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Dignity/USA   1500 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Suite 11   Washington, DC 20005

March 9, 2000
Contact Information: Marianne Duddy, Executive Director
617-361-9512
Mary Louise Cervone, President
215-925-5811 or 215-719-5379 (Pager)

Gay Catholics Call for Inclusion in Pope's Jubilee Apology

Noting that Pope John Paul II is scheduled to make a plea for forgiveness for the sins of the Catholic Church throughout history this weekend, a group of gay Catholics has issued a call to be included in the list of wronged groups. Dignity/USA, which ministers to and advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Roman Catholics and their families, says they do not expect that the Pope will mention homosexuals among those whom the Church has harmed.

    "Despite centuries of persecution and abuse directed toward us by the Church and its leaders, the Pope will not ask for forgiveness from gay people," said Mary Louise Cervone of Philadelphia, President of Dignity/USA.  "In not doing so, he is missing a sacred opportunity to begin a much-needed reconciliation with people whom the Church has badly wounded."

    The Papal apology comes as part of the commemoration of 2000 as a Jubilee Year, a time the Church has designated as "a year of reconciliation and forgiveness" in accord with ancient Judeo-Christian tradition. 

    Marianne Duddy, Dignity/USA Executive Director, said that the Church has harmed gay people in numerous ways throughout history.  "From its keeping homosexuality shrouded in silence to its irresponsible naming of us as unforgivable sinners, to harmful interventions in public policy debates, the Catholic Church has caused gay and lesbian people untold grief," she said.

    "The Church bears responsibility for people living in shame and despair, and even committing suicide. Too many people were told they were damned to Hell because of their love for people of the same sex. Of course the Church should apologize to us. It would be a welcome first step," Duddy said.
    
    Cervone said that when Church officials intervene in civil issues related to gay rights, they often do so in an inflammatory manner. "We've heard bishops call us child molesters when they testify against domestic partner bills. Despite hundreds of studies to the contrary, they insist on digging up old myths and demonizing gay people. This is inappropriate for any religious leader, and we're ashamed that our Church still condones it," said Cervone.  "This is the kind of thing that could be ended through the Pope's apology, and we're very angry that it won't be."

    Duddy said that Church policy also contributed to the spread of HIV, and led to deaths from AIDS that could have been prevented. "By using its authority to prohibit condom distribution and the dissemination of information on safer sex practices, the Catholic Church allowed more people to become infected with HIV. Surely, the Church should apologize for that," she said.

    "We also believe the Church should apologize to our families," said Cervone. "The Church's teaching left many parents of gay men and lesbians feeling like they had to cut off all contact with their sons and daughters.  Too many families were destroyed needlessly." Cervone noted that the US Bishops' 1997 Pastoral Letter Always our Children recognized this problem, and began the process of addressing it. "The Pope could have continued progress in healing families, and we are profoundly saddened that he did not," she said.

    Cervone also noted that Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation's largest Roman Catholic diocese, mentioned gay and lesbian people in his recently released apology, and acknowledged that the Church is homophobic at times.  She also said that Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit received a warm response when he asked the Dignity community for forgiveness at the organization's national convention last summer. "We are pleased that these two Church leaders have taken this step," said Cervone. "It represents a good beginning, and gives us hope that one day the Church will fully affirm its gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members."

    Dignity/USA is the nation's foremost and largest organization of out and proud gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered Catholics, our families and friends. It is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1969, and has chapters and members across the US.