We Are The Church: DignityUSA Townhall Report
On March 24th and 29th, DignityUSA hosted virtual townhall meetings in response to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s statement released on March 15th. The CDF’s statement, approved by Pope Francis, rejected the possibility of the Church offering blessings to same-sex unions. DignityUSA responded with a statement condemning the Vatican’s rejection of LGBTQI people, committing to continuing to marry LGBTQI couples, and to building a Church that is inclusive of all. Our response has been featured in a wide array of national new outlets and publications.
We offered the DigntyUSA Townhalls to give our members and allies the chance to respond and express their feelings and reactions to the Vatican statement and to strategize together as a national community as we chart a path forward. We are thankful for all of those who were able to attend and shared their reactions. We were joined by friends and allies from every part of the country and members from New Hampshire to Hawaii.
While we heard a diversity of responses, ranging from serious disappointment to an emboldened determination, one thing was clear: the work of DignityUSA is as critical now as ever. We’re working daily to make sure that hurtful statements like the Vatican’s are not the final word, but that the voices of LGBTQI Catholics, the families, allies, and advocates are heard.
For those who were unable to attend, we wanted to highlight just a few of the conversations that arose from our time together and that will be continuing as we continue to work for LGBTQI inclusion:
- Disappointment – Last October, Pope Francis made headlines after expressing support for civil union laws in a documentary production. While the Vatican later issued another statement clarifying the Pope’s comments, hopes were raised that the Pope could be signaling a new openness toward LGBTQI couples in the Church. For many, this new statement was particularly disappointing because of these expectations.
- The Strength of Our Community – Many of our long-time members and friends were not surprised by the Vatican’s statement, but found that their involvement in a Dignity chapter or caucus provides them with the affirmation and community that supports them amid the Church’s long history of abuses against LGBTQI people.
- Caring for Those on the Outside – While we are thankful for the support that LGBTQI-affirming communities provides from attacks, we are alert to the harm that this statement and others like it will do to those not in LGBTQI-affirming communities. We are particularly sensitive to the needs of Catholic LGBTQI youth whose families may not be accepting of their sexuality or gender expression. Studies consistently show that LGBTQI youth without affirming friends, families, and role models are at greater risk of self-harm, negative mental health outcomes, and homelessness. Statements like the Vatican’s put these young people at greater risk. While an increasing percentage of Catholics are accepting of their LGBTQI family members, our work must reach those without that support system. We are also mindful that people living in countries where LGBTQI identity or same-sex relationships are criminalized face increased threats whenever statements like this are made.
- The International Context – The Vatican’s statement comes as bishops in Germany and Austria had begun serious discussions about allowing priests to offer blessings to same-sex couples. Many suspect that the Vatican’s statement was, in part, an attempt to stifle these discussions occurring amongst German-speaking clergy. Already, the Vatican’s statement has sparked frustration from German church leaders. As we go forward, we must be prepared to ally and partner with LGBTQI-affirming supporters around the world.
- We Are the Church – While the Vatican’s statement represents a step backwards, we take heart in the conviction that our hope is rooted in the inclusion and welcome at the heart of Jesus’ message, not the pronouncements and decisions of a church hierarchy. We are comforted by the truth that the Church is found in communities that embody Christ’s love, affirm the holiness of LGBTQI people, and acknowledge their contributions to Christ’s body. We can strive for justice and inclusion, knowing that our work is blessed.
These conversations will continue as we respond to the Vatican and strengthen our communities. We’ll need your support every step of the way. Make a gift to DignityUSA today.