[The first, numbered paragraph(s) is (are) from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Any text in square brackets was originally
in the footnotes. The ‘dissent’ that follows is strictly the opinion of the author.]
1604. God who created man out of love also calls him to love—the fundamental and
innate vocation of every human being. For man is created in the image and likeness of God who is himself love. Since God
created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves Man.
It is good, very good, in the Creators eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized
in the common work of watching over creation: “And God blessed them, and God said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply,
and fill the earth and subdue it.’ “
Dissent. This is the third paragraph in the section on the Sacrament of Marriage,
and my third dissent as well. (I’m not getting along here quickly it seems.) There are two points I want to make here.
First, the story of Adam & Eve was intended to explain their current world: why we have gender, why there’s
sin, suffering and death, how the world became the populated place they knew. A huge amount of (what we would think) necessary
details were left out (and many details the Bible does provide betray a fundamental lack of understanding of their world,
but I digress.) For example, precious few women are mentioned by name in the long genealogy from Adam & Eve to Abraham &
Sarah. The presumption is that all these women (presumably wives) existed in spite of the fact that the Bible ignores them.
With that logic, I can happily conclude that, if God created gay and lesbian people, God created them from the beginning
and their mutual love is also just as much “an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves Man.”
It just took a few thousand years to talk about it. The Bible speaks to all people, and those who preach the Bible should
be showing how God’s love is intended for LGBTQ people too.
Secondly, the paragraph above seems to translate “subduing the Earth” as “the common work of watching
over creation.” Personally, I do not see the two as synonyms. Perhaps they were in Biblical times, but Lord knows
the world needs more stewardship and less subduing nowadays. And in this spirit, in our present-day world of 8 billion people,
I would like to translate the command “to be fruitful and multiply” as “to celebrate and foster God’s
love among all God’s people.” Lord knows we need more love and less procreation nowadays.
[“A Statement of Spirituality”, found in the
Appendix of Sex and The Sacred: Gay Identity and Spiritual Growth, by Daniel Helminiak]
Through the ages, concern with religion, spirituality, and the meaning of life has fascinated people who today would be called
gay or recognized as homosexual. Highly revered in many cultures, they were among the originators of myth and religion.
Their outsider’s perspective naturally gave them valuable insight. Today, though outcasts of religion, homosexual people
could not but continue to nurture their spiritual sensitivity. Forced to break new ground on their own in a world of change
and diversity, they have struggled to discern the true meaning of spirituality.
Accordingly, on May 1, 2004, at Garrison Institute in Garrison, NY, USA, a small work group of participants in the first Gay
Spirituality Summit (see www.gayspiritculture.org) prepared this Statement of Spirituality. Revised to address the input
of many, it is offered for discussion to help clarify the nature of spirituality in the gay community and beyond.
Spirituality is the outworking of the human capacity for self-transcendence, variously called consciousness, Buddha Nature,
atman, true soul, higher self, or human spirit. Spirit-uality shows itself in increasingly aware and deliberately chosen
participation in the positive unfolding of the universe. Beliefs and behaviors that are hurtful and destructive shut down
this unfolding; those that are helpful and upbuilding further it.
Apart from any otherworldly implications that it might have, spirituality pertains to life on this Earth, and the measure
of spirituality is compassion, love, truth, gratitude, growth, and goodwilled give-and-take among human beings. In the final
analysis, spirituality is as spirituality does.
Spirituality has no truck with the hateful, destructive, intolerant, and divisive. Nonetheless, loving attention to negative
tendencies, forces, occurrences, and persons fosters the personal and collective healing and integration that allow the human
spirit to flow freely and to bring something positive from the negative.
The forces that govern spirituality, however they are conceived, are built into and work through the human spirit. Ongoing
cultivation of the spirit—in communion with fellow seekers and through spiritual practice, psychological healing, bodywork,
virtuous living, and ecological concern—brings on expanded awareness that flows into genuine harmony with all people,
all living creatures, all inanimate things, and all life forces, for spirituality is ultimately concerned with the unity of
all things. Profound sensitivity to this awareness and harmony makes for what religions have called mindfulness, enlightenment,
holiness, mysticism, soulful living, expanded consciousness.
Although they are not identical, spirituality is certainly related to religion. Religion is at the service of spirituality.
The role of religion is to express and foster spirituality, and it does so in a rainbow of cultural variations. These might
include belief in God (by whatever name or conception), revelations, doctrines, religious myths, sacred texts, rituals, prayers,
meditations, trances, and ideas about afterlife, former lives, and metaphysical entities. All these religious matters have
legitimacy insofar as they support spiritual sensitivity, elicit transcendental awareness, and, thus, contribute to the positive
unfolding of the universe.
“My religion is kindness,” says the current Dalai Lama. And Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know
them.” Therein lies wisdom about true spirituality.
Thus, loving kindness is the measure of goodness or sanctity or holiness or spirituality. The rules of ancient societies
or the trends of public opinion do not determine the moral worth of homosexuality or anything else. In the final analysis,
what matters is the loving kindness that real, live people—homosexual or otherwise—show to one another and to
their neighbors, the positive contributions that people make to one another and to their societies. Such is the spiritual
Years and years I have loved you
And dar’d not speak my love,
Your face was a light to lead my feet
To the crown of the Heav’ns above;
(Lean closer, kiss me again, again,
For this is the Heav’n of love).
Years and years I have waited
And gazed at your face afar,
Set in the dim wide night of my soul
A tremulous silver star.
(Lean closer, love is diviner now
That the way to his shrine was far).
Years and years I have fear’d the shame
And the cruel speech of the world.
But over our heads in the darkness now
Is the banner of love unfurl’d,
(Lean closer, cling to me, kiss my lips,
Our love can despise the world.)
(From The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse)
Love like there's heaven on earth.
Second edition June 2018
Dignity was first formed in 1969 in Los Angeles, and later that same year, in June, the
Stonewall riots occurred. The birth of Dignity coincides with the birth of the ‘LGBTQI’ community—our community
we know today. As we were claiming our Pride, we were also claiming our spirituality. I think it was always known that
our community yearned for meaningful, positive ministry. Dignity offered the Catholics of our community hope, healing, support,
solidarity and love at a time when few churches (of any denomination) were willing or ready to reach out to us.
Though the seventies were an exhilarating time for our community, it was by no means easy. Though the APA
removed homosexuality from their list of “pathologies” in 1973, reparative therapy persisted and is still even
recently doing harm. Though sodomy laws were being overturned, it wouldn’t be till 2003 that such laws were overturned
on a federal level (11 states still had such laws). Though antidiscrimination laws were being passed, there are, even today,
33 states where they can fire someone because of their sexuality, and no one anywhere is safe if they work in a ‘religious
institution’. I would not wish the seventies on anyone. (Their fashion sense alone was a nightmare!, but I digress.)
But, Dignity was there through it all. They were a part of that change. Chapters flourished throughout the country.
The number of welcoming parishes grew.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI acknowledged that homosexuality is something that you are born with and that, in itself,
homosexuality therefore is not inherently evil. But Paul died in 1979, and Pope Saint John Paul II eventually took
over. While Pope Saint John Paul II was riding around in his pope-mobile saying ‘I love you’ in twelve different
languages, his henchmen—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger foremost among them—set about taking back anything positive
said about gay men and lesbians and dismantling Vatican II in general.
In 1986—at the height of the AIDS epidemic—Ratzinger issued a letter declaring homosexuals ‘objectively
disordered’ and ordering Dignity chapters off church property. And so the Church turned its back to our community. From
that time to the present, the RC Church has pretended that Dignity doesn’t exist. (Although Ratzinger’s name
is on the worst of the homophobic documents, I consider John Paul II equally responsible for the homophobic oppression of
Dignity was there to show the Church that Gay Men and lesbians too were members of Christ’s mystical
body; It’s in their Statement of Position and Purpose (SPP). As Dignity/USA became more established they tried harder
to dialog with the Church. In 1987, at their annual convention, they added to their SPP that ‘gay men and lesbians
can express their sexuality in a manner consonant with Christ’s teaching.’ Dignity stood, and continues
to stand, as witness to the truth.
The homophobia of the JPII/BXVI era has been consistent: They wouldn’t call homosexuality evil—they
wouldn’t contradict Paul VI—so they instead called it an “objective disorder”, which to too many people
means the same thing (evil in sheep’s clothing), and of course, acting on your sexuality was evil. The Church replaced
Dignity with Courage, which is essentially a 12-step program to help lesbians and gay men remain celibate. (i.e. God will
love/accept you but only if you live a self-loathing, sexually tormented life.) Courage (though today I’m told their
presence is very limited) is still advertised as the Church’s diocesan-sponsored ministry to our community. The Church
also said our community did not deserve civil rights (the argument: criminals don’t have rights, insane people don’t
have rights, why should homosexuals have rights?). And of course, same-sex marriage is the greatest sin of all; the Church
spent huge amounts of money fighting that legislation. And in some states the Church even shut down their Catholic Charities
foster care/adoption programs just so they wouldn’t be forced to offer these services to our community. And Dignity
was there through it all holding the Church accountable for, and offering an alternative to the hate. And I value
my Catholicism primarily because Dignity was there for me.
Of course, the welcoming parishes never disappeared, and sincere, positive parish-based ministries have been
appearing—though somewhat under the radar—since the nineties. About 10 years ago, such a group formed
local to D/New Brunswick: In God’s Image (IGI). A former member of Dignity approached his local pastor after
a synod’s call for more faith-based outreach; the bishop approved and IGI was born. So, I had a chance to see
such ministry first-hand. Though I respect and admire their work, and would recommend them to anyone, I do not envy the road
they are on. They are under a lot of scrutiny. They, the group’s leaders, must be very careful of what they say.
I’ve heard stories of political rumor-mongering and complaining to the bishop. Their brochures routinely disappear
en masse from their parish information table. At one meeting, they hosted a priest, Fr. Fell, to speak, and to the
surprise of everyone, he very bluntly spouted “church teaching”; I missed the meeting myself, but there were members
there who could not describe what was said without crying. IGI and other parish-based ministries pay a heavy price just to
have a presence “within the Church.” They must accept a great deal of constraint and yet remain completely vulnerable.
So, though sincere, parish-based ministry is important and worth pursuing, Dignity’s presence and voice is still very
much needed. I’ve heard some argue that, as parish ministry grows, Dignity will no longer be relevant or needed and
will go away. Perhaps, but I don’t see that level of acceptance happening in this century. Dignity is still
very much needed.
Last July IGI hosted a talk by Fr. James Martin, author of the recent book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic
Church and the LGBT Community can enter into a relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. All the talk about his
presentation and his book are what got me to write this essay you see now. What was shocking about the book was what was
absent: literally the last 40 years. The name of Dignity was never once mentioned. Only Pope Francis’ name is mentioned;
none of his predecessors are mentioned. None of the history in this article is mentioned. So basically Martin’s
message is: If everyone ignores the last 40 years then maybe we can talk. The “bridge”, if it can sincerely
be built this way at all, will still entirely exist on the Church’s terms: Dignity is still taboo; “Church teaching”
on homosexuality won’t change anytime soon; the church hasn’t admitted there’s anything wrong with their
homophobic legacy of even the recent past. Nothing has really changed, but if we want ‘in’, we’re
expected not to talk about it. Right now, IGI has what Martin is proposing: a tenuous, voiceless sanctioned, albeit
local presence in the Church. But all it will take is another Cardinal Ratzinger to come along or a Fr. Fell to replace
IGI’s pastor and it will all go south again.
But, we’re still here. Dignity is still here. We are all children of God in a universal
Church, we’re all “at the table.” It’s our human condition. No one is leaving the
Church, no matter what the orthodox may say. If the Church really wants to build a bridge, they should start with
Dignity; we’re right here.
DignityUSA, the organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI people in our church
and society, expresses its disappointment with the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop, but is encouraged
that the Court ruled narrowly, based on the particulars of this case.
“It is deeply concerning that businesses can be allowed to deny services to LGBTQI people, and to justify this discrimination
on the basis of religious belief, under any circumstances. We worry that the narrowness of this ruling will be ignored, and
more people will find themselves not able to access the goods and services available to the general public,” said Marianne
Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA.
“Like most Americans, we strongly believe that people’s faith or lack of faith, should be respected. What we find
problematic is when laws or regulations favor one religious perspective over others. People of faith have diverse beliefs
about sexual orientation and gender identity, and we believe that this reality must be respected. However, belief should never
harm another person. Our entire civil rights structure in this country is based on ensuring that everyone has equality under
Duddy-Burke said, “It is important that we recall that the decision applies to a very specific situation and is not
a sweeping policy change. We must ensure that progress toward greater inclusion continues.”
Duddy-Burke continued, “It is very unfortunate that this ruling reinforces the ‘God vs. gay’ narrative that
has pervaded our discourse and policy-making. Many LGBTQI people and others who are working towards full equality in our country
are people of deep faith and know that our identities are sacred gifts. We remain committed to working for equality in a way
that honors all people.”
[From Sex and the Sacred, by Daniel Helminiak]
Focus on the couple that shares sex expands the possible spiritual implications of sexual experience. In a sexual encounter,
you meet another person on a deep and secret level. Two people stand exposed to each other, all opened up. They have different
dreams, memories, prefer-ences, beliefs, and values, so they inevitably and interminably chall-enge each other—inevitably,
because no two people can ever be identical, and interminably, because, if their relationship does not stagnate but continues
to grow, the couple will uncover ever more deeply rooted differences to enrich or subvert their sharing. All the while thick
bonds of sexual desire, physical and emotion-al, hold them entwined and force them to resolve their differences: They can’t
let go of each other! Thus, organic and psychic sexual processes serve spiritual ends. Sexual togetherness serves inter-personal
sharing and growth.
Such sharing, continues authen-tically, with openness, honesty, and love, is as much a spiritual discipline
as any fasting, prayer, retreat, spiritual counseling, or vigil. It partially dismantles the personality; it unearths the
secrets of the heart. It presents a possibility for a more wholesome, more authentic, restructuring of oneself. This fact
explains, in part, why religions tend to consider marriage something sacred. Although the religions speak in terms of God
and grace, their teaching highlights the fully human spiritual inte-gration that an honest and intensely committed relation-ship
Honestly loving another person con-fronts us with reality. It makes us clarify and purify our values, view
things more objectively, surrender our prejudices, learn to repent, and be moved to forgive. Repentance and forgiveness must
be a part of any deep relationship and especially when sexual sharing enters into the picture. Such profound physical and
psychic self-exposure to another person leaves you very vulnerable and inevitably hurt—just as your dealing with the
other in such a situation inevitably hurts the other. The complexities of the human person almost guarantee that, despite
the best of intentions. misunderstandings will occur and people will be hurt. So sexual involvement bids you to be more humble,
compassionate, and con-cerned. Sexual sharing involves you in a process of human integration that naturally unfolds in accord
with the demands of the human spirit. Authentically lived sexuality is itself part of one’s spirituality.
"Sire," announced the servant to the King. "the saint Narottam has never deigned to enter your royal temple.
"He is singing God’s praise under the trees by the open road. The temple is empty of worshippers.
"They flock round him like bees round the white lotus, leaving the golden jar of honey unheeded."
The King, vexed at heart, went to the spot where Narottam sat on the grass.
He asked him, "Father, why leave my temple of the golden dome and sit on the dust outside to preach God’s
"Because God is not there in your temple," said Narottam.
The King frowned and said, "Do you know twenty millions of gold went to the making of that marvel of art,
and it was consecrated to God with costly rites?"
"Yes, I know it," answered Narottam. "It was in the year when thousands of our people whose houses had been
burned stood vainly asking for help at your door.
"And God said, ‘The poor creature who can give no shelter to his brothers would build my house!’
"And he took his place with the shelterless under the trees by the road.
"And that golden bubble is empty of all but hot vapour of pride."
The King cried in anger, "Leave my land."
Calmly said the saint, "Yes, banish me where you have banished my God."
--By Rabindranath Tagore,
from Fruit Gathering
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran
over and said "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
He said, "Like what?"
I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"
He said, "Religious."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
He said, "Christian."
I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
He said, "Baptist!"
I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
He said, "Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church
of God, reformation of 1915?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.
-- Emo Phillips