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As leaders of the American Catholic Church prepare for their extraordinary meeting with Pope John Paul II to discuss the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the leading organization of gay Catholics wrote to them, with their thoughts about what those talks should include. The thirteen American Cardinals, including embattled Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, have been summoned to Rome for meetings on this topic April 23-24.

"We hope that these meetings will mark the beginning of a new chapter in how clergy sexual misconduct is addressed," said the letter from Mary Louise Cervone, President of DignityUSA. "And, most importantly, we trust that concern for the past victims of clergy sexual abuse and institutional cover-ups, along with a commitment to ending a climate where such abuses can occur, will be at the core of your work."

Cervone went on to say that any policies formulated as a result of these meetings must include spiritual, psychological and financial support for victims and their families. They must also provide directives that ensure full and complete cooperation with civil authorities in the reporting and investigation of abuse allegations, and appropriate acts to ensure that those guilty are held accountable for the abuse. "Failure on any one of these issues will be further evidence that the leaders of the Catholic Church refuse to listen to the faithful, and will lead to more hurt, anger, and division within the Church," said Cervone.

Marianne Duddy, DignityUSA's Executive Director, in commenting on the letter expressed the group's sense that these meetings have a particular significance for gay Catholics.

"We reminded our leaders that a priest's sexual orientation has nothing to do with his ability to be a faithful minister to the people of God," said Duddy. "Many gay priests are providing exemplary ministry to Catholics around the world." She challenged the Pope and the Cardinals to end the scapegoating of gay priests that has occurred.

"Unfortunately, the Vatican's first message to the people of the US confronting this horror was that the elimination of gay priests would solve the problem. That is most emphatically not true. We call on the Church's leaders to be honest in their examination of the complex issues reflected in the clergy sexual abuse crisis. This is a time for dialogue and openness, not for continued division within our Church," Duddy said.  

DignityUSA is the nation's oldest and largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, our families, friends and supporters. Founded in 1969, it is an independent nonprofit organization, with members and Chapters throughout the US.