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DignityUSA Executive Director Speaks for Catholic Reform Groups about Conclave

Washington, DC. March 8, 2013.

In conjunction with its semi-annual meeting, Catholic Organizations for Renewal, a leadership group of organizations working for reform and renewal in the Catholic Church, held a press conference to discuss the upcoming selection of a new Pope. DignityUSA's Executive Director led off the event with the following statement:

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I am Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, the national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Catholics, speaking today on behalf of member organizations of Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR). We appreciate this opportunity for the voice of the majority of US Catholics to be heard even as our Cardinals make final preparations to begin the process that will culminate in the selection of a new Pope.

The fifteen organizations represented here have different aspects of Church reform as their primary areas of focus. Some of us are entirely volunteer groups, others professionally staffed nonprofits. We have a wide range of governance structures and constituencies. What unites us is our profound commitment to our faith in Jesus, our love of our Church, and our conviction that if the Catholic Church is to be a vehicle for carrying the Gospel into the future, much needs to change. Those issues include:

  • The need to put accountability measures in place regarding sexual abuse and cover-up
  • Collaboration and respect at all levels of our Church
  • Involvement of lay people in Church governance and ministry
  • Incorporating women at all levels of ministry and decision-making, including ordination
  • Opening ministry to people in relationships and marriages
  • Developing a sensible Church teaching on human sexuality, and respecting individual conscience in matters of sexuality and reproduction
  • Restoring a focus on social justice concerns, such as poverty, war, the environment and basic human rights

This is clearly a critical time for our Church. Catholics, whose faith in our Church leadership is at an all-time low, and who are leaving the church in record numbers, are hoping that this transition will help restore the joy and pride we want to feel in being Catholic. We join in that hope. However, the change we yearn for cannot and will not come from the Conclave alone.

We are very much aware that women, people in loving, committed, recognized relationships, people involved in raising children, impoverished people, young adults and many others who form the Body of Christ are explicitly excluded from the Conclave. We are aware that some people who will sit in Conclave actively participated in shielding clergy and religious who sexually abused children. We know that nearly all those sitting in Conclave were raised to leadership by the last two Popes, and that adherence to doctrine was a key factor in their advancement.

Today we want to remind all Catholics that whoever is chosen to sit on the throne of Peter will head the largest Christian denomination in the world, and thus will hold enormous spiritual, financial, political, and social power. He will in some ways represent us all. But for our Church to become the Church we want to be, the Church we deserve, the Church that will bear the image of Jesus to those in need, change cannot occur only at the Vatican. During this time of transition, we call on all Catholics to enter into a “Conclave of the People,” a time of prayer and rededication. We need to all renew our commitment to the core of our faith—Jesus’ command that we love God above all and love our neighbor as ourselves—and to find ways to take more responsibility for our faith. We ask Catholics to prayerfully consider what they love about our Church, and what they believe needs to change. Then, find a way to help make that difference. Become involved in the governance of your parish, or join an intentional Eucharistic community that can be a place for you to live out your faith. Join and actively support an organization working on Church reform or social justice issues that you care about. Dare to speak to other members of your parish or faith community, including its leadership, when you have questions or concerns.

 This is certainly a momentous time for the Catholic Church. We pray that it will be a moment of true renewal throughout our Church. And as Catholic Organizations for Renewal, we rededicate ourselves to continue to work for the changes we believe are needed within our Church.

Participating Groups:

American Catholic Council

Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church

Call To Action

Catholics for Choice

Catholics Speak Out

CORPUS, National Association for an Inclusive Priesthood


Federation of Christian Ministries/RCFCC:


Pax Christi-Maine


Roman Catholic Womenpriests

Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference

Women’s Ordination Conference

Women-Church Convergence

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