October 12, 2000
Dear Dignity Member,
It is not often that we communicate directly with our members. We usually send information to our Chapters, and have the Chapter officers help us get the message out. However, Dignity/USA is currently involved in two very significant initiatives that we believe are important enough to warrant direct personal communication. I hope you will read the information in this mailing very carefully, and contact the national office with any questions.
First, we have reached a critical stage in the Re-Imagining Dignity process. In this packet you will find the progress report from your Board of Directors that represents our best thinking about how we might shape ourselves to carry out our mission effectively in the coming years. We are now seeking input from our members to help confirm and/or refine our thinking. In addition to a summary of the process and our recommendations, we have included a response form on which you can record your feedback and comments. Please take some time to think about the issues, and complete the response form. We really do value your opinion. (By the way, you’ll notice that in the Board’s proposal, this type of direct communication would be a hallmark of Dignity’s future, so tell us whether you find this valuable!)
Secondly, Dignity/USA and Soulforce (a national, interdenominational network of people learning nonviolence and seeking justice for God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people) have joined our formidable voices together, to ask the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) to STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE against sexual and gender minorities. We will be doing this through a series of actions held in conjunction with the NCCB meeting in Washington November 12-14.
Through our actions, we are seeking NCCB response to three simple demands. First, during this Jubilee year, we ask our bishops to "open wide the doors" of the Roman Catholic Church to God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered children. We are seeking an end to the teachings that demean and exclude us from full participation in our church as whole and holy people, without having to hide or deny who we are. As a symbol of that exclusion we are holding up the teaching that prohibits Dignity from meeting on Catholic property in virtually all dioceses throughout the country. Soulforce stands in solidarity with Dignity and with millions of other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, asking the NCCB to end policies of exclusion.
Second, we ask that one of the bishops celebrate a Mass for Dignity members and other Catholics seeking justice for GLBT people at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This would be an act signaling the end of Church policies prohibiting priests from celebrating Mass for Dignity. Once again, this is not just about Dignity. This is about Church teachings that exclude and demean all Catholics who accept and celebrate their sexual orientation as one of God’s mysterious gifts. We are inviting the bishops to join lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics in a special Mass of reconciliation and thanksgiving. What a symbol it would be to the entire nation to see us kneeling in prayer together!
Third, in the spirit of Jubilee, we ask that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops offer an apology to sexual and gender minorities for their tragic treatment by the Roman Catholic Church for the past twenty centuries. We have asked that the NCCB appoint a national blue ribbon committee of clergy and laity (with openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Catholics, including those in loving, committed relationships) to reexamine official Church teachings against us and to begin a dialogue with us that will lead to hope and healing for us all.
These demands have already been outlined in a letter to Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, President of the NCCB. They will be repeated in rallies, press conferences and events over a three-day period. The complete schedule can be accessed at Soulforce’s website (www.soulforce.org), but the main events are:
Sunday, November 12 at 7:30 PM: Dignity/Washington hosts participants in the Dignity/USA-Soulforce witness for Liturgy.
Monday, November 13 from 3:30 – 6:00 PM: Vigil at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception as the Bishops and guests arrive for Mass to mark the opening of the NCCB Meeting; 7:30 – 9:30 PM: Justice for All Civil Rights Rally.
Tuesday, November 14 from 9:00 – 12:00 AM: National press conference; An Act of Spiritual Resistance at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
The demands and the actions have been shaped by Dignity/USA’s participation in their planning, and are totally consistent with our mission and ministry of over 30 years. They balance respect for our Church, our faith and our bishops with our responsibility to speak out against the injustice and oppression they perpetuate. We believe that now is the time to bring these concerns to the attention of the full Bishops’ council in a visible, forthright way, and are delighted to have Soulforce’s support in this effort.
I urge you to support this undertaking in any way possible. Can you join me in Washington, DC November 12-14, and bear witness personally to your truth? Can you be part of calling on our bishops to Stop Spiritual Violence? If so, please sign up via the Soulforce website, and note that you are a Dignity member in the comment section of the registration form.
If you can’t be there yourself, help support those who can. Please hold us in prayer as we prepare for this witness, and during our time in Washington. And, if you can help with financial support, we’d appreciate that as well. Please send a contribution of any amount to Dignity/USA, 1500 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 11, Washington, DC 20005.
As always, I am deeply moved by the presence of God in Dignity communities across the country and inspired by the courage and commitment of our members to transform lives and be catalysts for change. I hope to see you in Washington next month.
Mary Louise Cervone