August 9, 2000 — In a letter to the provincials of a number of religious orders active in the Denver area, Archbishop Charles Chaput has asked the leadership to "remove" members of their order "from ministry to homosexual persons immediately." The letter specifically mentions celebration of Mass for Dignity/Denver, which meets at a Presbyterian church. The Archbishop's statement was apparently issued in response to "a number of concerned letters" he had received about Dignity's liturgy and about same-sex commitment ceremonies offered to members.
Leaders of Dignity/Denver said they were "disappointed but not surprised" by Archbishop Chaput's letter, and indicated a desire to talk with the Archbishop about the directive. Sheryl Green, the group's chairperson, stated that "the 26-year ministry of Dignity/Denver to Colorado's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community - including support for members in committed relationships - will continue."
Mary Louise Cervone, President of DignityUSA, expressed solidarity with the Denver chapter, and concern for what the letter means for gay Catholics in the Denver area. "Dignity offers Mass for people who, despite all the negative messages of official teaching and statements directed at them, still have a deep love for the Catholic Church and the sacraments. These are people who don't feel comfortable in a regular parish, where they've too often heard condemnation from the altar, or question whether they'd be welcome if the priest knew they were gay, or lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Dignity has provided a home for them. Now, the Archbishop's order will make it harder for these Catholics to have access to the sacraments which are at the very heart of our faith life," she said.
Marianne Duddy, DignityUSA's Executive Director, compared the Denver situation to the Vatican's recent silencing of a nun and priest who have engaged in ministry to homosexual Catholics for nearly thirty years. "Like Sr. Jeannine Gramick and Rev. Bob Nugent, the priests who served Dignity's members are being forced to choose between their call to ministry and their loyalty to Church officials," said Duddy. "Priests who serve the gay community see themselves as following the example of Jesus Christ, who ministered to the marginalized people of his day. Is this not what being a Christian is all about?"
Denver was the site for Dignity's 1999 national convention, which focused on what the Jubilee Year of 2000 would mean for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. The Jubilee is a Holy Year commemorated every fifty years in many Christian denominations, including the Catholic Church.
"It is particularly ironic that Archbishop Chaput's order comes during the Jubilee," noted Duddy, who was a keynote speaker at the convention. "The Jubilee calls us to reconciliation, liberation and works of justice. This order seems to totally contradict that spirit by increasing division, imposing new burdens on oppressed people, and furthering injustice."
DignityUSA is the nation's oldest and largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, our families and friends. It is an independent nonprofit organization founded in 1969, and has chapters and members across the US.