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Gay Catholics fight for church acceptance

Following is a major media article featuring DignityUSA and some of our faith-filled Catholic members. It is a marvelous example of how DignityUSA reaches out to the 60,000,000+ Catholics here in the United States who make up the People of God — the real Church — and to other religious citizens of our country. We are given a high platform to counter-balance what the Vatican and our own US Bishops say about GLBT Catholics and our issues. Ingrained beliefs and prejudice inevitably fall to the wayside when faced with the truth of our lives. If we do not speak who will.

Thanks to all who contributed to this article and for all your support that makes it possible for us to Amplify and Empower the VOICE for GLBT Catholics.

Many Blessings,

Sam C. Samuel Sinnett
President DignityUSA

By Deb Price / The Detroit News (with permission)  

Growing up in a traditional Polish Catholic family in St. Clair Shores, Steve Osinski loved attending Mass, saying the rosary and praying to the saints.

"I never was one of the kids who dreaded going to Mass," he recalls. "I got something out of the Bible readings and from listening to the priest. Being Catholic is just part of me."

When adolescence made him aware of being gay, Osinski embarked on a journey that started with trying to deny his sexuality and ended with his finding peace as a gay Catholic.

His lifeline was Dignity, a group that ministers to the spiritual needs of gay Catholics.

"I shouldn't have to choose between being gay and being Catholic. This is how God made me," says Osinski, who in September will mark his 20th year with his partner, Joe Lempicki, whom he met at a Dignity Detroit Mass.

Osinski's story is a familiar one in Dignity circles: Since 1969, the nationwide group has empowered gay Catholics who refuse to give up their religious birthright, even as the church leadership has turned increasingly anti-gay.

Preparing for its first convention since the architect of contemporary anti- gay Catholic policy was elevated to pope, Dignity USA faces a huge challenge: Becoming a more visible and persuasive witness to the conviction that gay sexuality is a gift from God that needs to be honored and expressed. (For details about the July convention, see DignityUSA.org.)

"There is a richness and depth to Catholic heritage that is very important to me," says New Yorker Jeff Stone, a member of Dignity since 1988. "I'm not going to be run out of my church by this pope. If the people who want change simply leave the church, who is going to be there to fight for change?"

In praying for change, gay Catholics join reformers who, for example, long for a future church with married priests, women priests and remarriage for the divorced without annulment.

"You can't leave what you are. It's like saying, 'Why don't you stop being under 6 feet tall?,'" says Dick Young of Ohio, a Dignity member since 1977.

Dignity's remarkable powers of attraction — and retention — are being put to the test by the choice of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to be pontiff.

Beginning in 1986, Ratzinger wrote a series of church documents that branded sexually active gays as "evil," told church officials to kick Dignity chapters off church property and even warned Catholic lawmakers that voting in favor of gay-rights legislation is "gravely immoral" because "the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil." (See Ratzinger's views at www.glaad.org.)

And in his brief time as Pope Benedict XVI, his Vatican has urged Catholic clerks to disobey the anticipated law in Spain that will let gay couples marry and adopt children.

The Catholic hierarchy's hostility has been "incredibly damaging," says Dignity President Sam Sinnett of St. Louis. "That damage to people is what motivates so many of us in Dignity to be an alternative voice. I know I needed people who were comfortable putting the two words together -- 'gay' and 'Catholic.'"

In rejecting church teaching that gays must remain celibate, Dignity members point to "the primacy of conscience," a moral principle dating from St. Augustine that requires obeying one's conscience when it disagrees with church rules.

Alice Knowles of Boston rekindled her childhood Catholicism at 45 when a friend invited her to Dignity in 1998.

This year, she'll talk about being a gay married Catholic at the convention with Kathy Ann Gianino, her lawful wife. They met in Dignity Boston.

"The church isn't just the pope and the bishops. The church is the people," Knowles says. "It's spiritually fulfilling to be part of Dignity. This community is strong. And we aren't going away."

Dignity allows gay Catholics to be true to themselves and have faith that, one day, the church they love will embrace them.

You can reach Deb Price at (202) 906-8205 or dprice@detnews.com.