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Applaud De-Linking Homosexuality and Abuse

June 4, 2002—DignityUSA, the nation’s foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, reacted with cautious optimism to today’s release of the US Catholic Bishops Conference draft policy on sexual abuse of minors. The document contained no mention of sexual orientation as a factor in leading to the abuse, contrary to earlier statements from the Conference President Bishop Wilton Gregory, and Cardinals Bevilacqua, George and Gregory, among other Church leaders.

"We are very pleased that in this document, the US bishops are finally agreeing with what experts have been saying all along-that there is absolutely no link between the sexual abuse of children and homosexuality," said Mary Louise Cervone, DignityUSA’s President.

"The draft issued today represents some steps in the right direction," Cervone continued. "The Church and the victims of sexual abuse have been waiting for the bishops to acknowledge their own fault in perpetuating a system of abuse and cover up. They finally seem to be admitting that they were a big part of the problem."

"Instead of owning up to their guilt earlier, too many of the bishops tried to deflect the blame onto the gay community, and gay priests in particular. This ploy was met with outrage from the people of the Church. We are proud of our fellow Catholics for standing for justice and letting the bishops know that this was an entirely unacceptable response to the problem," said Marianne Duddy, Executive Director of DignityUSA.

DignityUSA acknowledged that the exclusion of blame on gays in the draft released to day is not a final resolution to the conflict begun by the Vatican spokesman Dr. Novarro-Valls in March of this year.

"Repeated, unsubstantiated slurs against gay priests, and by extension, the entire gay community, have persisted for months, and have come from some of the most powerful men in our Church," said Duddy. "These irresponsible comments have done untold harm to thousands of people, creating a new class of victims in this horrible scandal. We continue to demand a full retraction of all statements linking homosexuality and child abuse. The bishops should also demonstrate their commitment to the truth with an apology for the earlier statements."

Mary Louise Cervone also said, "We understand that there will be a great deal of commentary on the draft policy being released today. The bishops also have time for discussion among themselves once they get to Dallas. We will be watching carefully to ensure that the current position on homosexuality does not change before the final document is released.

"DignityUSA also wants to be certain that there will be no other action taken by the US bishops or by the Vatican that indicates a continued link between child abuse and homosexuality. For instance, the bishops must make it clear that they will not undertake or support any effort to oust gay men currently serving as priests from their ministry, simply because of their sexual orientation. In addition, the purpose of apostolic visits to seminaries must be made clear. If the purpose of these visits is to discourage gay men from entering Catholic seminaries, they should be canceled," said Cervone.

In responding to the draft policy as a whole, DignityUSA noted a positive tone in the approach. "True concern for the people of the Church seems to be a central priority in this document," said Duddy. "It talks about the need to eliminate secrecy and restore accountability. Those are important priorities in creating an abuse-free Church for the future. We are also glad to see a recommitment to ongoing support for victims of abuse whose concerns and needs deserve to remain at the heart of all current and future practices."

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 Chapters and members throughout the US.