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Gay Catholic Group Protests Vatican Statement on Sex Reassignment Surgery

 January 29, 2003 — DignityUSA views the recent Vatican statement on Sex Reassignment Surgery as “trivializing the life long struggles of our transgender and intersexed sisters and brothers in Christ,” according to a recent statement from the organization’s leaders. They also said, “It is troubling that such a statement was released in secrecy and then made available only to the presidents of bishops conferences at a later date.”

“Transgender people have been part of our spiritual communities for decades. The struggles they face—spiritually, emotionally and physically—are enormous, and the courage and wisdom they demonstrate in living with challenges most of us cannot even comprehend are humbling,” said Marianne Duddy, DignityUSA’s Executive Director.

“There are profound truths about humanity, and about God, to be learned from their experience. Transgender people need pastoral attention that is respectful and open, not judgmental and dismissive,” Duddy said. Duddy also noted that “The Vatican statement fails to take into account current medical, physiological, psychological, and sociological findings.”

Michelle Griffin, a transgendered person newly appointed to DignityUSA’s Board of Directors, said, “After reading the Vatican statements concerning gay persons pursuing a priestly calling and transgender persons seeking a medical remedy for a birth defect, one question surfaced, ‘Where is Christ’s love in this?’ "

Griffin also said, “It is unfortunate that the Vatican demonstrates such a profound lack of understanding. The reality is that transgendered people are a part of the Roman Catholic Church because God created us as we are and called us to be here. This transsexual Roman Catholic woman will pursue her Baptismal call until Jesus tells her to go elsewhere. The Spirit of God has historically worked through the laity to effect change in the Church. That same Holy Spirit is at work through God’s people—including those who are transgender—today.”

Duddy added, “We want to ensure transgender people that the Vatican’s position does not represent what all Catholics believe. Many, if not most, Catholics are committed to the strong social justice tradition of our Church. That makes us a people who are very tolerant, open and willing to learn.”

Duddy acknowledged that DignityUSA has been called on to help transgender Catholics who face discrimination within the Church. She cited the case of a transsexual woman in the state of Washington whose parish had canceled her ad in the church bulletin. “I spoke with the parish’s lawyer on her behalf,” said Duddy. “He was very open, asked good questions, and admitted he acted out of ignorance at first. He also consulted the diocese’s canon lawyer, who advised him that being transgendered should not bar this parishioner from placing her advertisement. It was a growth process for all of us, and had a very successful conclusion.”

DignityUSA, the foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Catholics in the US, was among the first national gay organizations to explicitly include the transgender community in its outreach and advocacy.

DignityUSA is the nation’s foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, our families, friends and supporters. Founded in 1969, it is a nonprofit organization with members and chapters throughout the United States.