An Open Letter to Bishop Gregory and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

November 12, 2002

From the Rev. Dr. Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, Inc.

Sirs:

Last night, at your traditional yearly Mass at the National Shrine, three lifetime Roman Catholics, a lesbian and two gay men, stood to receive the Eucharist but were denied the Body and Blood of Christ apparently because the usher recognized them as members of our Soulforce team. I did not attend the Mass, but I was present when Kara Speltz, Ken Einhaus, Mike Perez and our other Soulforce delegates returned to our conference room in the Holiday Inn for our Monday evening debriefing. One by one the three gay Catholics struggled to share their feelings about that awful night when once again their Church had turned against them.

We tried to comfort Kara, Ken, and Mike, but they would not be comforted. We could only surround them with our love and wait while they sobbed out their stories to us. If you had been sitting in that circle last night, you would understand better why we are demanding that you serve them the Sacraments today.

For eight hours Sunday and all day Monday our three friends had stood silent, prayerful vigil in the rain with dozens of other Soulforce delegates in front of the Hyatt wearing their Stop Spiritual Violence shirts and carrying their Stop Spiritual Violence signs. Missing another meal, they had rushed directly from standing vigil to attend your Mass at the Shrine.

Out of their own deep respect for the Mass and for the Church in which the Mass was held, they had covered the words on their shirts with sweaters or jackets. They were carrying no protest signs, wearing no protest buttons. They were not present at your Mass to protest your antigay teachings and actions, but to have their tired spirits fed. They came in search of comfort and found rejection and humiliation instead.

Earlier in the day, we read Bishop Gregory’s keynote address calling his brother Bishops to "comfort the people of God." Yet hours later, at least three of your flock were turned away from the Table out of which comfort flows. Once again, instead of comfort the Roman Catholic Church has caused God’s people suffering through an act of spiritual violence against her own.

We are afraid that you will defend this act of rejection by quoting Roman Catholic teachings about "receiving the Sacraments unworthily." We are afraid that once again you will deny our claim that on a daily basis the spirits of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics are crippled by your teachings and actions against them. And we are afraid that you will ignore our demand that you serve Kara, Ken, and Mike today the Body and Blood they were denied last night.

But we come hoping that in the presence of more than two hundred bishops and cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church there is at least one among you who will see the injustice and make it right. We apologize in advance for the inconvenience our unannounced public-stand may cause the staff and guests of the Hyatt Hotel. We also apologize in advance to security personnel and the D.C. Police Department if you call them to intervene. But for three years now, large Soulforce delegations have been present for your Bishop’s Conference in Washington, D.C. Volunteers have been willing to donate weeks of time and tens of thousands of dollars to stand vigil and risk arrest in hopes that you would end your antigay teachings that homosexuals are "intrinsically evil" and, in the words of John Paul II, "deplorably dangerous."

Instead of re-examining your ancient teachings in the light of all the modern scientific, historical, psychological, pastoral and biblical evidence, you have continued to teach untruths that lead to intolerance, suffering and death. Now, it appears that you will use those out-dated teachings to support your false claim that gay priests are to blame for the current crises in your community.

We are here to proclaim the Truth that homosexual orientation is just another of God’s mysterious, creative gifts. We are here to remind you that gay priests, bishops and cardinals have always served (and continue to serve) the Roman Catholic Church with integrity and commitment. We are here to urge you to help end this cycle of suffering in one simple, symbolic act. Serve the Eucharist to three of God’s gay children and begin healing the Body of Christ that has been wounded again and again by Church leaders who know in their hearts what is right but just can’t muster up the courage to do it.

Sincerely,

Mel White, Executive Director, Soulforce, 636 Thomas Road, Lynchburg, VA. 24502

P: (434) 237-3743
Email: RevMel@soulforce.org
www.soulforce.org

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