November 15, 2000
By Hanna Rosin
Washington Post Staff Writer
About 110 members of a gay rights organization protesting the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuality were arrested yesterday for blocking the entrance to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, an action that coincided with a meeting of 300 U.S. Catholic bishops here this week.
The protestors offered no resistance as they were led away in plastic handcuffs while other demonstrators cheered.
This protest is the fifth in a series of peaceful demonstrations staged by Soulforce, Inc. Over the past six months, the group has held similar protests at the annual conventions of various denominations, among them the United Methodists and the Southern Baptist Convention.
The demonstrators were protesting Catholic Church teachings that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered." They also object to the fact that priests will not hold a Mass for Dignity USA, a 30-year-old group of gay and lesbian Catholics based in Washington.
On Monday, seven members of another gay rights group attempted to take communion at a Mass at the shrine attended by 300 bishops, but were refused.
The bishops released a statement yesterday saying they had met with leaders of Soulforce last week. While they would not discuss the meeting, the statement made by Bishop Joseph A. Galante of Dallas reiterated the church’s position that any malice against homosexuals "deserves condemnation" from the Church’s pastors.
At the same time, Galante wrote that "fidelity to the Gospel teachings on marriage and sexuality is an essential part of our discipleship of Christ."
Also yesterday, a group of national religious leaders rejected same-sex marriage in a first-of-its-kind "Christian Declaration on Marriage" issued at the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference.
The marriage declaration was signed by Bishop Anthony O’Connell of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and Bishop Kevin Mannoia, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Later this week, the bishops are scheduled to discuss a statement on the Middle East which for the first time explicitly endorses a Palestinian state. The statement, "Toward Peace in the Middle East," which is likely to be approved, calls for "the end of the state of belligerency by Arab states" and "the establishment of an internationally recognized Palestinian state."
The bishops yesterday passed a statement condemning the "systematic campaign of terror against Christians" in the Sudan. And today they will vote on a major statement on criminal justice reform, which for the first time also considers testimony by members of law enforcement and victims as well as prisoners and their advocates.