First Letter to Bishop Gregory

August 22, 2002

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, President
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20017

Dear Bishop Gregory:

Thank you for your January 14, 2002 response to our November 2001 letter. As you care for the victims of sexual abuse, the people of Soulforce have been praying for healing and reconciliation within the Catholic Church. While we respect your sense that there is no basis for us to meet or dialogue with you, we believe there is much that we can discuss and learn from each other.

Soulforce is also working to protect, care for and advocate on behalf of those who feel silenced within their faith communities. We are people of many faiths. Some of us are Catholic. Some of us are former Catholics who love the Church. We are ordinary folks working in the trenches for the faith and beliefs we cherish deeply.

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people of faith have long been misunderstood (at best) and abused (at worst). We believe that faith communities like the Catholic Church, as they come to understand the real lives of GLBT people, will stop at nothing less than full inclusion and support.

As you know, Soulforce has for three years called attention to the suffering experienced by God’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender children. Our actions have included:

* Praying in vigil outside last year’s USCCB meetings
* Our trip to the Vatican for the close of the Year of Jubilee
* Building a Habitat for Humanity home in Jerry Falwell’s home town of Lynchburg, VA
* Marching jointly with Dignity/USA outside the Catholic Shrine in Washington
* Demonstrating outside and inside the recent Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis

As we approach the USCCB convention in November, we make these requests of you:

* Denounce the July 23, 2002, Open Letter to the Bishops from members of the Catholic Medical Association regarding homosexuality. Their findings are contrary to the best science of our time and are not substantiated by any other recognized members of the professional medical, psychiatric and psychological community.

* Meet with Soulforce to help draft a statement reflecting the Conference’s commitment to support the civil rights and end church involvement in the denial of civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, as part of your commitment to social justice which has historically been the cornerstone of the NCCB/USCCB.

* Publicly retract statements blaming gays for the sexual abuse and abuse-of-power scandal. Agree not to explicitly or implicitly take any action that links homosexuality and child abuse.

In each of our actions, we also plan nonviolent civil disobedience as a last measure if our efforts are not successful. We cannot stand silent while our brothers and sisters suffer. In St. Louis, that escalation included entering the convention hall and attempting to speak directly to those who damned and demonized us. Our action prevented us from joining our brothers and sisters in Dignity USA in their outreach to you at the bishops’ meeting in Dallas. We will consider intensifying our direct actions during the upcoming session, as well, if it is not possible to work for the well-being of marginalized Catholics by other means.

We call on you to join us in working to protect all of God’s children. In our individual journeys with Soulforce, we each seek to understand how our most deeply held beliefs call on us to respond. We understand that you are doing nothing less. Let us come together as people of integrity, bringing peace and justice to all people.

Sincerely,

The Soulforce Catholic Planning Team

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