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Annual Report of the President of Dignity Canada Dignité

 

This report focuses on five noteworthy items in the 2017-2018 year:

First, we support LGBT persons in other countries who face persecution due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

·  Through our Dignity Canada Dignité email list (DCD list), we informed our members of the international Intimate Conviction conference held in Kingston, Jamaica on October 12-13, 2017 which examined Christianity and the unjust anti-sodomy laws in Commonwealth countries. We encouraged them to watch the presentations which were available on line at the conference’s website.

·   Through our list, we encouraged our members to write to federal government officials in advance of the Leaving No One Behind: The Equal Rights Coalition Global Conference on LGBTI Human Rights and Inclusive Development held August 5-7, 2018 in Vancouver, B.C.  DCD sent an email to the Prime Minister’s office and we added our name to another email sent on behalf of 33 organizations.

Second, we responded in a number of ways to the firing of a parish assistant in the Archdiocese of Edmonton in February. We sent a strongly worded letter by registered mail on February 14th to Archbishop Richard Smith condemning the dismissal. We also sent three items to those on the DCD list informing them of the bishop’s unjust action, giving them links on how they could read or watch the media coverage of this action (Mark had multiple interviews), and encouraging them to contact the archbishop’s office.

Third, there have been controversies in at least two provinces related to LGBT students in the school system. 

In Alberta, a coalition of private schools and lobby groups sought an injunction to stop the implementation of a new law that would prohibit schools from informing parents, without student consent, that their children had joined the school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA).  In June a judge turned down the request, noting that GSAs do not infringe on parental or religious rights. 

·   In Ontario, the new Conservative government is requiring that teachers revert back to the 1998 sex-ed. curriculum, with minor changes, and to discard the sex-ed. curriculum introduced in 2015.  In addition, a “snitch” line has been set up so that persons can report teachers who are not complying with the 1998 curriculum.  Civil-rights and teacher groups are taking legal action to restore the 2015 curriculum for the health and welfare of Ontario students as well as teacher security.

Fourth, in the USA some conservative Catholic members of the hierarchy and conservative Catholic groups are blaming gay priests, and Pope Francis, for clergy sexual abuse or its coverup. Others, such as Pope Francis and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, point their fingers at clericalism – the privileges and honour given to priests, as if they are somehow more holy or loved than the rest of us.  See Appendix A for a chronology of events that unfolded in the second half of August.

Fifth, Pope Francis remains an enigma in terms of the church and the homosexual. For example, in May Juan Carlos Cruz, who is a Chilean clerical sex abuse survivor, reported that in a private conversation, the pope affirmed the man’s gay sexual orientation.  He reported that Pope Francis said that “You are gay and that does not matter. God made you like this and loves you like this, and I don’t care.” On the other hand, in a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops that month, the pope allegedly affirmed an existing Vatican ban on gay men entering the priesthood.

In conclusion, I thank all chapters and members for being the hands and feet of Christ in this time and place.  We support one another in many different ways, both large and small. As our energy and health allow, we reach out to others both at home and abroad to bring about a more loving and just world.

Appendix A

Chronology of Events in August 2018

Related to Sexual Harassment and Abuse

There are at least three events that have happened in quick succession.  

·         The report of a grand jury in Pennsylvania issued on August 14th concluded that bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it. The report covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims. It also stated that there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward. In fairness, almost all of the investigated cases occurred before 2002 when the dioceses adopted new rules and procedures.

·         On August 17th, the Catholic News Agency reported the results of interviews with seven priests mainly from the Archdiocese of Newark.  The interviews revealed that Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and later Archbishop John Myers, when they were in charge of the Newark Archdiocese, either engaged in sexual harassment or assaults of seminarians and priests, and allowed others to do so.  The interviews were akin to #MeToo in the Newark Catholic institution.

·         On August 20th, Pope Francis issued a letter on clerical sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults and cover-ups. It has its strengths (e.g., critique of clericalism) and weaknesses.  One weird item is that, among other things, the Pope asks all Catholics to fast and pray, in order to bring these abuses to an end. In contrast, retired Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson has described in two books how many systemic factors need to be examined and changes possibly made to address this multifaceted problem.

·         On August 26th as the World Meeting of Families in Dublin was drawing to a close, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, former nuncio to the USA, released a long letter accusing Pope Francis and other church officials of their inaction in primarily dealing with the complaints against Cardinal McCarrick, and blamed all of the Catholic Church’s current problems on supposed “homosexual networks” within the Church. He and his supporters, including other members of the hierarchy, have asked for the resignation of Pope Francis and the removal of all gay priests. Francis DeBernardo at New Ways Ministry wrote that Archbishop Vigano offers no hard evidence of the supposed “homosexual networks,” and relies instead on hearsay and with an expectation that his words will be accepted as truth.

I recently ran across this quote and I think that we have followed it in our efforts:

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks

Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,

Yours are the eyes, you are his body.

Christ has no body now but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world.

Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

  Teresa of Avila  (1515-1582)

Dignity Canada Dignité is Canada's organization of Roman Catholics who are concerned about our church's sexual theology, particularly as it pertains to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. We work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church's leadership and teachings.

Frank Testin
president@dignitycanada.org
September, 2018