities of the District, where marriage equality has been in effect for more than a year. These couples have been together between 26 and 41 years, and it will be a thrill to celebrate with them.

As I write this, a local parish here in Boston is still embroiled in an intense controversy that erupted over their desire to host a liturgy they called “All Are Welcome” during June. The Archdiocese ordered that the Mass be postponed, in order not to give the impression that it was, somehow, an event connected with LGBT Pride Month, or an affirmation of same-sex relationships. The Rainbow Ministry of St. Cecilia‘s Parish has rescheduled the Mass for July 10, but also held a Prayer Service outside the locked church on Sunday, June 19 at the time the Mass was originally scheduled.

Parishioners and Rainbow Ministry leaders, both straight and gay, have been very visible in the Boston and national media, speaking out about their commitment to the LGBT people in their parish. Rev. John Unni, the pastor, also preached homilies about the event on two successive Sundays, affirming his parish‘s embrace of all who choose to worship there. The parish represents the embrace most Catholics offer us, but the Archdiocesan action demonstrates that this embrace is far from absolute.

We have also seen some of the bishops of New York, most notably Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who currently serves as President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, use irresponsible and extremely antagonistic language in the legislative battle over marriage equality in that state. The Archbishop compared marriage equality supporters to Chinese and North Korean dictators, and accused us of “Orwellian social engineering.”  The damage done to individuals and families by this type of hostile hyperbole is hard to overstate. I wonder, for how many LGBT Catholics, parents, siblings, children, and friends, were these comments the last straw that frayed their tenuous ties to the Church?

Until all are truly welcome in the Church—in every parish, diocese, small faith community, religious community, and school—Dignity will continue to provide a place of affirmation, and will keep on working for the unconditional embrace we deserve. Until our Church leaders learn to speak with charity, even on issues where we have honest disagreement, we will keep on speaking our truth loudly and with love. And while this work goes on, we look forward to every gathering of Dignity members that offers us the chance to recommit to the justice we seek.