Washington, DC -- July 1, 1998 -- DignityUSA is very concerned by the latest efforts of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) and its Committee on Marriage and Family Life to dilute the message and spirit of Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers.
On October 1, 1997, the US Catholic Bishops' Committee on Marriage and Family Life released Always Our Children, and at that time DignityUSA stated that we "welcome the pastoral letter ... it is a positive step and we commend the bishops for their improved sensitivity to the issues which confront parents and their lesbian and gay children, but all is not perfect."
"Today, however, our hope has been replaced with concern and fear that the pastoral sensitivity that once marked Always Our Children may have been replaced with a dogmatic, legalistic approach in the Church's ministry to homosexual persons," said Charles L. Cox, DignityUSA Executive Director. Cox also said, "The original version of Always Our Children was not perfect, and the latest revision makes it even more imperfect. Each of the changes represents a capitulation to the conservative voices in the Church."
Echoing Cox's comments, DignityUSA President Robert F. Miailovich said, "When Always Our Children was first released, DignityUSA expressed our disappointment in 'the bishops' continued distinction between homosexual orientation and activity.' Today it seems that the bishops have decided that a pastoral message that encourages sensitivity and open dialogue is too risky for our Church."
What makes these revisions particularly distressing is the fact that Always Our Children, now to be in its third printing, has been well received by the faithful and viewed positively by many Catholic families with homosexual children. Last November, the bishops' office said they had over 500 letters in support of the statement and hardly any against. For years families have struggled with the reality of their love for their homosexual children and the teachings of the Catholic Church toward their children. Commenting on the substance and spirit of the revisions to Always Our Children, Miailovich said, "It seems that the hand that had once been "outstretched" to the families of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons has become less loving and more threatening."
Miailovich also raised the question as to why a document that in the words of Committee chairman Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien "was well received and saw no need for changes" felt the need to change the document. Miailovich aid, "It is regrettable that the American bishops, who only last October felt free to release Always Our Children on their own, now feel compelled to consult with the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) on these matters. The sad part is that the changes reveal the philosophical and pastoral tensions within the hierarchy. The document's new tone of voice has the potential on the one hand for dissuading some persons who are in need of the Church's ministry from approaching their local priest. And yet on the other hand, the document may be still viewed by some as not strict enough to enjoy conservative support. These conservative voices have shown their power by getting the CDF to intervene and pressuring the bishops to make certain changes. Let us see now if they will make good on their revised commitment to ministry."
DignityUSA remains committed to seeing that the original message and pastoral sensitivity of Always Our Children is retained and fully implemented. Our hope is that the work started because of Always Our Children by bishops, priests and pastoral counselors will continue. DignityUSA believes that it is only through honest dialogue and mutual respect that real change can be achieved. To that end DignityUSA invites the U.S. Catholic Bishops to recall their offer of an "outstretched hand" and meet with us to discuss how to proceed with implementation of Always Our Children.
DignityUSA, founded in 1969, is the nation's largest organization of Catholic lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgender persons, and their loved ones, families and friends.