‘And the truth shall set you free’: Dignity’s Gift to the World
Keynote Speech of Mary E. Hunt
at DignityUSA's 50th Anniversary Conference in Chicago
July 5, 2019
Good afternoon. Let us take a few moments of communal silence to center ourselves as we enter into this extraordinary celebration of 50 years of being “True to Ourselves, True to the Spirit.”
Good afternoon again. Thank you for joining in that moment of collective meditation as we launch into the festivities of the fiftieth anniversary of DignityUSA. Wow, I mean just wow.
This is one of those WOW moments when one feels the full weight of the miracle that has happened and the full responsibility for taking it forward. It is hard to overstate how remarkable it is to be celebrating fifty years of faithful, fabulous, and now seasoned life as Dignity given the overwhelming odds that we and our friends have faced from before the beginning.
I am reminded of the verses in Acts 5:38-39, “Leave these people alone. Let them go! For if their purpose or endeavor is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them.” Let history decide, but as I read our history, no one has stopped us yet!
In Southern California in 1969, the Reverend Patrick X. Nidorf, O.S.A., a priest of the Order of Saint Augustine, responded to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian Catholics. That seemingly random act has brought us, half a century later, to this glorious day. Let us unleash an Alleluia.
Here is the text of the 1970 ad placed in the Advocate to attract “Catholic Gays”: “Join DIGNITY, a Catholic group of intelligent gay men and women. We share successful ways of bringing dignity into our lives. Honest talk/sensitivity/sincere people. Applicants screened. Write: Fr. Pat, Box 4486, N. Park St., San Diego, CA 92104."
Fifty years later, whether we are gay or not, men or not, women or not, intelligent or not, we have apparently passed the screening criteria, and here we are as witnesses to “successful ways of bringing dignity into our lives.” Our collective truth has set us free. It is not often that we are privileged to see ourselves in a chapter of church history. But this, my Dignity friends, is one of those moments to be savored and to be used as a springboard for the next chapter. God knows we need it now at least as much as we needed it in 1969.
I begin with thanks to all of you for being here. Let me offer abundant thanks to our Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, to Peggy Burns, Logan Bear, and Susan Bailey whose tireless labor made this celebration possible. Applause, too, for our tireless conference co-chairs Marty Grochala and Lewis Speaks-Tanner. Chicago Dignity deserves a shout out for their gracious hospitality. I am grateful to the Dignity Board and their predecessors for piloting this organization from someone’s living room in Los Angeles to the many chapters and interest groups—including the Defenders, the Transgender Community, Women of Dignity, Young Adult Caucus, and others—that now make up this robust community. I thank our generous funders—foundations, chapters, and individuals—whose money makes it possible for us to convene.
With joy I recognize all of our international colleagues of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics that just finished its third gathering. Your wisdom and faith enrich our meeting beyond measure. Thank you for being here. Without erasing any differences or particularities, let us say in our many languages, each in their own way, “we are church”.
In a special way today, I honor the memory of one of my favorite Dignity members, the late Sister Eileen DeLong of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Good Shepherd. Eileen was my mother’s age—they would be well over 100 today. She was the other woman in my otherwise all male Masters of Divinity Class at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California, in the late 1970s. Eileen had far more ministerial experience than most of our professors combined, and she had a ‘preferential option’ for us—her queer friends. She was a kind, jolly, smart, fearless, spirited woman. Early and often she lent her name, her talent, and her energies to equality efforts, leading Catholics for Human Dignity in the East Bay in the 1970s before many people could spell gay.
When she died in 1995, just short of 80 years old, friends started a fund intended to be used to bring members of religious communities to Dignity Conventions. Many have benefited from this generosity which has opened hearts and closets. Special thanks go to Bay Area colleague Scott McElhinney for his loving stewardship of Eileen’s memory. This year, Eileen’s legacy fund which is drawing down its resources also helped to bring some of our international siblings to this table. I am confident that Eileen smiles on us, and I smile at the mention of her holy name. Eileen DeLong, Presente!
My contribution to our conversation today focuses on three aspects of what it means to say in the words of John’s Gospel 8:32, “’And the truth shall set you free,’: (what I call) Dignity’s Gift to the World” I will explore what our history means, though it may seem too early for such an assessment. I will offer a sobering look at how things have changed since our 40th anniversary. I will conclude with a dream for our centenary.
1. What our history means, though it may seem too early for such an assessment
Permit me a personal starting point. As we gather today, my 50th class reunion at Bishop Ludden High School in Syracuse, NY is also getting underway. A dear friend will be my eyes and ears; her husband will take pictures so I can bear to miss it. It is also the 50th anniversary of my first summer as a camp counselor at Camp Jeanne d’Arc, founded in 1922, two years after Joan of Arc’s canonization. It was a good Catholic girls’ camp in the Adirondacks, now run without irony or name change by Mormons.
Little did I imagine as a young lesbian woman that fifty years on I would be celebrating what was then so problematic, being true to myself and true to the spirit. The notion that I was anything other than a lesbian hardly occurred to me. But in those days, there were few sources of support and encouragement to be truthful about sexuality. We had to find and create our own. Dignity was one of those sources for me that helped me to find my truth that set me free. Perhaps it was for you, too. Let us be grateful and celebrate without ceasing.
As we all know, this is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. However, so much more happened to spark our movement that ‘Stonewall’ should always be taken as shorthand for myriad/many things like the founding of Dignity that took place earlier in that fateful year, 1969, and the founding of the Metropolitan Community Church by Troy Perry in 1968. Religion played a key role in tilling the ground for LBGTIQ rights. We cannot forget that.
But Stonewall is the name people know. So many elderly queer people now say that they were at the Stonewall riots that Greenwich Village streets simply could not have handled them all while still having room for them to toss bricks and pennies. Some joke that the number of people who now claim to have been in the riots would fill Yankee Stadium! It reminds me of the relics of the True Cross that are said to add up to something like the size of the State of Texas. Such are myths of origin. But it is great that so many people, regardless of their actual roles, want to associate themselves with a liberation movement that, like civil rights, anti-war, ecology, and women’s movements, has improved society immeasurably. I like to think we were all at Stonewall in pectore, as we say in ‘Catholic’, that is, in our hearts. I am sure Lady Gaga and Donatella Versace would agree with me after their appearances in the Village neighborhood during last week’s celebrations.
The first human steps on the moon, the premier of the Muppets Show, and the iconic musical bash Woodstock are also part of the 50th anniversaries era we celebrate this summer. Pundits are assessing those without fear of premature history writing, so let’s take a look at Dignity’s impact on church and society in its first half century.
Your chapter and group comments that can be found on the Dignity web page tell the story well. From the beginning, for so many of us, Dignity was a refuge, a home, a place to be church when we had no other. Dignity masses and social events were some of the first places where Catholics and others were able to party, flirt, meet a nice girl/boy in church, basically act like human beings who had the human right to love with integrity. We could worship without being insulted; we could receive the sacraments with dignity.
I know that sounds ancient and primitive to young folks who have dating apps and live in a society where same-sex love is as common as a cell phone, as ubiquitous as the Internet. But fifty years ago—I know, it has that ‘bread was a nickel’ ring to it—to be us was to be considered mentally ill, potentially to be arrested for not wearing at least three items of gender-corresponding clothes, and it was certainly a mortal sin in Catholicism to express our love sexually. It is still that way in many parts of the world and in some less privileged sectors of the US. But we who came out told our truth, individually and collectively. It was expensive, even unaffordable for some, especially for many people of color, those who were poor, later our trans and intersex friends. Some paid with their lives.
Over fifty years, we can trace an unmistakable trajectory toward justice despite Dignity’s up and down history in relation to the institutional Roman Catholic Church. In the early years, there were some welcoming parish and university-based churches and some courageous priests. But by the time the Halloween letter debuted in 1986, the Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons (Homosexualitatis problema) approved by John Paul II and signed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, later Benedict XVI, the tide turned against us. I have come to realize that the punitive reaction was a kind of collective gay panic by clergy who worried that having us around might reveal their own rainbows. But then it was just outright oppression with legal consequences all over the world as right-wing groups were emboldened by the church’s negative teachings. People lost faith, kicked church dust from their Birkenstocks. People died, some killed themselves, because of that document.
Many of us rejected the institution’s teaching out of hand. It was a case of non-reception. A teaching does not mean much if people do not receive it. We knew full well that our sexual orientation was in no way disordered and our lovemaking was in no way an intrinsic moral evil. Vatican officials, get a life! Think about war and greed, racism, and ecocide if you must use such terms, but leave us alone as the writer of Acts 5 said. We knew we were of God.
Distinguished professor of canon law James A. Coriden explains what it means when people do not receive church teaching:
“Reception is not subversive of legitimate authority. Rather, it supports and enhances it… On the rare occasions when laws are not received, it is because they do not suit the community. The believing, Spirit-filled subjects discern that the rules are not apt for the attainment of their stated purposes or for the common good … reception is not a demonstration of popular sovereignty or an outcropping of populist democracy. It is a legitimate participation by the people in their own governance. They actively collaborate with the lawmaking authorities for their communities. They are simply exercising, in a responsible manner, their rightful role in the ruling function of the Church.” The Canonical Doctrine of Reception by James A. Coriden, http://arcc-catholic-rights.net/doctrine_of_reception.htm
Nevertheless, many LGBTIQ people and their families and friends were deeply damaged by this teaching—what I have long called ‘theological pornography’ in lieu of any more adequate way to describe it. Such theology objectifies persons, trivializes sex, and leads to violence. But the unintended consequence was that people did indeed take the governance of church into our own hands. Dignity, along with Conference for Catholic Lesbians, New Ways Ministry, the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), Communications Ministry, later Fortunate Families, the Equally Blessed Coalition, Call to Action, and now some courageous religious, women-church, secular, and interreligious communities are alternative sites of church for Catholics who were scandalized by the institution’s teaching.
HIV/AIDS intervened in the 1980s and 1990s. We lost scores of Dignity members, among others in the world. The institutional church disgraced itself in many instances by not offering basic pastoral care to accompany, bless, and bury many of our friends, to help their families cope with unspeakable loss by naming why their children died and speaking respectfully of their lives and loves. Women stepped forward to provide care and to express solidarity. Men and women came to appreciate one another, and Dignity, that had been a mostly male group, began to get a glimmer of the strength and power of Catholic women. We stand together today.
The truth of our friends’ deaths set us free. I went to funerals where euphemisms and outright lies reigned about the deceased. Some funerals of Catholics were held in Protestant churches, especially in the Metropolitan Community Churches that were heroic in their ecumenical outreach, or simply in funeral homes when Catholic parishes would not allow them. This remains a sin for which the institution may one day beg forgiveness. LET US PAUSE FOR A MOMENT TO RECALL OUR DEPARTED MEMBERS.
Over the years, as same-sex love was gradually destigmatized and eventually entered the mainstream of privileged sectors of society especially with marriage equality, Dignity led colleagues in holding a strong, clear, steady line that sex and gender discrimination could never be separated from racism, sexism, xenophobia, economic injustice, and the like. Dignity has not been perfect—God knows the struggles over women celebrants, inclusive language, and reproductive justice to name just a few contested internal issues. But Dignity has stayed the course, seeking truth however elusive it may be, and trying to learn from international and interreligious colleagues as we seek to be church since in effect we have no church.
I daresay we have succeeded beyond our wildest imaginings. Speaking our collective truth, insisting on it has made us those who in some ecumenical coalitions are seen as ‘the Catholics.’ Our work is influencing opinion and public policy as good people seek common sense in the midst of madness. That Dignity is hosting this third meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics is proof that we are not alone, that we are part of an international Catholic Church, and it looks like the people in this room. Thanks be to God.
When last we gathered for a major anniversary, our 40th, in 2009, we were well on our way. But much has changed since then that has shaped our fifth decade and undoubtedly our future. I turn to it now.
2. A sobering look at how things have changed since our 40th anniversary
My Upstate New York friend Tom Yates was so kind as to provide me with a video of my 40th anniversary keynote address to this group, July 3, 2009. I can report that my hair has greyed, my glasses have changed, but my fundamental Rachel Maddow-wanna be self is still intact though I wish I played soccer! In a decade, the world has turned upside down when it comes to Catholic Church and U.S. state. Those changes have shaped our life as Dignity with every indication that the trajectory will continue for the foreseeable future.
In all the innocence of the early 2000s, I said in that 40th anniversary address that the Roman Catholic Church is not the only expression of what it means to be Catholic. I affirmed that we, and not the clergy, need to be adults making decisions, and that catholic small ‘c’ was a smart choice in an interreligious and increasingly secular world. So far so good, kid, I thought as I watched the video from ten years ago.
I lectured about the moral, spiritual, and financial bankruptcy of the institutional church. I cited the pedophilia costs—both personal and economic. I talked about the spiritual bankruptcy of the institutional church as it engaged in the Apostolic Visitation of women’s religious communities and the Doctrinal Assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that were in full swing then. I laid out the financial picture, how parishes were closing due to pedophilia payoffs, mostly legal fees. I concluded that how badly Dignity had been treated was a harbinger of things to come for the whole church.
Again, I was pretty much on target especially when I called us “faithful and fabulous,” highlighted heterosexism not homosexuality which was a new framework at that time, and quoted President Barack Obama who counseled that real progress depends “not on the laws we change but the hearts we open.” He gave us our marching order as religious people. Of course the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell were still on the books so there was plenty of work to do. I closed my spirited remarks with the wonderful words of the women-church movement, that “the needs of the world not the failings of the church set out agenda.” Little did I know how intertwined they would be in the next ten years.
I do not repudiate my analysis, but I admit my naivete. I did not see coming what has so shaped us in the past decade, namely, the implosion of the institutional Roman Catholic Church and the wholesale breach of U.S. democracy and resultant shameful, dangerous public policy. Let me outline them in turn.
Like many of you, I thought that we were in ideological disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church, that the Vatican held all the cards, and that we were consigned to the margins by patriarchs for principled reasons. That would have been relatively easy, even decent. Instead, we have witnessed a level of ecclesial corruption rivaled only by the Mafia, a degree of moral depravity rarely seen in religious circles, and a shrouding of truth, indeed cover ups in so many layers of lies that most will never be excavated in our lifetime. Criminal, not just ideological, matters are at play. I did not see that coming with the force and impact it has.
My partner Diann Neu observed astutely that in all of our working years, the institutional church has been covering up criminal behavior and that is a major reason for the virulence of the anti-women, anti-LGBTIQ, anti-reproductive justice stances that are so exaggerated in current theo-politics and so destructive of faith and community not to mention people’s lives. Diann Neu was right.
The implosion is real and sustained as the Roman Catholic Church loses market share and people seek to distance themselves from the stench of corruption. I do not say this with any satisfaction. I take no delight in it knowing the price that survivors of clerical sexual abuse and its cover up have paid, and those are the people who survived. Rather, I name these elements as shaping forces that have cast the institutional Roman Catholic Church in disrepute worldwide though we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. Catholics remain the largest US religious group, but former Catholics are second. This has material consequences for us as Dignity.
We now are what many people think of when they think, if they think at all, about ‘Catholic’. One can surely understand why so many cradle Catholics are beyond disgusted. But it shocks me to realize that we, Dignity and friends, are now what some might call almost ‘mainstream’ Catholics in that we even bother with the tradition, much less value it as we do. We are not religious toadies or do gooders. God knows we are not so blameless that we can cast stones. But at least we name our truth and it sets us free to be decent human beings who work with other decent human beings, whether Catholic or not, to create a just and loving world. That is not how the institutional Roman Catholic Church is perceived today.
Reasons abound. A few cases provide the flavor, bitter as it is. Ten years ago, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick had finished his time as the leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC and was already a kind of freelancer nominally connected with a church in Rome as he fundraised for the Papal Foundation. I could not have imagined the extent of his sexual abuse, just how many seminarians and priests he would opportune. A laicized Mr. McCarrick sits now in a Kansas monastery lucky to have a roof over his head and no bars on the doors.
His successor, Donald Wuerl, was Archbishop in 2009 soon to become cardinal in Washington, DC, a real comer. But I should have figured after he unsuccessfully tried to oppose progressive Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen in Seattle that Wuerl was up to no good. In fact, he got hundreds of mentions in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report (summer 2019) as someone who frequently did the wrong thing in terms of handling priests who abused. He lied outright—calling it a “lapse of memory”—when asked about his knowledge of accusations against McCarrick. He was caught when a victim reminded him that he, Wuerl, had reported the man’s case to the Vatican. Even Pope Francis lost standing in this scandal, praising Wuerl when he was on the way out. This was deeply offensive to many abuse survivors. Wuerl’s whereabouts are unknown, but the smart money is on a cushy post in Rome a la Raymond Cardinal Burke and Bernard Cardinal Law. That is how the old boys retire. It does not edify Catholics.
These are but several of literally thousands of examples of priest sexual misconduct, much of it criminal, and its coverup by myriad bishops, not to mention the costs of litigation and settlements that have left rank and file Catholic disenchanted. It is no joke that former Catholics are the second largest denomination in the United States. No matter what one thinks of the Church, this is a sad and disgraceful theft of people’s religious tradition perpetrated by their denomination’s leaders, plain and simple. We have Dignity, Intentional Eucharistic Communities and women-church groups. Most Catholics have no such options.
I can say a not-so-fond farewell to these people with Dignity and women-church groups including my own local base community as support. To do so, however, is to ignore the deep and serious betrayal of what millions of people hold most dear—their faith in God and their commitment to the Jesus movement lived out as Catholics. That is their human right, now abrogated by the actions of many clerics. For me to wave goodbye for our greener pastures would be a cavalier and callous way of acting. Instead, I think we whose truth has set us free have a responsibility to create new forms of church for others as well as for ourselves.
The implosion of the institution means that we really are church now in ways we never anticipated. Be careful what you pray for as the old adage goes. We are the people to whom some look as those who try in fidelity to carry the weight of the Gospel. We are somewhat akin to woman religious, now seen more broadly as the real McCoy Catholics than any bishops. The nuns are the church at the border, in the soup kitchen, in the clinic, in jail, the church living simply and in community. But in this country their median age is 80 and their financial resources are slim.
This is the new reality ten years later. We and the nuns, and our colleagues in church reform and women-church groups, become more visible as the institutional church shrinks and shrivels because of its leaders’ brazen lies and brutal behavior toward one another and toward the rest of us. The frank fact is that many Catholics have jumped ship for good reason and are not looking back. Still, their babies get sick, their parents die, they lose their jobs, want to get married, and they have the many other life experiences that previous generations dealt with in their faith communities. Whether one likes it or not, whether one is religious or not, to be religious on one’s own terms is a human right that is being annulled for many Catholics.
Think of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield who resigned under the accusation of sexual harassment of adults. That would have been bad enough. Now, we find out that he squandered millions of diocesan dollars in his impoverished state, giving large gifts to the likes of Donald Cardinal Wuerl. We learn that Archbishop William F. Lori, who was charged with investigating Bransfield, made sure his own name was erased along with the names of other high-ranking clerics from the report of those receiving funds. The Mafia has nothing on these people, and they are driving Catholics out the doors.
Dignity chapters, women-church, and other intentional eucharistic communities are picking up the slack. I know people from posh parishes who literally take their lawn chairs to one another’s back yards to celebrate Eucharist, often with women priests. Some people who formerly went to parishes are too embarrassed to tell their children that women cannot be ordained, so they take them to these masses to show them that women are priests. I know an order of nuns whose motherhouse chaplain is a Protestant woman minister. Who saw all of this coming in 2009? Not I. But I did see Dignity engaged in the works of justice and so I had clues about how to move forward now that we are church.
The recent statement from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education dated February 2, 2019 and seemingly released in time for Pride, “‘Male and Female He Created Them’: Toward a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Education” is turning into the straw that is breaking the camel’s back for many. It is an intellectually dubious document that might have been written in 1950 for all the sophistication it does not have on sex and gender. Under the pretense of dialogue, the writers rehearse tired binary, heterosexist tropes about men and women, leaving aside entirely the reality of trans and intersex people as if they were figments of our imagination. To the contrary, trans and intersex Catholics are our siblings, our relatives, our friends, our fellow Catholics. Join me in pledging our resources and our support to them until their discrimination ends.
One could ignore such a document except that it has material consequences on many fronts, not least of which as in Catholic education where persons in legal same-sex marriages are being fired on the basis of this teaching. In Indianapolis, Indiana, three Catholic high schools have been pressured to fire faculty/staff who are married to same-sex partners. Two schools have conformed under threats, and only the independently owned Jesuit school was able, due to its privilege (it owns the school while the others are owned variously by the Archdiocese), to withstand the consequences of being declared not Catholic. It is laughable that the Archdiocese thinks people will imagine a Jesuit school to be other than Catholic. But the point is that truth does not have a price tag, and being able to afford your theo-politics ought not to be a privilege. Watch Catholics head to the doors in Indianapolis as the local bishop doubles down on this policy. Meanwhile, our trans siblings and our intersex friends need every ounce of support we can muster to help them speak their truth—against medicalization, about choice—so that they too can live freely.
The Roman Catholic Church has imploded at the same time that the United States democratic electoral process has been infected by Russian influence, fanning the flames of white supremacist, anti-women, climate denying, homohating, and immigrant rejection. 2018 election results were disastrous beyond imagining. The bishops support so many of the policies of the current administration—religious liberty used to discriminate, opposition to abortion—that they have no moral standing. It is up to us, LGBTIQ+ Catholics and our colleagues, to say no to tanks on our streets, to deaths are our borders, to ecocide and racism, to nuclear war.
It is not alarmist almost three years and two Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices (Catholic school boys, by the way) into the current administration to say that we are ‘in extremis’ not only in church, but in society. Our most deeply held values as Catholics—gay or straight, cis or trans, non-binary or not—include love of neighbor. Tell that to the man and his daughter who drowned in a river seeking their truth en route to the US. Another value is that all of us are made in the image of the divine. Tell that to young African American kids who are racially profiled from the minute they are born until all too many of them die young in our streets. Another Catholic value (and it is a Jewish, Buddhist, and humanist value, and a value for people of no religious persuasion) is that creation is holy and to be cherished. Tell that to people on island nations that will soon be no more, or to parents coping with their children’s asthma because of air pollution. Yet one more value is that health care is a right. Tell that to a woman in Missouri who seeks to end a pregnancy or to an elderly man in Florida who cannot afford his heart medication.
This litany is endless as the current administration plies its dastardly trade turning back gains for women, people of color, those who are made poor, immigrants, and the planet. This is not a time to worry about who receives communion, or whose marriage is licit as some Catholic church leaders would have it. Rather, this is the most politically consequent moment of my lifetime when nuclear war is a real possibility, ecological disaster is already in process with thousands of species lost, drought and famine are killing millions, and yes, our hard won rights, still to be won in many parts of the world, are in very precarious shape. Speaking truth to power is not a luxury for the white, cisgender, educated privileged few, but a survival tactic for all. Dignity’s gift to the world is the realization that our struggles are part of a larger movement toward justice and we are fully engaged in it. This is our gift that we must keep on giving.
Religious people are not going to save the world. But we who have learned that the truth sets us free are obliged to join the common, intersectional struggle with every resource we can rally until our last breath. So while the truth may set us free, there are no guarantees, to which I turn in conclusion.
3. A dream for our centenary
In 2069, when Dignity celebrates its centenary, most of us in this room, and most current members and allies will be in the celestial chorus. Nonetheless, we can dream what our children’s children might experience just as our grandparents and great grandparents, many of them Catholic immigrants, probably dreamed for us. There were no guarantees then and there are none now.
Generous and caring as their dreams surely were, our ancestors could not have imagined us here today celebrating ways of living about which they had no inkling. But they gave us more than their dreams. They gave us their faith in infinite divine love in which we participate. They taught us to hope against hope. They showed us how to speak truth to power and live justly with one another, and they loved us. The rest took care of itself.
One day we dreamed that Dignity might be connected internationally as church. Today, with our Global Network of Rainbow Catholic friends, it is. Now let us dream that Dignity and our siblings will lead the same truth-telling and world changing work to eradicate racism, xenophobia, war, ecocide, and economic injustice that we are doing on sex and gender. That is our new role as justice-seeking Catholics, to work on all injustice, not only some injustice.
I dream that our children and grandchildren may find their truths that will set them free. I dream that they find teachers and role models, friends and lovers who will accompany them as we have been so well accompanied in this struggle. I dream that they will live, in the words of Guatemalan poet Julia Esquivel, as we are, “threatened with resurrection.”
We cannot project several generations ahead. But if all is not destroyed in the meantime, I conjecture that robots will handle lots of the heavy work. I suspect that intermarriage will be between people of different planets. I intuit that the human spirit with continue to seek meaning and value. I predict that one source of that meaning making, among many others of faiths and perspectives still unimaginable, will be a cosmic Catholic focus on sacrament and solidarity that embraces the planets, people, animals, and beings we do not yet know in divine love, and bathes it all in divine light.
Like our ancestors, we bequeath values and history, customs and practices, to those who follow us. We have little control over how their lives will play out, what the next fifty years will bring. Still, I dream that our Dignity descendants and their endlessly varied friends might take our humble gift of speaking truth and use it to set the cosmos free to love abundantly.
Thank you and blessed be.