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A Statement from DignityUSA on the Abuse of Authority and Trust in the Catholic Church

By Pat McArron, President, DignityUSA

At its fall meeting, October 4-6, 2002, in Washington, DC, the DignityUSA National Board of Directors took up the challenge of a very full agenda. In addition to passing a budget for the 2002-2003 fiscal year, the directors discussed several important issues facing Catholic GLBT persons. Among those issues are the tragic scapegoating of gay men in the current sexual abuse scandal, the lack of self-accountability on the part of many bishops, and the overall abuse of authority and trust.

The directors examined our position carefully and took a courageous step in recognizing the need for reconciliation, as well as accountability in the case of abusive clergy and lay persons at all levels.

Realizing the impact of the current sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the ramifications of a zero tolerance policy as proposed by the bishops, the DignityUSA National Board of Directors passed the following resolution:

•The Board of Directors of DignityUSA, an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families and friends, makes the following statements:

(1) We express our concern for anyone who has been abused in any manner by Catholic priests, bishops, brothers, sisters or other Church personnel and we urge that all steps be taken to assure that such abuse is not repeated.

(2) We urge that all necessary assistance be given to those who have been abused to help return them to physical, mental and spiritual wellness.

(3) We believe that all perpetrators of abuse, and those who help to cover it up, should be subject to the appropriate penalties of the civil law and we assure victims of abuse of our support in reporting instances of abuse to the proper civil authorities.

(4) In determining what action or penalty the Church will take regarding a person reasonably believed to have engaged in or covered up one or more acts of sexual abuse of minors, we believe that there must be distinctions made between the kinds of offenses, the frequency and other relevant factors. It is particularly important that the nature of any Church penalty take into consideration repentance, forgiveness and redemption that can well make a person still qualified for some form of ministry.

(5) We believe that the genesis of the present Church scandal, as well as the very manner in which it is currently being handled, give evidence of the need for systemic reform of the structures which exercise power in the Church. The bishops must be held accountable for their role in this scandal.

(6) Finally, we deplore any efforts to hold gay priests responsible for this scandal, or to deflect attention from the true causes.

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