DignityUSA's Statement at Shelly Fitzgerald Press Conference, Indianapolis, IN November 15, 2018
Statement of DignityUSA in Support of
November 15, 2018
Good afternoon. My name is Marianne Duddy-Burke, and I serve as the Executive Director of DignityUSA. DignityUSA is the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people in our church and society. We are now in our 50th year of providing affirming spiritual community, education, and advocacy for the LGBTQI and Ally Catholic community.
I am here alongside leaders of our local community, Dignity Indianapolis. We are here today, and stand firmly with Shelly Fitzgerald, Shelly’s Voice, and with all the LGBTQI people and allies who have been terminated from jobs and volunteer roles at Catholic schools, parishes, and service agencies. Unfortunately, the issue of Catholic organizations firing gay and transgender employees and volunteers is one that has persisted throughout our entire five decades of work. We have assisted hundreds of people who have been terminated from jobs that they loved and did very well. They were fired because someone in authority objected to an LGBTQI person, or an ally, working for the Church, or because some self-appointed “guardian of the faith” exposed this person’s identity or civil marriage. In not a single case that we’ve worked on has there been a suggestion that this person was failing at their job or doing anything wrong. It was simply about who they were, whom they loved, or what they believed. It is long past time for the modest proposals that Shelly and her supporters are making to become standard practice, here in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and across the nation.
It is tragic and ironic that we are even standing here addressing this. Our church has a rich tradition of standing for worker’s rights, calling for just working conditions, freedom from discrimination, and recognition that work is sacred. These beliefs are found in many Vatican documents and statements from the US Catholic bishops. We expect our Church leaders to adhere to the same standards they demand of other employers and treat those who work in Catholic institutions with justice and respect.
In addition, I want to remind all the members of our Church that it is NOT necessary for Catholic institutions to discriminate against LGBTQI people. As early as 1973, some Catholic hospitals, social service agencies, schools and colleges were among the first employers in the U.S. to adopt nondiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation, showing real leadership in this area. As was mentioned earlier, there are some Catholic employers—often colleges, hospitals, and other organizations reliant on public funding—that have figured out how to support the LGBTQI people, including married lesbian and gay people, that work for them. If inclusion is acceptable for these Catholic organizations, why must others reject the talents of LGBTQI people and strong allies?
I’d also like for all of us to remember the words of Archbishop Thompson, spoken during the homily he gave during his installation Mass. There is wisdom here that should guide how we should deal with one another, and how our Catholic institutions should be seen.
“We must dare to counter the growing polarization, division and radical individualism that breed fear, distrust, hatred, indifference, prejudice, selfishness, despair, violence and radical ideology. Our role as people of faith—I especially hold myself accountable as bishop—is to be willing to stand in the breach of the divide, drawing people back from the ledges of extremism in self-indulgence and self-righteousness by serving as bridges of unity, ambassadors of hope, instruments of peace. To do so, we must allow the seed, as the Gospel reminds us, the word of everlasting life, Jesus himself, to take root in the very rich soil of our very souls, of our being.
We must leave no one behind, especially being attentive to the unborn, the poor, the young, the elderly, the migrant, the immigrant, the refugee, the sick, the dying, the addicted, the abused, the disenfranchised, the lonely, the hopeless, the imprisoned and all who suffer. We must be concerned about the wellbeing of each and every person as well as creation itself if we are to be truly Christ-centered. What we do or fail to do for the least of His brothers and sisters, our brothers and sisters, we do or fail to do for Jesus Christ.”
We agree with you, Archbishop Thompson—we must leave no one behind, including those who too often feel-and, in fact, are-disenfranchised in our Church and society. We must remember that everyone involved—employees, administrators, community members, folks with whom we have disagreement—stand in the place of Christ, and our conversation, actions, and decisions must reflect our response to the question: is this how we would treat our Lord?
People who work for Catholic organizations, like Shelly, do so because they support the Gospel mandate and the Church’s mission. They believe in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, caring for those who are ill or isolated, and educating those most in need of a chance to succeed. They are willing to do this for wages generally much lower than what they could make in other settings. They serve because they hear the call to serve God’s people. This call does not discriminate based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital or relational status, or any other characteristic. We join our voice to Shelly’s in calling on our Church to end discrimination as well, so no other employee, family, or community has to endure the pain that has been experienced by Shelly, her family, the Roncalli community, and too many other individuals, families, and communities across the country.
Executive Director, DignityUSA