DignityUSA Asks to Meet With Cardinal Dolan

Dignity USA has responded to Cardinal Dolan’s statement on Easter Sunday that the Church needs to be more “more open” to gays and lesbians, but that he doesn’t know how to do that, with a request for a meeting. For far too long, LGBT Catholics who have sought constructive dialogue with their bishops have been simply rebuffed. The post conciliar church claims to be a “listening church”, but in most dioceses there has been little evidence that is so. Instead of talking with us, most bishops simply talk at us, or about us – and when they do, they often display lamentable ignorance of the realities of our lives, our concerns – or our faith.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the gay Catholic group New Ways Ministry, which has often been at odds with the church hierarchy, told Religion News Service that Dolan’s remarks were “nothing short of an Easter miracle.”

DeBernardo said, “This is the first time that the cardinal has made such a positive statement about God’s love for lesbian and gay people….Such a statement is a refreshing change from the usual harsh rhetoric that the church hierarchy uses when discussing LGBT issues.”

- USA Today

Pope Francis is a notable exception. Although he was prominent in the Church campaign against gay marriage in Argentina, that was a stance largely forced on him, as head of the country’s bishops, by his colleagues and pressure from the Vatican. Behind the scenes, he proposed instead support for civil unions, and met privately and sensitively with prominent Catholic gay activists.  It should be worth watching carefully to see if Cardinal Dolan follows this example, and agrees to the requested meeting.

In media interviews given on Easter Sunday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who also serves as President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the Catholic Church should be more open to gay and lesbian people (bisexual and transgender people were not mentioned). He said “I love you, and God loves you.” When pressed about what could be done to make lesbian and gay people more welcome, the Cardinal said he did not know. Below is DignityUSA’s response.

 Cardinal_Timothy_Dolan

                                                                                                                   April 1, 2013

Dear Cardinal Dolan,

During this season of rebirth, as we celebrate the joyous season of Easter and reflect on the call issued by Pope Francis to meet the needs of those who are impoverished and disadvantaged in our world, we welcome your Easter call to make our Church more welcoming to gay and lesbian people.  This is an effort that will demand humility and openness from all, and one on which we are ready to embark with you and other Church leaders.  It is also an effort that will demand action, and not simply a change in tone, although that is certainly a step that we would welcome.

As you may know, DignityUSA is a national organization that has been working for more than four decades for justice and the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the life of the Church and in society.  Through our chapters across the country, we have engaged with many thousands of LGBT Catholics as they have sought to be faithful both to the Church they love and to their God-given natures.

As stewards of that sacred record of lived experience and of our living tradition of more than forty faith-filled communities, we would suggest that the best way to undertake the project of making the Church more welcoming to LGBT people is to begin a process of face-to-face dialogue.  In good Catholic tradition, let us gather to break bread and pray together, so that we initiate this dialogue grounded in the faith and sacraments that unite us.

We also invite you and other members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to read and consider the DignityUSA Letter on the Pastoral Care of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People, issued in 2007.  This document, developed with input from LGBT people, our family members and friends from around the country, offers ten things Church officials, pastoral ministers, and communities can do to make our Church more welcoming of LGBT people and our families.  Most are entirely consistent with both Gospel imperatives and current Catholic teaching.  While we recognize that other points may be controversial, we believe this letter could be the basis for a fruitful and respectful dialogue.

We sincerely hope and pray that your recent comments mark the beginning of a new chapter in the relationship between the Bishops and LGBT Catholics, as well as the majority of U.S. Catholics who have shown themselves to be increasingly supportive of LGBT people.  To that end, we feel it is important to set a definite date to resume a dialogue that has been suspended for far too long.  We suggest a meeting before Pentecost, or at the earliest possible date, in either New York City or Washington, D.C.  If you would let us know your availability, we will make every effort to arrange our schedules to accommodate yours.

We welcome the opportunity to meet with you and begin the vital work you called for, and look forward to the blessed healing in the Body of Christ that this work could bring about.

In Christ,

Lourdes Rodríguez-Nogués    Lewis Speaks-Tanner              Marianne Duddy-Burke

President                                 Vice President                         Executive Director

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2 comments for “DignityUSA Asks to Meet With Cardinal Dolan

  1. hmisbell
    April 3, 2013 at 12:04 am

    I seem to have sent a half-finished reply. If at first I don’t succeed, then I’ll have at it again.

    This is an excellent piece. I am glad for the reference to the Dignity USA statement (DignityUSA Letter on the Pastoral Care of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) People).

    I would like to add to that the statement, “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination: Guidelines for Pastoral Care,” by the American Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) of 14/xi/2006 which can be found at

    To be quite frank, I do think that the Bishops’ statement was in a category of too little too late.

    • hmisbell
      April 3, 2013 at 12:14 am

      Go to the website, usccb.org and search for “Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination.” The second item (Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination…pdf is the statement. This is more difficult than it needs to be.

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