Annual Report of the President of Dignity Canada Dignité


President’s 2019-2020 Report to the Dignity Canada Dignité House of Delegates Meeting

First, I’d like to welcome everyone to our first House of Delegates meeting taking place online. I hope that we’re still able to share our experiences and have productive dialogue about our organization and how to be helpful to our members and all LGBTQ persons in Canada and in other countries too.  There are four items during the past 12 months that I’d like to bring to your attention:


1.      Dignity Network Canada/Réseau Dignité Canada

This past year, Dignity Canada Dignité became a member of the Dignity Network which was officially incorporated in January 24, 2020.  It is a group of civil society organizations across Canada involved in supporting the human rights of people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC) globally. Its vision is a world where LGBTQ people everywhere enjoy full human rights and socio-economic well-being. It is governed by a Board of Directors and has a number of working groups to advance its collective work.

The Network is intended to be a Canadian hub for communication and knowledge-sharing across organizations on global LGBTQ and SOGIESC human rights issues, especially emphasizing the perspectives of international partners.

Present working groups are the following, as determined by interest of participating members:

ˇ         Communications and Public Awareness

ˇ         Advocacy and Government Relations

ˇ         Learning and Community of Practice

Background:  In February 2019, the federal government announced $30 million in dedicated funding over five years, followed by $10 million per year to advance human rights and improve socio-economic outcomes for LGBTQ people in developing countries. This new investment is intended to support Canadian LGBTQ and intersex organizations in their efforts to collaborate with partners in developing countries. It will also serve to support local and regional organizations and equality movements in developing countries, as well as partnerships and multilateral initiatives that contribute to policy, advocacy and research efforts in this area.

2.      Assistance to a Canadian Author

Dignity Canada Dignité and Dignity USA received an email requesting our assistance to help a Canadian author of gay romance novels have his novels carried by a large German bookseller and publisher.

The bookseller had been selling the German translation of his novel(s) for more than a year but then discontinued sales around 2012, saying it could not support LGBTQ materials.  At that time, the bookstore was owned by a Catholic diocese in Germany.  The media became aware of the bookstore’s actions and also was aware that it was selling soft-core heterosexual porn.  A boycott ensued and even the German ambassador to Canada contacted the Canadian publishing house offering assistance. The bookstore eventually went bankrupt, and the company is now under new ownership.

The author was seeking our support to encourage the bookseller to include print copies of the recent German translation of a new novel in every one of its locations in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.  Partially out of curiosity, one executive member took the opportunity to read the novel. Attached to this report is the letter I sent to the bookstore’s new owner.

3.      “LGBTQ-Free Zone” Communities in Poland

For many months now, LGBTQ persons in Poland have been demonized by the Law and Justice Party. It made opposition to LGBTQ equality a centrepiece of its campaign in the recent summer election. The re-election of the country’s President Andrzej Duda was backed by this party.  While it is disappointing that he was re-elected, on the positive side, in the runoff vote that took place on July 12th, he received 51% of the vote, while the alternative candidate, the Mayor of Warsaw, who supports equal rights for LGBTQ persons received 49%. The Party and Duda tried to instill fear and hatred of LGBTQ citizens among voters by promoting hateful rhetoric filled with lies.

Why this matter is especially relevant to Dignity Canada Dignité and our sister organizations and why it demands our considered response is that prominent Polish bishops have repeated and perhaps even lead the hateful rhetoric in a very public way.  And 93% of Poles are baptised Catholics.  Among other things, one of more bishops have publicly proclaimed that:

ˇ         we are child abusers.

ˇ         placing a rainbow flag around a statue of Jesus is desecration.

ˇ         Poland is under siege from a rainbow plague of gay rights campaigners.

ˇ         “… the most serious threat to humanity is not infectious diseases or hunger, or even ecological catastrophes, but precisely the gender ideology, which is a new variant of Marxism…which strikes at marriage and family, reducing people to the level of degenerate beings, unable to transmit further life.” (Bishop I. Dec)

ˇ         Criticism of bishops’ pronouncements is a form of persecution as Jesus was persecuted for refusing to “submit to political correctness” (i.e., the bishops are the victims for speaking out.)

Polish bishops who have made public remarks have been supported by other Polish bishops, as well as church leaders in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

On August 28th the Polish Bishops’ Conference released a position paper on LGBTQ+ issues. Among other things, it asserts that the Catholic teaching about the immorality of homosexual behaviour is universal, unchanging and infallible, based on the Bible, tradition and natural law (but is silent of the role of lived experiences of Church members.)  The document also notes that “it is necessary to create a counselling centre (also with the help of the Church or with its structures) to help people who wish to regain their sexual health and natural sexual orientation…” (para. 38) New Ways Ministry in the USA noted that the document relies heavily on the paper Male and Female He Created Them: Towards a Path of Dialogue on the Question of Gender Theory in Catholic Education released by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education in June 2019.  As a general comment, the bishops are often repeating the worst of the institution’s teachings on sexuality, sexual ethics and our civil rights that can be found in Vatican documents published in 1986, 1992, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2016 and 2019 as Mark and Eugene outlined in Dignity Canada Dignité’s paper “Cultivating Justice Love: Toward a Revision of Catholic Sexual Ethics” (s. 14) released February 11, 2019.

As a response to the Polish Catholic Church’s homophobic actions, I decided to send emails to each bishop, individually, and in my name alone.  I assumed that correspondence on a controversial topic sent by an individual from a foreign country was more likely to be read than something sent on behalf of a foreign organization. It’s difficult to know what strategy might be more effective. In addition, on my behalf our secretary sent an email to all on our Dignity list in which I described the challenges faced by LGBTQ persons in Poland and encouraging those on the list to also write one or more Polish bishops. We provided several links to information sources on the problem (including a link to the open letter sent to the bishops by the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics), my correspondence as an example, and a small database of contact information for all bishops.

4.      Global Network of Rainbow Catholics

In the spring 2020 we applied to become a member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC).  It’s still pending (actually, it got lost until a month ago.) I’ve become active on its Contemplative Spiritual Formation committee which meets on Zoom every second Friday.  Among the coordinators, by chance there’s one person from the World Community of Christian Meditation (chaplain/leaders are Laurence Freeman and John Main), one from Thomas Keating’s Centering Prayer school, and I’m familiar with Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation.

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
October, 2020