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DignityUSA Challenges Cardinal on what is “Catholic,” Stands in Solidarity with New Ways Ministry

Boston, MA, March 16, 2011. DignityUSA has issued a statement supporting the author of a booklet on marriage equality who has come under criticism from two members of the US Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D. C., and Bishop Salvatore Cordileone of Oakland, issued a brief statement yesterday dismissing a recent publication titled Marriage Equality: A Positive Catholic Approach by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry. They say that “in no manner is this organization authorized to speak on behalf of the Catholic Church or to identify itself as a Catholic organization.”

This statement distorts New Ways Ministry’s intent in developing and circulating the brochure, which is grounded in long-standing Catholic theology and the experience of devout and faithful Catholics who have grappled with the question of marriage equality in their own lives. It provides information for citizens and legislators considering the implications of current and proposed laws on marriage for lesbian and gay couples.

“For most Catholics in today’s world, the question of what legal rights should be provided for lesbian and gay couples in committed, loving relationships is a real issue,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA. “We have gay people in our families, in our parishes, and in our neighborhoods, and we see the impact that inequality has on them. Having access to materials that come out of our faith tradition and that have both theological and pastoral perspectives is very helpful.

“It is troubling that these bishops are trying to reserve the word ‘Catholic’ only for those in complete alignment with official teaching on this issue,” Duddy-Burke said. “The reality is that almost half of the Catholics in the U.S. believe that same-sex relationships should be recognized as legal marriages. Many others are trying to figure out where they stand. This is not a matter on which Church officials can dictate public policy. Would the bishops deny that all of these people, despite their Baptism and their faith, are Catholic?”

Duddy-Burke urged Cardinal Wuerl and Bishop Cordileone to retract their statement, and to apologize to New Ways Ministry and its supporters. “New Ways Ministry has offered hope and guidance to thousands of Catholics for 35 years,” she said. “Their consistent goal has been to help people find the richness and positive messages in the Church. This publication continues that goal.”


DignityUSA is the nation’s foremost organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics and allies. Founded in 1969, it has members and Chapters across the United States. DignityUSA works for the day when LGBT Catholics experience full equality and justice in the Church and in society.

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