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When the Catholic Church Oppresses LGBTQ+ People, Dignity Offers Safe Spaces

Theologian Edwina Gateley said it best: “We are the Church; they are the hierarchy.”  This is demonstrated in the latest oppression by the hierarchy in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, where LGBTQ+ people are being excluded from the sacraments and roles in the church.

In response to these recent discriminatory actions, Executive Director of DignityUSA, Marianne Duddy-Burke, noted, “It is a cruel attempt to prevent LGBTQ+ people from living as we were created, becoming our true selves, and experiencing the joy and grace of loving relationships. That just won’t work. What it will do is shame people, potentially into despair and suicide.”

The Marquette actions are yet another example of how the hierarchy in the institutional Roman Catholic Church are not acting as members of God’s church on earth. The hierarchy are meant to take the role of shepherds in the Church, guiding and caring for the flock. Pastoral care is meant to be a primary function of the hierarchy. Yet, people who identity as LGBT+ are excluded and 50% of the Church, women, are excluded from the Church’s highest positions.

I grew up in Central Massachusetts going to a small chapel where my Catholic faith was nurtured, never hearing a “fire and brimstone” homily or a homily that excluded people in the church. I was very lucky. As I became a teen, I grew to learn that those who had same-sex attraction, like myself, were excluded. This led me to lead a double life in my young adult years, separating my sexuality from my spirituality.

In my 30s, I was lucky to step into the doors of a church where my spirituality and sexuality were encouraged to be integrated. That church, that community was Dignity/Boston, a chapter of Dignity USA, a Catholic community where people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are fully welcome as full members of the Church. Liturgies at Dignity are frequently lay lead and have gender parity. Dignity/Boston has performed many same sex weddings, including my own. I was fortunate to be married to the man I love through the sacramental blessing of Holy Matrimony in front of over 100 family and friends.

Many changes will need to come to the institutional church in order to preserve itself in the future and not be perceived as a “leaner, meaner” church, a direction that the Diocese of Marquette appears to be taking currently.  The institutional church could learn a lot from Dignity—a welcoming church, a church of radical inclusion. 

–Dave Houle is a member of both SpeakOUT Boston and Dignity/Boston.