DIGNITY'S CHALLENGE : Can Homosexuals Feel at Home in Catholicism?

By Zeller, Shawn | Commonweal, July 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

DIGNITY'S CHALLENGE : Can Homosexuals Feel at Home in Catholicism?


Zeller, Shawn, Commonweal


On any given Sunday in Washington, D.C., a group of Catholic exiles gathers. Because they have openly disavowed the church's teachings on homosexuality, they are not allowed to convene for Mass on church property. So the members of Dignity gather apart, at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church in Washington's gay-friendly Dupont Circle neighborhood. Some come in pairs. Some are alone. Most, by far, are men, and most are white. Most, but not all, are gay. Some are friends or relatives of homosexuals.

The parishioners list numerous reasons for their attendance. Some view Dignity as a social gathering place, where like-minded homosexuals can meet. Others view it as purely spiritual. It's a place where gay Catholics can reconcile their faith and their sexuality, they say. And many see Dignity, at least partly, as a political organization. Their goal is to persuade Vatican authorities to change the church's official teachings on homosexuality and to work with local, state, and federal governments on gay-rights issues.

To many Americans, the idea of a religious homosexual is an oxymoron. God and gays don't mix, they say. That perception has led many gay people to abandon religion, according to former Dignity president Robert Miailovich. But, he explains, Dignity members have held onto their Catholic identity. "We're Catholics because we say we're Catholics and we're not going to let anybody define us out. We define ourselves in," says Miailovich, sixty-one, a Dignity member for twenty-two years and a retired federal government employee.

Still, as Dignity enters its fourth decade as an alternative ministry for gay Catholics, the group's commitment to Catholicism is facing renewed strains. On matters of politics and sexuality, the group finds itself more at odds than ever before with mainstream Catholicism. At the same time, Dignity has struggled to bring in a new generation of gay Catholics. Its congregations are graying, and becoming more male-dominated. Lesbians, upset with the church for what they see as sexist as well as heterosexist policies, have abandoned the group in droves and joined more lesbian-friendly denominations or ceased to worship altogether.

Founded in 1969 by gay Catholics in Los Angeles, Dignity was an officially recognized church group until 1986. To that point, Dignity had never openly questioned church teaching. But in 1986, the Vatican issued a "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons" and ordered dioceses to withdraw all support from groups like Dignity. The next year, Dignity countered with its own statement challenging the church's position. It argued that gay people can practice their sexuality in accordance with Christ's teachings. Dignity was then barred from church facilities in most dioceses. The church continues to hold that homosexuals do not choose their condition, but argues nonetheless that homosexual sex is sinful and that gays and lesbians should seek to lead chaste lives.

At its seventy-five chapters around the country, Dignity counts thousands of members unwilling to accept the church's view. Many chapters have opened lines of communication with diocesan officials in an effort to find common ground but, in many ways, the rifts have only grown deeper. Dignity has issued statements assailing the church's failure to ordain women and to approve the use of birth control. Some of its members have vocally criticized the church's opposition to abortion and the canonical regulation on priestly celibacy, although the organization takes no official position on either issue. And many Dignity chapters have rewritten sections of the Mass to eliminate what members view as sexist rhetoric. Dignity members were outraged a year ago when the Vatican ordered Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick to cease their ministry to gay Catholics because it allegedly strayed too far from Catholic doctrine. Nugent and Gramick were the founders of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

DIGNITY'S CHALLENGE : Can Homosexuals Feel at Home in Catholicism?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.