Dignity Toronto Dignité

Dignity Toronto Dignité meets on the second Saturday of each month at 2 pm at the 519 Church Street Community Centre located on Church Street (one block north of Wellesley Street).

For more information contact toronto@dignitycanada.org, and be sure to visit our webpage at dignitycanada.org and on Facebook.

Dignity Toronto Dignité Activities 2016-17

We generally meet at 2pm on the second Saturday of each month at the 519 Community Centre on Church Street. Members are also invited to meet for lunch at 1pm if they wish at an inexpensive restaurant on Church Street: "Gingers".  Our meetings are structured as follows:

1.  A welcome and introduction from the chairperson of the meeting.

2 . A "check-in" where each person present introduces him/herself, adding whatever they wish to let us know something about them at this time.

3. A "reflection" prepared by a volunteer among the group. (These have ranged from traditional prayers to readings, poems, and the presentation of art work.)

3. A general opportunity to share any "church news".

4. A general opportunity to share any "social justice news".

5. A topic of interest to the group is addressed by a presentation/video/audio with discussion of the content.

6. Individually spoken prayers (of petition and of thanksgiving) with the call and communal response: "In our joys and in our sorrows - May love abound."

7. Communal recitation of the "Our Father" (the long version) followed by a shared sign of peace.

The meetings end at 4:15pm. Attendance is usually around 9 to 12 persons. There are currently 10 paying members out of a pool of perhaps 15-16 total possible attendees. On average 9 out of 10 attendees have been male.

In additional to the meeting at the 519 there is usually also a monthly meal on a weeknight to which members are invited. Generally this is in the form of potluck at a member's home, and sometimes it is at a restaurant.

The meetings are announced in an email to listed people who have expressed interest in being included. One member who does not have email is reminded by a phone call. There are 61 people on the email list.

Topics addressed in our meetings this year have been:

October 8th: Richard Rohr OFM on  the topic of Franciscan spirituality and discussion (recordings).

November 12th: Interview/conversation with Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson on confronting power and sex in the Catholic Church recorded March 2012.

December 10th: John Dear's tribute to Daniel Berrigan (audio) at the "Call to Action" conference in Albuquerque NM on November 12th (dealing with active and prophetic non-violence in the pursuit of peace).

January 14th: Dr Greer Gordon on the topic "Compassionate Catalysts: Being Christ in the World" (audio) at the "Call to Action" conference in Albuquerque NM on November 13th

February 11th: The first episode of the PBS Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" on DVD.

Our March 11th meeting was cancelled so that members could attend the retreat organized by the Our Lady of Lourdes group: "All Inclusive Ministries". And instead of the usual one gathering at a member's home that month two gatherings were held at which the 2nd and 3rd parts of the PBS Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" were screened.

April 8th: Rita Cotterly, Ph.D. on the topic "Sexual and Spiritual" (audio) at the "Call to Action" conference in Albuquerque NM on November 12th

May 13th: Richard Rohr OFM on  the topic of justice and contemplative prayer in the era of Donald Trump (video).

June 10th: The fourth episode of the PBS Frontline series "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians" on DVD. (Note - the second and third episodes were screened at a member's home for those interested in seeing them as we didn't want to take up 4 of our monthly meetings with this series.)

Instead of a potluck in June we met at a Church St restaurant for dinner prior to the AIDS Vigil in Barbara Hall Park.

July 8th: Part I of a two part study of contemplation with videos by Richard Rohr.

August 12th 8th: Part II of a two part study of contemplation with videos by Richard Rohr. Frank also provided notes for the videos.

September 9th: Part I of a two part discussion of the topic "sex and us" beginning with the viewing of a video documentary about the lives of gay men living in New York in the decade of freedom from police oppression brought about by the Stonewall riots of 1969.

Email announcements are prepared by Frank and include announcements of other events which might be  of interest as well as passages on various topics.

The announcement of the October meeting included  a "Food for Thought" passage concerning justice and injustice quoting Marcus J. Borg's "Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power - And How They Can Be Restored." This quote from John J McNeill's "Taking a Chance on God" was also included in the email: "Only a sadistic God would create millions of humans as gay with no choice in the matter and no hope of changing and then deny them the right to express their gayness in a loving relationship for the rest of their lives under the threat of eternal damnation."

The announcement of the November meeting included a "Food for Thought" passage quoting John J McNeill's "Sex as God Intended" concerning God's special message conveyed by the LGBT community that we must learn to accept, enjoy and celebrate our bodies and their sexuality with gratitude to God.

The announcement of the December meeting introduced the topic of non-violence. Also there was a "Food for Thought" passage concerning the Bible and gay sexuality quoting Daniel Helminiak's book "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality".

The announcement of the January meeting included  a "Food for Thought" passage quoting Pope Francis's message for the World Day of Peace (which John Dear helped with) which focussed on Jesus' non-violent message. There was also a reflection on Meister Eckhart's quote "I pray God to rid me of God".

The email for the February meeting announced that the annual business meeting and election of the executive would take up part of the time and membership information was provided. There was also an extensive quotation from Patrick S Cheng's "From Sin to Amazing Grace: Discovering the Queer Christ".

The announcement of the April meeting included  a "Food for Thought" passage quoting Richard Rohr's "Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.

The announcement of the May meeting included  a "Food for Thought" passage quoting Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's "For Christ's Sake: End Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church...For Good."

The announcement of the June meeting included  a "Food for Thought" with passages from Ilia Delio's "Making All Things New: Catholicity, Cosmology, Consciousness".

The announcement of the July meeting included  an introduction to the topic "What is contemplation". The  "Food for Thought" section quoted passages from Diarmuid O'Muchu's "Inclusivity: A Gospel Mandate".

The announcement of the August meeting included  a "Food for Thought" section quoting passages from John McNeill's "Both Feet Firmly Planted in Midair: My Spiritual Journey."

The announcement of the September meeting included  a "Food for Thought" section quoting passages from Daniel Helminiak's book "What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality".

On February 22nd Frank sent a letter on behalf of the chapter and its supporters to Cardinal Collins with copies to the other bishops of the archdiocese taking the cardinal to task for his ill-conceived  comments about homosexuality in a radio interview he had given on CBC Radio in which he equated it with a tendency or inclination to which one can become a slave. The letter suggested books and videos where the Cardinal could get some education on the subject as well as offering a meeting with Church officials to talk about our lives, sexuality and the church. No response was received.

In conclusion, the chapter is continuing to offer a place of hospitality, fellowship and resourcefulness for LGBT Catholics and their friends in the GTA, where they can find mutual support, a chance for some personal development, as well as the possibility of responding communally to situations in church and society which threaten our well being and that of those more vulnerable than us. The chapter is appreciative of the free use of a meeting room at the 519 Community Centre.

2015-2016 Report from
Dignity Toronto Dignité

We continue our quest to accompany our members on their journeys, as varied as they are, as well as to challenge the injustices both within and outside the Roman Catholic establishment, especially as they relate to our loves and lives as LGBT Christians. We continue to meet on the second Saturday of each month at the 519 Church Street Community Centre since April 2012.  The space is provided free of charge. Our current executive consists of: Michael Armstrong, Steve Taylor and Frank Testin, and we have 12 paid members.

Meetings at the 519 Centre:

At our monthly meetings, we have developed a particular format which starts with a check-in (adopted from the Winnipeg chapter), a reflection presented on a rotation basis by members, and usually a discussion based on a live presentation, DVD, audio recording or printed materials.  We’ve also adopted the practice of closing the meeting with a shared prayer of petitions/thanks and the Lord’s prayer. Generally, we have 7-12 persons in attendance.

In the last year, we held discussions on the following:

  • Four talks on the Laudato Si encyclical presented by one of our supporters. See  promotional item here for the series. We are very fortunate to have such a gifted person to make these presentations. 
  • DVD "Do I Sound Gay?" documentary premiered in September 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It follows a gay man in his early '30's who, after a break-up, seeks the assistance of two voice coaches in New York and Los Angeles to help him sound 'more masculine.'  The film examines the self-concept we may have of ourselves and social stereotypes both inside and external to the LGBT community. Interviewees include Tim Gunn, San Savage and George Takai.
  • You Tube recording of Bishop John Shelby Spong delivering a talk at Elmhurst College in 2011 on his own journey understanding and accepting LGBT persons.
  • DVD of the presentation by Joan Chittister in April 2016 at the Forum on Theology and Education held in Oakville. The theme of the event was "Evolution and the Spiritual Life" with Diarmuid O'Murchu, and the question Joan addressed in the particular DVD session was: Who is God in an evolutionary world?
  • DVD of a talk by Miriam Therese Winter on "Vatican II: Church Forward" sponsored by Call to Action in October 2012.
  • At one of our meetings, we listened to and discussed two 10-15 min. audio recordings made by Richard Rohr on Franciscan alternative orthodoxy. At another meeting, we viewed a recording of Richard Rohr commenting on the liturgical changes that were imposed by the Vatican in late 2011.
  • You Tube recording entitled "Owning our Faith", a 14 min. documentary made at St. John the Apostle church in New York City that has an outreach to LGBT persons. The documentary has a series of interviews with a cross-section of LGBT persons and some of their relatives, and the documentary seeks to "foster dialogue about and encourage greater inclusion and acceptance of LGBT people in the Church." It was made in anticipation of the Ordinary Synod on the Family in October 2015.

Potluck Suppers: We have been holding monthly potluck suppers at members’ homes, usually on the fourth Tuesday of the month. (4-7 persons).

Ecumenical Good Friday Walk: We helped to plan for the event, and at least three members participated in the group of about 200. The theme this year was "I Thirst" and all stations focused on various aspects of the availability and use of water. It started at the edge of Lake Ontario at the base of Bay Street and ended at the Church of the Holy Trinity, an Anglican parish with a strong outreach to the homeless, located next to the Eaton Centre.

Advent Retreat/Workshop - The Francis Factor: How St. Francis and Pope Francis are Changing the World.  Using edited video recordings from a conference with the same title that was held in early September 2015 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we co-sponsored the retreat on November 28th with the Expansive Spiritual Gathering group at MCC-Toronto. Each sponsor had 7-8 attendees.  The conference speakers were Ilia Delio, Shane Claiborne and Richard Rohr, and our retreat was held in the Triangle Program classroom at MCC.

Pride Parade: Due to the lack of interest, we did not have an entry in this year's parade.

Letter to the CCCB:  After reading the letter of condolence which we discovered on the CCCB website written by Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, to the bishop of Orlando about the massacre that occurred there on June 12th, we wrote Bishop Crosby expressing the concern that he had not mentioned that the tragedy had occurred in a gay bar and how devastating that was for LGBT persons everywhere. In his reply to us on August 11th he commented:

As you are aware, the Catholic Church sees all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or choice of lifestyle, as possessing an equal and inherent dignity bestowed on them by God our Creator. The murder of any human being, regardless of his or her race, colour, creed,  class, age or membership in a particular community, is always a grave violation of God’s commandment. Any targeted violence against innocent persons, created in God’s image, is therefore inherently wrong and always inexcusable.

I appreciate your concern in this matter and thank you for taking the time to write. I believe that we share a common concern for the safety and well-being of all people, including those who feel most vulnerable. I also agree, and this is the faith of the Church, that all persons, “be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2358).

Members of the Toronto Chapter wanted to convey to Pope Francis their gratitude for his affirmative comments about the spiritual journeys of LGBT church members. We suspect that he is receiving push back from bishops who were appointed by his two predecessors due their dogmatic perspectives, as well as their supporters. In future correspondence, we plan to point out how the institution can prevent the spiritual and emotional injuries which he is calling on the church as field hospital to heal.

October 24, 2013

His Holiness, Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City

Dear Pope Francis,
We are writing you on behalf of Dignity Toronto, an organization for gay and lesbian Roman Catholics, their friends and family and supporters. Dignity is led and governed by its members and is not supported by the Hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Dignity Toronto is one of many Dignity chapters within Canada and the United States.
As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender baptised Catholics we have been waiting to hear many of the points you made in your interview, specifically as it applies to us and our sexual orientation. It gives us solace to hear that the Church does not want to judge us if we are persons of “good will” and that “it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person”. As we are part of God’s creation, we strive to live our lives according to God’s Divine plan.
Your Holiness, there were many areas you covered in your interview that when carried out will make the Church more caring, understanding and inclusive. Your reflections on community, discernment, consultation, the Church being made up of all of God’s people, the people’s yearning for pastors not legalistic clergy, and paying attention to the poor - give us great hope that the Church you envision is one that will lead the Church forward in love and compassion. We also share your view that the Church must consult with women in all of its important decisions.
Pope Francis, we commend you on the intentions to change the focus of the Church and bring it forward to be more compassionate and inclusive. Your task will not be easy. As part of that Church, we want you to know that our hopes and prayers are with you.
Yours most sincerely,
Earl Lagroix, Eugene McMullan, Frank Testin
Steering Committee, Dignity Toronto Dignité
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dignity Toronto Dignité Mission Statement

  1. To provide a safe place for LGBT/Q Catholics and allies to bear witness to the integrity and holiness of our lives and relationships, including opportunities for members to share our experiences as LGBT/Q and allied persons. This requires us to foster diversity and inclusion.  In response to Jesus’ invitation to become more fully human and alive, we aim to integrate our sexuality with our spirituality, and to     nurture self-acceptance.
  1. To work in collaboration with other Catholic organizations seeking reform in our church’s governance and official teachings, especially in the area of sexual ethics.  Acknowledging the large gap between what is officially taught and the actual beliefs, values and lives of most church members, we develop proposals for sexual theology, taking into account scripture, reason, scientific knowledge, tradition and the real-life experiences of our members.
  1. To bring about an increase in justice, transparency and accountability within the institutional church, we support the increased involvement of laity in governance structure, including decision-making roles.
  1. We advocate the acceptance of qualified persons in all church ministries, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or marital status, and commend Catholic parishes which offer LGBT/Q-affirming ministries.
  1. To work with others within and outside our church to live out the Gospel values of charity,  justice, compassion and community in helping those living in poverty, suffering illness or despair, or others living at the margins of society.
  1. We are all the people of God who endeavour to practice Jesus’ messages of non-violence, love and goodwill in dealing with any oppressors while working toward the non-violent elimination of conflicts among nations, injustices in our society and elsewhere in our global village and reversing the degradation of our sacred environment.

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.