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Several Priests Who Signed 2003 Statement in Support of Gays Are No Longer In Active Ministry

Washington, DC – The leaders of DignityUSA expressed concern over press reports this week that several priests who signed a gay-supportive document known as the Phoenix Declaration are no longer in active ministry and questioned the actions of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix. Five of the nine Catholic priests who signed the declaration are no longer in active ministry roles in the Catholic Church. The Arizona Republic newspaper reports that three say they were forced out by the bishop.

The statement, initially released in January 2003 by an organization called No Longer Silent, had 163 clergy signers. Thomas J. O’Brien, the bishop at the time, took no position on the declaration. Drafted by Christian clergy from primarily Protestant denominations, the Phoenix Declaration reads, in part “We affirm that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) persons are distinctive, holy, and precious gifts to all who struggle to become the family of God…. We celebrate the courage of all people who have refused to let the voice of intolerance and violence speak for Christianity….And so we call for an end to all religious and civil discrimination against any person based on sexual orientation.”

“If these Catholic priests were removed, in part, because of their support for this enlightened message of inclusion and respect for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, it is unconscionable,” stated Deb Weill, Executive Director of DignityUSA. “Jesus taught a message of love and inclusion and the Catholic Church has been tolerant toward homosexuals for most of its history, if not embracing or affirming us. Scholars have noted that the Catholic Church has also canonized at least sixteen GLBT saints and the US Catholic bishops have publicly condemned violence against gays, and have called for pastoral ministry to gay people and for our participation in the life of the church.”

“We question the actions of Bishop Olmsted which can only deepen an already existing shortage of priests. While we are aware of allegations unrelated to signing this declaration against some of these priests, to date none of the charges have been fully reviewed and thus each may be false. It has been noted that the common thread among these priests is their conscientious and bold signatures on the Phoenix Declaration. We believe moral teachers should not let personal homophobia take precedence over Jesus' inclusive message of love,” Weill added.

DignityUSA is the nation's foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families, friends and supporters. Founded in 1969, it is an independent nonprofit organization with members and chapters across the country.

DignityUSA works for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church and Society.