HOUSTON VOICE www.houstonvoice.com
APRIL 8, 2005 7
I arts cover story
Pope opposed recognition of gay couples, condom use
POPE, continued from Page 1
He also attempted to scapegoat homosexual priests for the church sex abuse scandals, according to Sam Sinnett, president of
Dignity USA, a group for gay Catholics.
Different time for gay Catholics
During the 1970s, ministries were
developed for gay men and lesbians within
the Catholic Church.
"When polls have been done among various religious groups, Catholics come out
among the highest in supporting gay and
lesbian rights. This could be because
Catholic teaching is more complicated
than some think, it does not condemn
homosexual orientation," said Francis
DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, a 28-
year-old ministry that seeks to build
bridges between gay Catholics and the
broader Catholic community.
Despite a broadening sense of acceptance
of gays within the Catholic Church, in 1986
Pope John Paul II issued a "Letter to the
Bishops of the Catholic Church on the
Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons." The
letter, which was written in English and was
seen as aimed at American Catholics, called
same-sex attraction an "objective disorder"
and "intrinsically evil."
"I think it was obviously on his watch
and his approval that we got the 1986 letter
on homosexuality as a problem," said
Mark Jordan, a religion professor at
Atlanta's Emory University whose books
include "The Silence of Sodom:
Homosexuality in Modern Catholicism."
"The view of that letter is now part of the
official catechism of the Catholic Church
and also been written into a number of other
official documents, so it would be very hard
to reverse," said Jordan, a gay Catholic.
Dignity USA, founded in 1969, had been
holding meetings in Catholic churches at
that time.In response to the pope's 1986 let-
The Vatican conducted an 11-year investigation into
Sister Jeannine Gramick's ministry to gay Catholics
before admonishing her in 1999. (Blade file photo)
ter, Dignity chapters nationwide voted to
no longer meet at Catholic churches.
"This was quite traumatic," Sinnett
said. "People are hurt by the church's language. We exist to support people who are
integrating spirituality and sexuality."
Dignity now has 3,500 to 4.000 members,
Sinnett said, and has about 50 chapters.
"There is an ultra-orthodox belief that
the church is the people of God," Sinnett
said. "The bishops may have shut out gays
and lesbians, but gay and lesbian
Catholics are still able to practice."
Sinnett said that he attends a Roman
Catholic mass with his Dignity chapter in
St. Louis and the service is held in an
Episcopal church. Why did some gay men
and lesbians go to such lengths to stay
close to a religion that had rejected them?
"During the Vietnam era, conservatives used to say to protesters 'Love it or
leave it' — they didn't understand the concept of loyal protest," Sinnett said.
"Faith is a lot more [than the church's
statements on homosexuality] we can dissent faithfully."
In 1987, moral theologian Charles
Curran was fired from his position at
Catholic University because he refused to
follow the Vatican line on homosexuality
and birth control.
Sister Jeannine Gramick began pas
toral work with gay men and lesbians in
1971 as a nun with the School Sisters of
Notre Dame in Baltimore. Gramick said
she was encouraged and supported in this
work by her church leaders at the time.
"Gays and lesbians felt so abandoned,
some hadn't been to church in 10 or 20 years
and felt there was no place for them."
Gramick said. "I told them every baptized
person has a place in the church, it belongs to
you as much as it belongs to straight people.
Despite the support for her work, the
Vatican conducted an 11-year investigation into what she was doing and in 1999
issued an order forbidding her to speak
about homosexuality or about the church
investigation of her ministry.
"During [John Paul's] papacy, the movement for gay and lesbian rights at the higher
level of the church deteriorated." Gramick
told the Blade this week. "But the movement
of middle management in the church in the
U.S. progressed due to advocacy by gays and
lesbians and their families.
"The pope's pronouncements became
much more repressive than pastoral. The
documents produced by U.S. bishops show
the contrast between what we see on the
Vatican level and on the national level,"
Gramick said that the movement toward
acceptance of gays within the Catholic
Church will continue no matter what negative pronouncements come from the Vatican.
Pope and politics
State-by-state roundup of legislation
ST. PAUL (AP) — After a passionate
debate last week that stretched over
three hours, the Minnesota House voted
77-56 to put a gay marriage ban before
voters next year. The bill would ask voters to amend the state constitution to
define marriage exclusively as a union
between a man and a woman. Supporters
of the constitutional amendment said it
would prevent courts from allowing
same-sex marriages, even though state
law already prohibits them. "The only
way to ensure that activist judges don't
circumvent the will of the people is by
allowing the people of Minnesota to have
their voices heard," said Rep. Dan
Severson (R-Sauk Rapids), the bill's sponsor. "That definition may stand in our
books." Democrats who opposed the ban
said it would trample the civil rights of a
minority without helping troubled heterosexual couples. "What single heterosexual marriage that exists today will be
saved by the passage of this amendment?" said Rep. Keith Ellison (DFL-
Minneapolis). "Nobody thinking about
getting divorced today will change their
mind based on this amendment."
AUGUSTA (AP) — Gov. John Baldacci last
week signed legislation that protects gays and
lesbians from discrimination. Within hours,
a religious group launched a campaign to
overturn the new law. "This act not only
offers essential civil rights, but serves as a
welcome," the Democratic governor told supporters who packed the State House Cabinet
Room. "Our doors are open to all people. This
is a proud day for Maine." The law, which
received final House and Senate passage the
night before the governor signed it, takes
effect in late June. The measure amends the
Maine Human Rights Act by making discrimination illegal in employment, housing,
credit, public accommodations and education
based on sexual orientation or gender Maine
law now prohibits discrimination based on
race, color, sex, disability religion, ancestry
and national origin. The new law will exempt
religious organizations that do not receive
public funds. It also makes clear the law does
not condone or authorize gay marriages.
DENVER (AP) — A Republican-led news
conference last week calling for a voter-
approved ban on gay marriage included a
sharp exchange after a state lawmaker
brought up bestiality as he said the issue
needed to be addressed. Rep. Jim Welker
(R-Loveland) said voters need to draw the
line on what marriage is and noted a
woman in India had married her dog a
year and a half ago. Democratic Rep.
Angie Paccione (D-Fort Collins) confronted Welker. "Come on, Jim. It's not the
same — it's not the same to have someone
marry a dog than it is to have two loving
people get married," she said. Paccione
said the "moderate majority" that elected
The Catholic Church, under John Paul
II, argued not only that homosexuality is
against natural law, but that gays should
no protections under civil law either.
In 1992 the Vatican issued a letter to
bishops urging them to oppose gay rights
The pope pressured the Italian government to withdraw support for the World
Pride Celebration in Rome in 2000.
The pope also supported the Federal
Marriage Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples and asked bishops in
America to become involved in campaigns
against same-sex marriage.
When the Roman Catholic Church in
the U.S. became embroiled in the scandal
involving priests sexually abusing
teenagers, usually males, the Vatican suggested that gays should be excluded from
seminaries. Sinnett, of Dignity USA, said
John Paul II attempted to scapegoat gay
priests during the scandal.
In November 2002 the church released a
letter entitled, "Doctrinal Note on Some
Questions Regarding the Participation of
Catholics in Political Life" which stated
that Catholic politicians should advance
Catholic teachings in their work.
AIDS activists say that by traveling to
Africa and speaking against the use of
birth control and condoms, the pope set
back efforts to curb spread of the disease
and that many have died because of the
pope's theological rigidity and opposition
to condom use.
While many gay advocates expressed
hope that the next pope will develop more
progressive positions on sexuality, 114 of
the 117 Cardinals who will decide on a
replacement were appointed by John Paul
II, and many doubt that any major doctrinal changes are on the horizon.
Van Cower contributed to this report.
Democrats to power at the Capitol last fall
wants lawmakers to focus on "kitchen
table" issues like jobs, education and
health care and not gay marriage. The
child of a biracial couple, she also bristled
at denying citizens rights because of their
sexual orientation, saying it was once illegal for blacks and whites to marry
NASHVILLE (AP) -- A freshman
Republican thinks his Web log is refreshing, but other lawmakers are offended.
They say Stacey Campfield's blog is unfair
and violates decorum. Campfield. who represents Knoxville, calls gay adoption and
abortion "the new face of the Democrat
Party" Under the title, "15 Ways to know if
you are a Democrat in the Tennessee
Legislature," Campfield offers such quips
as "You believe that the gender roles are
artificial but being homosexual is natural."
From staff and wire reports