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Sexual Ethics: Experience, Growth, and Challenge

Introductory Comments

On the weekend of May 17-19, 1985, ten members of Dignity met together in San Francisco to begin the process of fulfilling the mandate of a motion passed by the House of Delegates in Seattle in 1983. That mandate was "in partial recognition of Dignity's twentieth anniversary, to present a document to the Executive House of Delegates for approval at that body's meeting on the occasion of the 1989 National Convention."

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Appendix Three: Interview Questions

I. Biographical

1. What is your — age, sex, race and ethnic background, religion of origin, religion of practice? With what religious organizations do you affiliate? Are you — in a relationship, clergy/religious, former clergy/religious?

2. Do you identify yourself as gay/lesbian, bisexual, celibate/abstinent, transvestite?

3. How long have you been aware of your sexual orientation? To whom are you out?

4. Were/are you married/in a heterosexual union?

5. Are you a parent or considering becoming a parent?

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Appendix Two: Survey Results

The survey was not intended to duplicate the research and findings of more rigorously scientific studies but was designed to further the goal of a pastoral document presenting, and speaking to, the experience of the gay and lesbian People of God. Participants were asked to give their response to each statement according to the following scale:

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Appendix One: Chronology

August 1983:

The House of Delegates established a Task Force on Sexual Ethics:

Whereas: The Dignity "Statement of Position and Purpose" confesses the belief that gay and lesbian sexuality can be expressed in a manner that is consonant with Christ's teaching and should be exercised in an ethically responsible and unselfish way; and

Whereas: Since 1980 members of Dignity have been encouraged to discuss the implications of that belief along with the general subject of sexual ethics; and

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As members of Dignity, we are Christ's disciples, a lesbian and gay People of God in the Body of Christ, part of the Catholic tradition. Our sexuality is God's holy gift to us. In it, and in our genital activity, we want to meet our God. We continue to explore how to live sexually in an ethically responsible manner that in consonant with the teachings of Christ. We do so by reflecting on our personal experience and learning from those who are engaged in similar reflection.

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Seeking Integration

We seek the integration of our sexuality and our spirituality. We seek the integration of women and men of all races and ways of life into our communities. We seek integration into the whole of society and into the Church of which we are a part. The basis for all this is the reconciliation that is God's gift to us in Christ and which makes us ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17–20).

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Being Church in the Lesbian and Gay Community

While many of us feel unwelcome in traditional parish communities, we do not pursue our Christian vocations alone. There are smaller communities of men and women who, united in Christian faith and worship, choose to be accountable to the Almighty together and consequently to each other. Together, as a People of God, we need to minister to one another and to pursue the ethics of our sexual expression, emerging as men and women strengthened in our faith, our commitment, and our love.

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Sexual Ethics

We are working toward a profound assessment of our sexual expression within the context of our spirituality. Struggling with difficult questions — even with the lack of clarity and certainty is for us life-affirming. This is why we commit ourselves to wrestling with the unresolved questions in the light of Gospel values.

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Section Three: The Challenge of the Future

As we reflect together on our experience as a lesbian and gay People of God and how to help one another grow as faithful disciples of Jesus, we recognize ways in which the Spirit leads us to a fuller experience of God's reign. This recognition is the basis of our hope, but it also contains challenges. Most important among those challenges are to accept responsibility for formulating a gay and lesbian sexual ethic, to develop the experience of Church that we have, and to continue to seek personal, communal, and ecclesial integration.

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Forming Christian Conscience

We have a responsibility as members of the Christian community to seek common understanding and communion in that which makes us Christian. We therefore reaffirm the primacy of the individual conscience and accept the responsibility for its continuing formation in community. From that attentiveness to conscience and its continuing formation in community emerges a shared ethic.

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