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Catholics Urged to Call for an End to Bigotry, Scapegoating

April 29, 2002 — Members of DignityUSA, the nation's largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics and their families and friends, are reacting angrily to comments by Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia on the issue of gay priests. On Friday, April 26, responding to a question, Bevilacqua confirmed that his archdiocese screens seminary applicants for homosexuality because "we feel a person who is homosexual-oriented is not a suitable candidate for the priesthood even if he had never committed any homosexual act."

Bevilacqua added that when a heterosexual man accepts celibacy to become a priest "he's giving up a very good thing, and that is a family and children," Bevilacqua said. "That would not be true about a homosexual-oriented candidate.…By his orientation he's not giving up family and marriage. He's giving up what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil." He added that because of the all-male nature of the priesthood "the risk of someone who is homosexual-oriented is much higher." Comparing gay priests to alcoholic priests, he said that under "tension of the priesthood there's a tendency at time to seek some kind of outlet.…The risk is higher. That's all we can say."

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy said, "We are very angry about the comments from Cardinal Bevilacqua. His language is irresponsible and insulting, to both gay and straight priests. It is dehumanizing to all gay people, and it is totally unjustifiable for one of the highest-ranking officials of the Catholic Church in the United States to speak about us in this way."

Philadelphian Mary Louise Cervone, President of DignityUSA, agreed. "It is unconscionable that Cardinal Bevilacqua would slander an entire class of people in the conspiracy of consent surrounding the sexual abuse scandal in the Church. The bishops, by their silence and decades of cover-up, conspired to protect and harbor criminals. Criminals pay for their crimes. The bishops must pay for their crimes as well. Gay people will not be used to shield anyone from justice."

Cervone went on to say that it's time for the laity to take back the Church. "Catholics must register their outrage at this kind of bigotry. Tell them you will no longer accept their unfounded accusations and prejudice. Tell your bishops that the Catholic Church belongs to the people of God."

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, with members and Chapters across the United States.