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Group Launches Campaign to Document Catholic Experiences of Gay Commitment Ceremonies

Leaders of the only Catholic group to routinely perform same-sex union ceremonies spoke out today about Boston Cardinal Bernard Law’s instructions to World Youth Day participants to boycott such rituals. DignityUSA, the country’s largest group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics and their families, has offered same-sex unions, also called Holy Unions, Commitment Ceremonies and Same-Sex Weddings, to its members throughout its 33-year history.

"For Cardinal Law to tell Catholics not to attend celebrations of commitment for same-sex couples is pastorally offensive and unacceptable," said Patrick T. McArron, president of DignityUSA. "This sets up a terrible, painful dilemma for any Catholic who has a family member having a Holy Union. What are they to say to a family member? ‘I would love to be with you, but the Church says it is wrong?’”

McArron continued, "This is another example of how the people of the Church are more enlightened than its leadership. For decades, Catholics have been having and attending commitment ceremonies. Many of us understand that these are moments of holiness and grace. What a tragedy that a cardinal of the Church does not. Rather than condemning such commitment ceremonies, the Church should be encouraging them as a way to celebrate love in its purest form."

DignityUSA executive director Marianne Duddy said, "As someone who celebrated my marriage to my partner in a Catholic Mass, I found Cardinal Law’s comments personally offensive. He reduced the commitment that Becky and I share to something just about sex. Committed lesbian and gay relationships, just like heterosexual marriages, are about a sacred trust to share in both the day-to-day reality of loving, and to care for each other when times are tough. We firmly believe that we celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage. Many other gay and lesbian couples and their families have experienced the same thing."

DignityUSA has announced that it is seeking testimony from Catholics who have attended same-sex union ceremonies, as well as those who have participated in them.

"The Second Vatican Council said that there were times when the laity of the Church had a responsibility to teach the leadership," said McArron. "We believe this is one of those times. We are inviting Catholics to write about their experiences of same-sex commitment ceremonies, so that we can use that information as a teaching tool for the whole Church."

McArron said that DignityUSA would present copies of the report to leaders of the US Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB), as well as to theologians working in the areas of sacramental theology and homosexuality in the Catholic Church.

People interested in submitting reflections for this story can send them to or to DignityUSA, 1500 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Suite 11, Washington, DC 20005.

With members and chapters throughout the United States, DignityUSA is the oldest and foremost organization of its kind in the nation. Founded in 1969, DignityUSA is an independent nonprofit organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender Catholics, their families, friends & supporters.