The document you are reading had its origins in the 1995 House of Delegates meeting of DignityUSA. Representatives from our Chapters gathered in Los Angeles authorized the establishment of a Couples Ministry Task Force to assess the needs of our members and Chapters and develop guidelines for a Couples Ministry throughout Dignity. Through the Task Force's research, it became clear that there was a groundswell of support for such a ministry, and a need for resources about how to conduct it. In addition, couples living in committed relationships wanted to understand how they could have their relationships validated within a Catholic context.
This document outlines a three-part response, recommended by the Task Force and affirmed by Dignity USA's Board of Directors. It includes:
- Ongoing support for same-sex couples, through social and spiritually focused activities at the local level,
- Guidelines for Holy Union services, and
- Maintenance of a national Registry of couples whose relationships have been blessed by Dignity.
These processes allow Dignity to fulfill two important functions. First, we will be better equipped to respond to the growing desire among committed couples for validation of their relationships in the presence of their faith community. Secondly, we have established guidelines that enable us to take this responsibility seriously. To stand before God in affirmation of a relationship is a sacred duty, and one we do not take lightly.
We have also realized that this process is one through which we have tapped into deeply rooted traditions of the Catholic Church. Recent scholarship, particularly that of John Boswell, has demonstrated that the Church originated Holy Unions for same sex couples to fill a gap created by the societal emphasis on marriage as a way of documenting property transfers. Although hidden for centuries, sacramental celebrations of same sex commitments have existed for ages. It is time to bring them back into the light.
We believe that Dignity has a special responsibility to honor the faith, the love, the commitments and the goodness of our coupled relationships. We know that many in our society and our Church will believe this to be a radical step, but we believe it is our duty to act on our stated position that same sex relationships can and do model Christian love, and are loving, life-giving and life-affirming.
Finally, we commend the Couples Ministry Task Force for its exceptional and important contributions to our ongoing ministry. Through a process of listening to the needs of our members and collaborative deliberation, they have produced a resource guide that will offer excellent resources to our Chapters engaged in local ministry, and have produced a document that is a hallmark of Dignity's prophetic role in the Church. On behalf of all who will benefit from your efforts, we thank you.
The peace of Christ to all who use this resource guide.
Marianne Duddy, President &
Terrence Mischel, Vice President