US Catholic Bishop Elections Signal Continued Targeting of Gay, Transgender People

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US Catholic Bishop Elections Signal Continued Targeting of Gay, Transgender People

Statement of Equally Blessed, November 16, 2010

Contact: Marianne Duddy-Burke 617-669-7810

The leaders of Equally Blessed, a coalition of Catholics working for justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, have issued a statement expressing deep concern over the outcome of the election of new leaders for the US Catholic Bishops Conference.

“The election of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Louisville, Kentucky Archbishop Joseph Kurtz as President and Vice-President of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) sends an ominous message to LGBT Catholics and our families," said Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry and an Equally Blessed member. "Both men have made strong statements against gay and transgender people. Indeed, for the past two years, Archbishop Kurtz has led the US Bishops’ nationwide campaign against marriage for gay couples."

“It is ominous because the bishops broke with tradition and did not elect this past year’s vice-president, Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, as president, someone known to be more moderate on LGBT issues and signals that the bishops are targeting families with loved ones who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender," said Nicole Sotelo, Program and Communications Director at Call To Action.

Marianne Duddy-Burke of DignityUSA, another Equally Blessed spokesperson added, "The selection of these two men as leaders of the US Bishops’ Conference means it is more important than ever for Catholics who want our Church and world to be more welcoming and just for LGBT people to speak out and to act for justice.  The majority of Catholics in the pews are supportive of LGBT people and issues, so this election is another example of how the hierarchy is out of step with the faith experience and ideas of Catholic people."

"At a time when Catholics and the larger society have become so painfully aware of how anti-LGBT religious messages and personalities have contributed to youth suicide, we wish the bishops would have elected leaders whose records were not so damaging," said Casey Lopata, Co-Founder of Fortunate Families. "As father of a gay son and as Catholics, we choose to tell our youth about Jesus’ unconditional love for them."

Equally Blessed is a coalition of faithful Catholics who support full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people both in the church and in civil society. Equally Blessed includes four organizations that have spent a combined 112 years working on behalf of LGBT people and their families:  Call to Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, and New Ways Ministry.

LGBT Activists Hold Two-day Vigil Outside Archbishop’s Office

Protesters urge Vatican to sign United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

For Immediate Release
Contact: Carlos Perez de Alejo, Media Director
Cell: (321) 948-3423 Email:

(New York, NY)- Beginning on Wednesday, April 22, members of Soulforce and its allies will hold a two-day vigil outside the office of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s Ambassador to the United Nations, to encourage the Vatican to sign the UN Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, which protects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The historic declaration, drafted by France and the Netherlands on behalf of the European Union, condemns “human rights violations based on sexual orientation or gender identity wherever they occur, in particular the use of the death penalty” and “arbitrary arrest or detention and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights.” Indeed, being gay or lesbian is still illegal in nearly 80 countries and subject to the death penalty in at least seven. 

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade initiated the effort in early 2008 to craft a declaration in defense of LGBT people, and on December 18, 2008, Ambassador Jorge Arg塚ィヘ妺契ello of Argentina read the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

While nearly 70 of the 192 member countries of the UN have signed the declaration, including the United States, many remain opposed to the statement.  Archbishop Migliore was among the first to criticize the declaration, claiming it could be used to pressure countries to recognize same-sex marriage.

“If adopted,” said Migliore, “they would create new and implacable discriminations.  For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure.”

Soulforce sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against the denigration of LGBT people and to work with the Vatican on respecting the human rights of everyone.  For nearly a decade Soulforce has challenged the Roman Catholic Church to adhere to the value of inclusion, and on April 22 they will continue that challenge.

The vigil in New York City will coincide with similar actions in solidarity with Soulforce’s demands in Little Rock, AR; Dallas, Tx; Phoenix, AZ; Detroit, MI; Los Angeles, CA; and New Haven, CT. 

“We want to remind the Vatican,” notes Haven Herrin of Soulforce, “that the only path to justice is dignity and respect for all people.”

Soulforce is a national civil rights and social justice organization. Our vision is freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance. For more information, visit


Spring 2009 Catholic Action

St. Peter's photoSPRING 2009 CATHOLIC ACTION

RECAP of our actions at the Vatican’s embassy

In December, 2008, France introduced a Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality at the United Nations Assembly in New York City. The Statement condemned violence, harassment, discrimination, exclusion, stigmatization, and prejudice based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  It also condemned killings, executions, torture, arbitrary arrest, and deprivation of economic, social, and cultural rights noting that in 77 member countries, homosexuality is illegal; 7 countries declaring it punishable by death.

Almost immediately following the Declaration’s introduction, the Vatican issued a statement opposing it and suggesting that it could lead to same gender marriage acceptance. 

In response, Soulforce pulled together a team to confront the Vatican. We sent a letter to the Ambassador’s office asking them, to withdraw its opposition to the Declaration and to meet with us in order to begin a dialogue on the destructive nature of heterosexism.  By late March, Soulforce had negotiated a meeting with two of our representatives with Father Bene, an assistant to Archbishop Migliori, the Ambassador.  Fr. Bene, while friendly, appeared surprised to hear that American gays and lesbians experienced any kind of discrimination.  During the meeting we pressed for a meeting directly with the Ambassador and were told they would get back to us, which they never did.

Our Soulforce team decided to vigil at the Vatican’s embassy in late April.  For two days, the Vatican’s response was to shut down the embassy.  We were told by people in the neighborhood that they had never seen the offices closed down in the middle of the week and were offered no explanation by Vatican officials. 

Several weeks later, as we persisted in trying to meet with the Ambassador we were able to persuade the Ambassador to sit down with our representatives. The meeting was again, cordial and the Ambassador indicated that he would be discussing the Statement with the UN when they meet in Switzerland this summer for their summer sessions. This meeting was significant in that after eight years of trying to negotiate with the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church this was the first time we were able to sit down with a high ranking representative of the Vatican. 

Given the years of hostile rhetoric between the Vatican and the LGBT community, we are hopeful about the improvement we have made in helping the Vatican understand the sacredness of LGBT lives.  Soulforce will continue to monitor the situation and will keep people up to date. 

See video footage of April 22, 2009 and April 23, 2009

Please join us this spring in calling on the Vatican to support the safety and well being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are working to gain support from the Roman Catholic Church for the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

The United States, as of Wednesday March 18th, has signed on to the declaration. This is a great shift in U.S. policy, and we hope that you will work with us to continue the focus on the Vatican.

There are many ways to participate, if you are not able to join us in New York City.

Send us your story! We will be delivering the personal testimonies of those who want to share why it matters to them that the Vatican support LGBT by endorsing the UN’s declaration. We will be delivering all our stories to the office in New York City, and we would be honored to include your story. Contact Alexey Bulokhov at with your statement.

If you want to join us on the ground in New York City, next week, read details and register here.

Our introductory training will be on Tuesday, April 21 from 8 to 10pm at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew,, 263 West 86th Street @ West End Avenue. Subway 86th Street on the 1, B or C line. If you have questions, contact Alexey Bulokhov at or 212-203-5774.

You can join the growing group of local leaders organizing solidarity actions where they live. We will work with you to support efforts in your hometown. All are welcome at any experience level. If you are interested in being a local leader or a participant, click here for a list of participating cities, ideas for action and contact information.

You or your organization can also join the campaign by signing onto the following statement of support. Click here for contact information, the text of the statement, and the growing list of supporters.

The background of this campaign:

For the first time ever at the United Nations in December 2008, a statement was heard on the support of equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

French Minister of Human Rights and Foreign Affairs Rama Yade began the effort in early 2008 to create U.N.-backed protections for LGBT people. The Netherlands signed on as a co-sponsor on behalf of the European Union, and on December 18, 2008 Ambassador Jorge Arguello of Argentina read out the first declaration on LGBT rights in the General Assembly.

Unfortunately, some countries have not yet signed on in support of safety for all. The Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, was among the first to oppose:

"If adopted, they would create new and implacable discriminations. For example, states which do not recognize same-sex unions as ‘matrimony’ will be pilloried and made an object of pressure."

Read the official statement on the declaration from the Holy See here.

We have sent a letter to the Archbishop in New York City, calling on him to take a personal stand against defamatory language regarding LGBT people and work in open and good faith to bring the Vatican toward supporting safety for all humans.

We are inviting you to work with us this spring in solidarity actions across the country and internationally to unite our voices. Based on the idea of pilgrimage, we are looking for local leaders and participants who want to help create conversations about faith and LGBT equality and get active in their community. No experience is required – just the desire to work in solidarity with activists in a localized action with global impact to make justice the standard.

Download the text of the declaration

Read some of the actions and statements of the Roman Catholic Church

With questions or feedback about the campaign, please contact:
Haven Herrin at or Kara Speltz at


Spring 2009 Catholic Action – Local Leaders

The following cities have signed on to participate in the Catholic action this spring through solidarity actions. Listed below are the email addresses of the local leaders so you can get in direct contact to find out how to participate.

Los Angeles, CA contact Vince at
Durham, NC contact
New Haven, CT contact Delfin at
Little Rock, AR contact Lance at
Detroit, MI contact Jen at
Dallas, TX contact Kelli at
Twin Cities, MN contact Haven at
Phoenix, AZ contact Melissa at
Turtle Creek, PA contact Joe at
Central Ohio contact Deniray at or Karen at
Denver, CO contact Kasper at

People around the country are working in solidarity with the direct action in New York City because this is a conversation that must be had everywhere. Solidarity actions are varied and creative, accomplishing what is necessary in every local context. Some are directing their energy toward local Catholic leaders, some are voicing their support for the declaration directly to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, and some are using this as an opportunity to build their local progressive community. Here are some great ideas coming out of solidarity groups:

candle vigils
petitions, asking local groups and individuals to sign on to the support statement
call-ins to the Archbishop
creating conversations at church
pilgrimages from cathedrals to basilicas
volunteering at Catholic charity organizations
rainbow ribbons
notes in the offering plate
messages tucked into Bibles
and many others

If you would like to work on the local level to express your support for transformation of the Roman Catholic Church and the outreach to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, please contact Katie Higgins at to find out more about becoming a local leader.

Spring 2009 Catholic Action – Statement


The following is a statement to which we are asking individuals and groups to sign on in support. It reflects the spirit and demands of the original letter sent to Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations. If you would like to add your or your organization’s name to the list of supporters, or if you have questions, please contact Haven Herrin at

We are reaching out to many individuals and organizations to build solidarity in continuing to call for change from the Roman Catholic Church. At the appropriate time, we will make the list of supporters publicly known. Please let us know if you have any concern regarding the public use of your name.


With the recent announcement, that the U.S. will now sign on to the UN Statement on Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, we urgently invite the Vatican to do the same.

We continue to be deeply concerned regarding the Vatican’s lack of support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

First, we call on Archbishop Migliore to work openly and diligently to move the Roman Catholic Church towards endorsing the United Nations Declaration on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Second, we call on Archbishop Migliore to take a personal stand against defamatory and hurtful language from leaders in the Roman Catholic Church that harms lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

It is our hope that the Roman Catholic Church will speak, stand, and act for justice and safety for all human beings.

See a list of signers of this statement

Spring 2009 Catholic Action – Statement Signers


The following is a list of supporters who have signed our Catholic Action statement. You or your organization are welcome to join. We will deliver a copy of this list to the office of the Vatican at the United Nations in New York City.

Tom Jonas, Minneapolis, MN
Carol Lewis
Eunice Fisher, St. Petersburg, FL
Cathy James, St. Petersburg, FL
Eileen Boyd, Sacramento, CA
Catholics for Marriage Equality, California
Marilyn Bedford, Tulsa, OK
Marriage Equality Silicon Valley
Dean Harpster and Rick Infantino, Silicon Valley, CA
Laurie Pollack, Lansdowne, PA
Thomas Mooney, Aspen, CO
Tom Field
Malcolm J. Blue, Valencia, CA
Bruce Lowe
Lydia Nowak, Shannon, IL
Daniel Morgan
Shaashawn Dial & Studs Magazine
Edward P. Todd, Copake, NY
Edward Morris
Kelli Busey, Dallas, TX
Timothy J. MacGeorge, Washington, DC
Alan Barthel
Rev. Robert L. Morriss, Forrest, VA
Jimmy Creech, Raleigh, NC
Robert Bowers, Columbia, SC
Rev. Dr. Sherry L. Kennedy, Venice, FL
SunCoast Cathedral MCC, Venice, FL
Phil Danielson, Denver, CO
Dallas Transgender Advocates and Allies, Dallas, TX
Mary E. Hunt, Silverspring, MD
Jendi Reiter
Kevin Todd
Megan Heeney, St. Louis, MO
Catholic Action Network, St. Louis, MO
Ron and Myrna Ohmann
Mary Ellen Lopata & Casey Lopata, Rochester, NY
Gail McGuire
Rev. Jerry W. Miller
Alan Guno
Peter Grahame & Henry Seale, Albuquerque, NM
Steven Kilgore, Chattanooga, TN
Jerry & Lucy Furlong
Fortunate Families, Rochester, NY
Jim Buckheit, Sacramento, CA
Father Anthony Borka, Orlando, FL
St. Dorothy Catholic Community, Orlando, FL
Ann & Chester Franczyk, Springfield, MA
Linda Karle-Nelson & Tom Nelson, Farmington Hills, MI
Call to Action USA
Kaitlin Starke
Dave Parnell, Raleigh, NC
Michael Kelly, Australia
Rainbow Sash Movement, Australia
Sacramento Call to Action

Michele A. Cole, Altamont, NY
Cris Elkins, Greensboro, NC
Alice R. Schulte, Mooresville, NC
Reverend Fred H. Anderson, Sun City West, AZ
Dave Bart, New Orleans, LA
Charles Arthur Witschorik II, San Jose, CA
Reverend Janine C. Stock, Vista, CA
All Saints American Catholic Church, Vista, CA
Lynn E. Walker
Bill Carpenter, St. Petersburg, FL

Haven Herrin, Saint Paul, MN

Katie Higgins, Minneapolis, MN

Kevin Riley

Chelsea Griffo, Austin, TX

Kathy Stayton

Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists



National Week of Prayer and Vigils, November 7-12, 2005

Catholic Prayer Card

Click here to download a pdf of this prayer card

Report (11/20/2005): Synopsis of the 2005 "National Week of Prayer and Vigils"

From the very first weeks following the election of Cardinal Ratzinger to the papacy, we have watched in amazement as the Vatican:

  1. forced the resignation of Fr. Tom Reese, S.J., the editor of the progressive Jesuit Catholic Weekly, AMERICA;
  2. announced that there would be no investigation into the charges of abuse by Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, (founder of the religious order the Legionaries of Christ);
  3. attempted to destabilize the Spanish government in order to prevent the enactment of same gender marriage;

A Call to Action

Last November, Soulforce called for a National Day of Prayer and Vigils to demand an end to the the Church’s role of promoting injustice and inequality. Several hundred people in a dozen cities participated. From San Francisco to New York, Atlanta to St. Paul, and cities in between, people responded to the call. For pictures and reports of these vigils click here.

17 people vigil in Los Angeles during the 2004 Day of Prayer and VigilsThis year, buoyed by the success of last year’s campaign and the feedback from our local Soulforce groups, we’ve expanded to a National Week of Prayer and Vigils to take place November 7 – 12, 2005 (the week prior to the USCCB meeting in Washington, D.C.)

By expanding to a week, groups participating in the National Week of Prayer and Vigils can sponsor different events. Event ideas include nonviolence training programs, movie nights to view and discuss films such as Romero, educational forums to help people understand the issues of concern, letter writing parties to their bishops and local newspapers, as well as the actual vigils. Soulforce will provide some specific suggestions for activities as well as sample letters when writing to both bishops and newspaper editors. This is an excellent opportunity to send a strong message to the bishops on the local level as they are preparing for the USCCB meeting in D.C.

Join us in this National Week of Prayer and Vigils. Ask organizations you are involved with to endorse and take part in this nationwide effort to return the church to its justice foundations.

For more information contact

For more on Soulforce’s monitoring of the Catholic church concerning GLBT issues, go to the Soulforce Catholic page.

Update (10-31-2005): GLBT Interfaith Leaders Take on Historic Collaboration During Global Week of Prayer

Update (10-27-2005): If you are planning a Movie & Discussion Night for our National Week of Prayer & Vigils, here are some highly recommended movies that deal with issues of social justice and change. Any of these will provoke some excellent discussion.

  • Romero
    A movie on the life of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador
  • Entertaining Angels
    The story of Dorothy Day
  • A Force More Powerful
    An excellent video on nonviolence that is often available at the public library
  • Eyes on the Prize
    A series on the Civil Rights Movement that is also often available at the public library
  • In Good Conscience
    The story of Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the nun who the Vatican unsuccessfully tried to silence (available from Out of the Blue Films)

Also consider sending a letter to the local bishop in your area. A suggested letter is now available.

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 3:6 (New International Version)