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Highlights of DignityUSA's History: 1969

The following history is based on the commemorative booklet entitled DignityUSA at 25: A Chronology, 1969-1994 compiled by former DignityUSA President Pat Roche. Copies are available from the Dignity national office and were also printed in the Dignity Journal 27:2-3 (Autumn 1995). Highlights from 1995-Present compiled by former Dignity Vice President Pat McArron.
  • Early in 1969, Father Patrick X. Nidorf, O.S.A., an Augustinian priest and psychologist, starts a ministry for gay and lesbian Catholics as an extension of his professional work. Father Pat would later describe the beginnings of Dignity in his own words as follows:

    "The Catholic gay people whom I had met were frequently bothered by ethical problems and identity with the Church. It seemed obvious that the Church wasn't meeting the needs of the gay community. In counseling gay Catholics, there always seemed to be an excessive and unreal problem of guilt that was sometimes reinforced in the confessional instead of being resolved. With these ideas rattling around in my brain, I wrote a paper on a proposed group for Catholic gays and presented it to our members at a Provincial meeting. Most of the priests seemed to favor the idea of forming such a group and I did."

  • Word of the new ministry spreads first by word of mouth and later Father Pat places advertisements in the Los Angeles Free Press asking people to contact him in San Diego for discussion and possible meetings. Since he doesn't want religious fanatics or homophobics to disrupt or dominate meetings, he requires the return of a completed application form (and when in doubt a personal interview). He charges $5 a year for participation and requires that all be 21 years of age and have a membership card, which he issues. The monthly gatherings are closed to anyone else.

  • After several meetings are held in San Diego and alternately in Los Angeles (because that's where the majority of respondents to the ads live), Father Pat decides to have all gatherings in Los Angeles where the sessions are held in private homes.

  • Father Pat writes and distributes a kind of information letter to members giving the date and location of the next meeting. (The earliest issue of this newsletter on file at the International Gay Lesbian Archives in Los Angeles is dated February, 1970.)

  • Father Pat later notes that "the name Dignity just came to me as appropriate since one of our basic goals was to bring dignity into the spiritual and social lives of some very special people."