the Catholic Church being the largest Christian denomination in the
world the fight for the dignity and inclusion of its LGBTQI
parishioners is a fight for the church’s soul and moral
since its inception has asserted that God loves the LGBTQI community
equally. This year DignityUSA held its 23rd biennial national
conference in Boston from July 6-9. Its theme was “A Place at
the Table,” challenging the Catholic Church and themselves to
practice a ministry of radical inclusion.
Keeley of Dignity Boston shared that this year’s conference
theme was of grave importance to him considering an Illinois bishop’s
recent decree denying communion, last rites and funeral rites to
people in same-sex marriages – unless, of course, they repent.
Catholic Church needs to become truly welcoming. They call themselves
welcome but they exclude the (LGBTQI) community from officially
receiving any sacraments. They need to make it a full welcome and not
a conditional welcome,” Keeley told me.
2015, DignityUSA has been advocating for “sacramental equality”
in the Catholic Church. However, one the LGBTQIs most vociferous
opponent of it has been Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield,
Illinois, as an opposition to the 2015 Supreme Court legalization of
however, of Paprocki's decree from Catholic progressives has been
swift, hard, and unrelenting. And, one of the strongest and
influential voices speaking out against Paprocki’s homophobic
vitriol has been that of DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne
is simply cruel and shameful to refuse burial or Communion to those
who seek the grace and comfort that our Church offers at some of the
most difficult moments of life. This is reminiscent of the appalling
practice of denying Communion, funerals, and burial to people dying
of AIDS at the height of the epidemic. We want to say to Catholics of
the Springfield Diocese or others whose parishes or Dioceses do not
welcome them as fully who they are, there are Catholic communities
that will welcome and affirm you, in the true spirit of our faith.”
conference this year built a huge tent of radical inclusion,
challenging itself to hear and to understand the intersections of
LGBTQI oppressions the Catholic Church perpetrates on an
international stage and to build relationships with LGBTQI Catholics
and allies in other countries.
example, Warry Joanita Ssenfuka, director of Freedom and Roam Uganda
(FARUG), spoke on being a Catholic lesbian activist in Uganda, where
LGBTQI people have no legal protections, and frequently suffer
violence and imprisonment. Ssenfuka is a plaintiff in “Sexual
Minorities Uganda v. Scott Lively.” Scott Lively, a white
racist homophobic Pentecostal pastor of Springfield, Massachusetts,
is accused of persecuting LGBTQI people abroad, resulting in the
introduction of an Anti-Homosexuality Bill he helped engineer in
Uganda, which is a crime against humanity under international law.
is always an issue predominately white LGBTQI organizations must
grapple with. Often it’s easier for these organizations to deal
with racism and human abuses on an international level than at home.
Louis Mitchell, an African American trans man, addressed deep-seated
biases that oftentimes impede respectful relationships with diverse
groups of people at the conference.
excited by Dignity’s national desire to seek some deeper
listening around their issues of diversity and intersectionality, and
their recognition that a desire to change and the willingness to sit
with the discomfort of change aren’t the same things.”
is Senior Program Developer for the Transfaith, a multi-tradition,
multi-racial, multi-gender organization working to support
transgender spiritual/cultural workers and their leadership in
issues in our churches are not addressed enough. However, trans
activism is taking afoot in Dignity, and their voices want to be
heard in Catholic dioceses across the country that will eventually
inform and impact the Vatican. Of the many breakout sessions at the
conference I wished Pope Francis could have sat in on “Trans
Catholic Voices,” because his transphobic pronouncements have
been the most hurtful. Francis compares transgender people to nuclear
weapons. His reason is that transgender people destroy and desecrate
God’s holy and ordained order of creation.
think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few
instants a very high number of human beings,” Francis stated in
2015 in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter "Let's
think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or
of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation."
the “Trans Catholic Voices” breakout season an African
American transwoman pointed out that Francis statements about
transpeople deny them of basic human dignity and perpetuates violence
against them. As of July 3rd, as a matter-of-fact, Ebony Morgan, 28,
an African American transwoman, was the 15th reported trans murder
victim of 2017. The life expectancy for black trans is 32 years old.
her closing remarks the African American transwoman in “Trans
Catholic Voices” asked for help from advocates and allies in
the room that nearly brought me to tears.
lives are real lives. Trans deaths are real deaths. God works through
other people. Maybe you can be those other people.”
understanding that all lives matter in our LGBTQ faith communities
DignityUSA conference this year executed a successful display to
welcome all “A Place at the Table.”
wish more churches would do the same.