Why I Journey to Rome

Journey to Rome

Updated: January 2, 2001

Richard Joseph Patrick Murphy
Kara Speltz – Oakland, CA
Diana G. Westbrook
Jimmy Creech – Raleigh, NC
Mike from Mexico
Judy Osborne – Seattle, WA
Bob Skaggs – Miami, FL
  Pat Roche – Seattle, WA
Gina Grubb – Oak Ridge, TN
Laura Montgomery Rutt
denise ray mueller – Worthington, OH
Chuck Phelan
Dennis Golbourne
Dotti Berry
Bill Carpenter


Richard Joseph Patrick Murphy
A humble and grateful (gay) child of God

I’m called to Rome because the Catholic Church was such an integral part of my youth and remains to this day, important to my family. Many of my most cherished memories revolve around the Church…from Cub and Boy Scout jamborees to the much anticipated and fun-filled Italian feasts and festivals. My family was, and still is, steadfastly faithful. As for me, some of my most painful and emotionally (and spiritually) damaging experiences also took place in the Church. For reasons known only to God, my formative years were spent being verbally abused and humiliated by my local priest. Never did I ever feel safe, welcomed, at home, at peace or loved in St. Peter’s parish. For my own mental and spiritual survival, I felt forced as a teenager to leave the faith of my family, and continue my spiritual journey elsewhere.

Strangely, I never faulted the Catholic Church nor God for that particular priest’s human shortcomings. Miraculously, over time, I developed a much more intimate and personally rewarding relationship with my God and Jesus Christ. For that I give thanks and praise..

In memory of that child long ago, and for all the glbt children of God who still feel alone, marginalized, outcast and unloved, I go to Rome in hopes that the church of my childhood will Open Wider their hearts and doors and welcome them home. For they too are part of the Beloved Community and anyone who separates them from their Creator, however well intended, verily wounds the Body of Christ. John Paul, be not afraid.

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Kara Speltz
Oakland, California

As I returned from our historic Soulforce journey to Lynchburg to talk with Jerry Falwell, I returned to a news report that the Catholic Bishops of California had just committed well over $300,000 in support of Proposition 22, the anti-gay so-called Defense of Marriage Act. I was heartbroken. My own money was being used by the bishops to defeat my civil rights. How could that be?

After being arrested at the Methodist Conference in Cleveland, and the Presbyterian Conference in Long Beach, it was clear what the next step was for me. As co-chair the National Conference of Catholic Bishops action in Washington, D.C. Nov. 12-14th, I attended a meeting with representatives from the Bishops Conference. Their words and actions made it clear to me where we must go next!

And so our journey continues. It is the Vatican that is the source of the toxic poison that calls us "objectively disordered" and our loving relationships as "intrinsically evil" and our adoptions, as a "grave danger". It is the Vatican that has chosen to ignore what is clearly a growing understanding within the believing church that our sexual orientation is just another wonderful gift from God.

Just as in the Vietnam War, I would not turn my back on my country that was conducting what was clearly an unjust war against the Vietnamese people, so too, I cannot turn my back on my own Church which is conducting a similar "unholy war" against God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children. I will neither give my assent, nor cooperate when faced with such sinfulness against God’s people. I choose to stay within my Church, and join the ranks of so many other faithful dissenters throughout Church history.

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Diana G. Westbrook
48-year-old writer and health educator

Acts 10:9-15
About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, "Get up, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean." The voice said to him again, a second time, "What God has made clean, you must not call profane." This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven."

On the rooftop in Joppa, God showed Peter a stark vision of unclean animals and told him to do the unthinkable, "to kill and eat." When Peter understandably refused, God next arranged for Peter to go to Caesarea to visit Cornelius, a Roman centurion. All his life, Peter had been taught that men such as Cornelius, a Gentile, were unclean. But during Peter’s visit with Cornelius, Peter realized that God had a new and completely world-altering vision for him and his fellow Jews, that "God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him."

I am going to Rome because I believe that God intends a similar vision for the Church regarding today’s "unclean" – gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders – and because I believe that God is using the people of Soulforce to help bring that vision. It is my prayer that, on this trip to Rome, the Catholic Church will, through us, catch a glimpse of God’s inclusive love and begin truly to "open wide the doors" to all God’s children.

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Jimmy Creech
Raleigh, North Carolina

The foundation for the bigotry against gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Western culture was laid by the Roman Catholic Church in the early Medieval period. The current Roman Catholic teachings, which define homosexuality as a "disorder" and same-gender sexual activity as "intrinsically evil," continue to promote this bigotry. Based on these teachings, the Roman Catholic Church has been active in using its political influence and financial resources to deny basic civil and human rights to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the United States and in other parts of the world.

These teachings are a distortion of biblical tradition and do violence to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They blaspheme God by denigrating God’s creation. They compromise the faithful witness of the Roman Catholic Church to the grace and wisdom of God. They also are contrary to the truth about human personality and sexuality. They are based neither in biblical truth nor scientific truth, but in prejudice alone.

I am going with Soulforce to Rome to hold the Vatican accountable for the oppression and persecution that results from its false teachings, and to demand that the Roman Catholic Church stop its active violence of word and deed against the dignity and freedom of God’s lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and their transgender sisters and brothers who suffer by their side.

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Mike from Mexico

In Mexico, gay men like me are referred to as Mariposas, butterflies. I believe this mariposa must do its part in changing the Roman Catholic church for the better.

When asked to write down my reasons for going to Rome in this direct action to the Vatican, I thought an easy do! Wrong, it wasn’t. Oh, could repeat the truths, 1] I am a Christian and Roman Catholic and Gay so I care about corrections in our church, 2] the church must change to be more Christian, and 3] change starts with baby steps and not necessarily desired changes right away. But there was more and it was easy to express. I am going to Rome because God has made it possible and necessary. I am not working right now and therefore have the time and for the above three reasons, the willingness to serve. Jesus said we are but servants and everyday I understand that even more. Next cam the funding and that was made possible through friends and family. Finally, I am in Puerto Vallarata, Mexico looking for work and relaxing a bit. My ticket was non refundable for returning the Seattle on Jan. 9th until the Vice President of Marketing changed it in support of my work with Soulforce. Then a friend got me a stand-ticket from Guadalahara to Rome. Then friends from Leone Mexico are coming to PV for Christmas and offered to take me to Guadalahara on their way home and drop me off at the aeroporte. So, what could I say but yes.

As a scientist, I know that out of chaos follows order and that even a small butterfly’s wings can result in a change in the climate in another part of the world. So this mariposa better start flapping for the climate in the Roman Catholic Church to move to a more Christ-like place in Gods plan.

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Judy Osborne
Seattle, Washington

I’m old now, living at last an open, loving, joyous, moral, and creative life as a woman of faith after ending my false existence as a man. My struggle to reach this miraculous place was long and difficult, much of the period mired in senseless shame and concealment. The Church taught me to hide and feel shamed, taught me to endure a life made less valuable, less creative, less dignified, less giving, less holy even, by convincing me that my God-given differences are wrong. The Church is wrong instead, tragically wrong in its refusal to question and begin to understand the inherent need of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to walk honest paths in faith, service, and quiet pride.

It doesn’t matter what the Church does to me any longer, but it matters very much that the Church never again teach shame and concealment to further generations of good, faithful, and otherwise creative youth. The Church must come to understand the wasted lives it creates through its misguided policies. I’m honored to help bring a message of hope, tolerance, and understanding to the Vatican. I bring that message along with my prayer that Church leaders will reverse the damage to human potential wrought again and again by their continuing misunderstanding and intolerance of human differences. The Church’s continuing refusal to embrace God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people is wasteful of sacred human lives and intrinsically evil in itself by its denial of the humanity of good and faithful people who serve the Church.

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Bob Skaggs
Miami, Florida

The Church that excludes me from full participation in its spiritual and sacramental life claims that I am "objectively disordered" and that the sexual expression of my love for another human being is "intrinsically evil" because the act does not include the possibility for creating new life. I know deep in my heart that I am created in God’s image and that my sexual orientation is part of that perfect creation. I did not choose it; God chose it for me and I fully accept that part of me as morally good. I refuse to listen any longer to those who claim that homosexuals are less worthy than heterosexuals of serving in the military, of adopting children, of joining together in family relationships, of teaching children, or of fully participating in the life of the Church.

The teachings of the Church on homosexuality are based too much on "tradition" and do not reflect in any way what science has learned about the human psyche. The Church refuses to listen and learn from science, just as it refused to listen to Galileo. This refusal to listen, to learn, and to reinterpret scripture in the light of new knowledge of the human condition, is more than an embarrassment, it is sinful. I am here because the Church, my church, is in need of forgiveness. I want my Church to accept responsibility for its wrongdoing and to begin to teach the truth. More importantly, I want my Church to accept the wonderful grace of God’s forgiveness and to once again be a beacon of hope to those who hunger and thirst for God’s unconditional love.

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Pat Roche
56 year old former national President of Dignity/USA from Seattle

I’m going to the Vatican for the same reason Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus – because I’m tired and because I have a right to be there.

I’m tired of being told that my love for my partner of 25 years is objectively disordered and that physically expressing that love is intrinsically evil. I’m tired of seeing my friends evicted from Catholic Church property. I’m tired of being told that I can’t honorably serve my country, teach, coach or adopt children. I’m tired of my Church fighting laws which would simply give me the right to hold a job based only on how well I perform it, and the freedom to live where I wish based solely on my ability to pay the rent. I’m tired of having ancient passages in the Bible used as weapons against me while more relevant scriptural, scientific and psychological data is ignored. I’m tired of having clergy who minister sensitively and compassionately to me persecuted and silenced. I’m tired of my Church saying one thing and doing another. For example, I’m told that I am always its child, yet if I come "home" with my loving partner, the door is closed. And, I’m tired of seeing Church leaders meet with all kinds of individuals and groups with whom they have deep disagreements yet spurn invitations to sit at the table and seriously dialogue with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

I’m also going to sit at St. Peter’s because I have a right to be there. I am a lifelong Catholic. I have attended Catholic grade school, seminary and high school. I graduated from a Catholic College. I was a monk in a Benedictine monastery. I received an MA from a Catholic University. I taught in a Catholic College. I have contributed my time, talent and treasure to my Church. Yet, only rarely have I felt completely at home there. An exception occurred in 1983 when I emceed Dignity’s national convention in Seattle. Along with hundreds of other gays and lesbians, I was welcomed to St. James Cathedral by then Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen. For offering his hospitality to us, the Archbishop was persecuted and investigated by Vatican authorities. Since then, I have witnessed the Pope and Vatican authorities time and again impugn, malign and vilify sexual and gender minorities. Their message in this Jubilee Year appeared at times to be: "Open Wide the Doors to all but Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people."

I like to say that when I was born, God gave me two gifts — my faith and my sexual orientation – and that it was kind of like getting a microwave oven and aluminum cook ware. The sparks keep flying, but I keep on cooking. Even though I am a retired, senior citizen now, I feel strongly called to join others from Soulforce and Dignity/USA in bringing our message of nonviolence to the doors of St. Peter’s.

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Gina Grubb
Oak Ridge, Tennessee

On the surface, my reasons for going to Rome as a member of the Soulforce/Dignity USA group are clear. I’m going so that I can do my part in bringing the truth about God’s GLBT children to the leaders — the pontiff — of the Roman Catholic Church. An awesome mission. And just what exactly is my part? Only God knows that at this point. But I do know that the truth must be told. Or shown. It’s time. And we cannot be ignored by the Vatican any longer.

In my heart, though, my reasons for going run much deeper. As a law enforcement officer, I have routinely witnessed injustices for years — in violations of the laws and even in enforcement of the laws. Sometimes the laws themselves are unjust — many of which are derived from religious beliefs. But God calls us to do what is right — always. Peter reminds us in Acts 5:29 that "we must obey God rather than men." God calls us — commands us — to "do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) And more than 360 times in Scripture, God tells us to "have no fear." But, too many of my GLBT brothers and sisters suffer because of fear — fear of our laws and fear of not being loved. My job, then, as God’s servant is to do justice by relentlessly and lovingly confronting the source of that fear (the Church) with the truth so that all of God’s children will never doubt that they are loved — completely, wholly and eternally — by the One who created them. It’s that simple.

I am humbled and honored to be representing my GLBT brothers and sisters and our allies around the world as a member of the Soulforce/Dignity Vatican delegation.

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Laura Montgomery Rutt
Mother of 2 teenage boys

I am going to Rome because, as a heterosexual, organized religion and society have given me special rights and privileges because of my sexual orientation, both inside and outside the churches. I can marry my life partner, I can have my relationship blessed and affirmed in a church, I can be on my spouse’s insurance policy, I can hold hands with my husband in public without fearing for my life, I can speak out on this topic with little fear of retribution, just to name a few.

I am going to Rome because I believe that the Catholic Church is trying to preserve these special rights and privileges that we as heterosexuals have taken for granted, and is actively working to deny those rights to my gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) brothers and sisters. The Catholic Church influences public policy to such an extent that it works against God’s plan for equality for all Gods Children, and adds to a climate of hostility and violence against GLBT people all over the world.

I am going to Rome because it is time for the Catholic Church to stop the Spiritual Violence it commits against my GLBT brothers and sisters. It is time for the Church to take notice that all people are of inherent worth and dignity, that we all have gifts to offer, that we all deserve the same rights and privileges afforded to me as a heterosexual. I will spend my life using the privileges our churches and our society have given me to work for equality until all people are given the same rights and privileges that I enjoy and all people are treated with equal respect and dignity, in a world safe from violence, condemnation and judgment.

I believe this is the kind of world God intended. This is the kind of world I want my sons to live in. This is why I am going to Rome.

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denise ray mueller
CEO, drm consulting
Worthington, Ohio

I was born and raised a Catholic and in my pre-teens I realized that I was a lesbian. Through the grace of God I realized that I was indeed a ‘Child of God’ and loved by God, regardless of the church’s teachings. I was very active in church and the ministry of music for many years. I have been fortunate to have sung in many cathedrals and parishes across the United States and in Europe. I have always felt an obligation to give back to God (and therefore the church) those talents God had given me as a lesbian Catholic. And the church had always been there to provide spiritual guidance and support. About four years ago, my life partner of 27 years was terminally ill and I turned to the Church for support and solace. After almost fifty years of being a ‘good Catholic’, the door was slammed in my face. I found that solace in another group of open and affirming Christians. I basically gave up on the Church.

I participated in the Washington DC action at the request of a friend who felt we needed to have as many Catholics there as possible. I attended the Monday night mass at the Shrine with the Rainbow Sash group from Australia. An announcement was made that we would be refused communion because we were there in a sign of protest. And indeed they did refuse us communion, instead offering us a blessing. The die was cast. I could not, in good conscience, not be arrested the next day. The Church had refused me the most elemental and spiritual essence of our faith. And this trip to the Vatican to present to the Pope and the Church the gift of our lives and love on Epiphany is the next step in trying to get the Church to see that it is killing, abusing and destroying lives of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals and Transgendered children every day with its position. I was called and I cannot refuse.

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Chuck Phelan

I am going to Rome to do justice. To stand side-by-side with my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters as we bring our message of relentless truth and love to the Vatican. The Roman Catholic Church does not by any means hold an exclusive on its oppression of God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. There’s plenty of blame for that to go around. Witness the United Methodist Church trial of Rev. Jimmy Creech in November 1999. But it is perhaps the most visible, and the one with such a dogmatic approach that it won’t even consider a dialogue on how the church position is in a very real and physical way, hurting God’s children. The church won’t even talk to us about how its policies contribute in a very real way to the suffering of people who are told that they are "objectively disordered" and that their love is "intrinsically evil". It has been well documented that such hurtful and unloving statements have contributed to many a wounded, outcast person taking their life in the belief that, as they have been taught, their lives are worthless. And has led to others taking our lives in the misguided belief that they are, as they have been taught, carrying out God’s will.

I go to Rome in an attempt to make visible to the leaders of the world’s religions that we are the loving and loved children of the same God and that our lives and our loves are already blessed by our loving and compassionate God. We ask all the world’s religions to, at long last, grant us the freedom here on earth that our loving Creator has already given us with the miracle of life. I have concerns as we journey to Rome, yes even fear, but I also know that "perfect love casts out all fear" (1 John:4) and I know that we journey in love, for our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters , for ourselves, for the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and other religions of the world that have long oppressed us, but, most importantly, for our God, who created us in love and who asks us only "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) I can do no less.

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Dennis Golbourne
28 years old

To date, I have passed through four faiths and denominations; Pentecostal, Roman Catholic, Wesleyan Methodist, and currently, Metropolitan Community Church. Clearly, a wandering spirit looking for a home. I go to Rome, to tell of God’s love, and that persecution is unacceptable. "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:10). Being one of God’s gay children, I have worked through the hardship, trials, and pressures exerted by my peers and society. I have accepted myself as a gift and not the curse so often told by those in the pulpit. I travel with the message that there is always room at God’s table. His son, Jesus, turned not away the woman at the well, Zechariah in the tree, the children nor the Centurion soldier. The room at the table is provided without disclaimer. It comes with LOVE in abundance.

Recently, a visiting Minister told my congregation the story of Jesus’ birth. Although, I have heard this story many times before and at Christmas have even sung the words in various songs, this particular version and its oddities became more personally important as I prepare for this trip. Namely, a woman pregnant and unwed, a husband-to-be’s disappointment, and a child’s birth in a stable. Today, despite societal norms and traditions, the woman is Holy Mary, the man is Honorable in his act, and the child is our Saviour. I go to Rome, holding steadfast the motto, "out of many, one people." This is the motto of Jamaica, my homeland. We are one in the spirit, and one in the Lord.

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Dotti Berry

Having been denied membership in two different Protestant churches, Centenary United Methodist Church and Crossroads Christian Church in Lexington, Kentucky, I have felt firsthand the pain of being told "If you are a self-affirming gay Christian, you cannot join our church." While many of my GLBT friends continue to remain silent and lie so that they can attend these churches and become full participating members, I have been forced to chose a different path since "who I am" as a self-affirming gay Christian is unacceptable. My question continues to be "Why would I attend a church where I have to lie about who I am in order to be a member?"

I am going to the Vatican for two reasons. First and foremost, I go out of my endless love for my family and all families like them in our world who have been unable to accept their gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender children due to untruths which they have been told about who we are and about God’s love and acceptance of us. Secondly, I go out of my love for Barbara, who was my partner for 15 years .. and for all the "Barbaras" of the world who have been unable to reconcile being both gay and Christian and remain victims of this pervasive spiritual violence which permeates most of our religious institutions. I hope that my presence at the Vatican will create awareness and serve as a reminder to the Catholic Church of the spiritual devastation towards GLBT which is taking place because of their teachings and doctrine.

Lastly, I go to continue the process of self transformation and thus attempt to make some small, yet significant and unique, difference in our world. All God has asked me to do is plant seeds… not harvest. So… I am content to plant seeds wherever I go.

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Bill Carpenter
Soulforce Advisory Board Co-Chair

I am going to Rome because I am responding to the calling of my heart. The clear and vital message that is God calling me to do this work. In practically every meditation I’ve had in the last 18 months…God has clearly called me to "Love Mercy, Do Justice and Walk Humbly With Her!" Not standing up to the destructive and untrue policies of the Roman Catholic Church by taking this stand at the Vatican (or not standing in any of our previous actions) would simply be me ignoring the guidance that God is giving me…ignoring the purpose for which I exist!

I believe that as Brothers and Sisters of the Universe…as Children of a Loving and Beneficial God, we are created to be in loving and supportive relationship with each other. Our choice then, is whether we realize this relationship today or tomorrow. By going to Rome, I am choosing love and universal relationship today!

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