Contact Information:

Warn of Possible "Witch Hunt" to Oust Gay Priests  

April 23, 2002 — Gay Catholics reacted with outrage to remarks following the first day of official meetings with Vatican officials, including the Pope, on the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the US Catholic Church. In reporting on the meeting, Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said, "It is most importantly a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men," Gregory said. "Not only is it not dominated by homosexual men, but to make sure that candidates that we receive are healthy in every possible way — psychologically, emotionally, spiritually."

Marianne Duddy, Executive Director of DignityUSA, the organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, said, "We are furious over this statement. We had high hopes that these meetings in Rome would point to real solutions for this terrible crisis in the Church. Instead, we're getting more of the same. The Church hierarchy is refusing to acknowledge their own failings in moving abusive priests from parish to parish, and protecting criminals instead of children. And now the American Church has joined the Vatican in cynically shifting the blame to gay priests."

Duddy said that Gregory's comments signal that a witch hunt to oust gay priests may be the bishops' next move, including rejection of any further gay applicants to Catholic seminaries.

"Gay priests have been carrying out the Church's work for decades," she continued. "They've preached the Gospel, visited the sick, comforted the dying and the grieving, celebrated marriages, baptized children — all the things faithful Catholics hope for from their pastors. Now, when the Church faces a crisis, its leaders are willing to sacrifice these good men. How is that a Christian approach?"

Duddy also noted that Gregory's remarks imply that gay people are sick. "By hinting that gay applicants to seminaries will be denied, he's saying that we are not healthy. That's thinking that goes back to the 1970s and has been widely discredited and rejected by medical and social experts and society as a whole."

"We do not believe that Catholics will stand for this patronizing approach to what is the most harmful crisis that has ever faced the Church in the US," Duddy said. "They know that this is not a solution. It's a public relations exercise — one that is doomed to failure. This desperate attempt to fix blame somewhere else treats Catholics as naïve and, most egregiously, fails to protect children in the future or make amends for the abuses of the past."

The Rome meetings have been seen as setting parameters discussions about the scandal during the June meeting of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas. "DignityUSA will have a presence at the bishops' meeting," said Duddy. "We will do everything in our power to prevent this kind of bigotry from becoming official policy in the Catholic Church in this country."

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