By Jim Smith
GLBT Catholics and progressive Catholics in general get hassled from both sides of the holy water font. One one side, from some non-Catholics and former Catholics who wonder aloud–quite reasonably enough–why queer and progressive people would keep the “Roman Catholic” when it appears Rome and its local representatives would rather they take up space in somebody else’s church. On the other side, from many within the Catholic church hierarchy and some in the pews who in fact do want the queers gone for good.
But whose church is it anyway? Many Roman Catholics, including scores of thousands in Minnesota, understand that when they first got their head wet at that above-mentioned font, they were baptized to one day own their faith, follow the Jesus of the Gospels, and let a well-informed conscience be their guide. Sometimes that means keeping the “Catholic” while standing up and speaking truth to power. And that they did, in Minnesota last year and this, and in very Catholic states like Rhode Island, Maryland, and Delaware.
For over 40 years, in fact, a community of Catholics across the nation called DignityUSA has been gathering for support and speaking truth and love to power. DignityUSA is the nation’s largest organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and allied Catholics. They’ve been standing without apology in that strange space between those who reject the Catholic Church altogether and some Church leaders for whom Catholicism means “pray, pay and especially obey.”
For a few proud days, DignityUSA will stand in Minneapolis this summer for its biennial convention, held at the downtown Hilton from July 3-7. “We’re thrilled to be meeting in Minnesota, where people of faith are such a powerful force for change, speaking to the people in the pews as well as to legislators and other leaders,” said Lourdes Rodriguez-Nogues, president of DignityUSA.
A Celebration of Multi-Faith Organizing in Minnesota
The convention opening ceremonies will feature a special celebration of the historic success of Minnesotans in defeating a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to a union of a man and a woman last fall, securing marriage equality through the legislative process in May, and the crucial role played by a broad coalition of people of faith in those victories. Faith communities of all kinds who raised up the beauty of same-sex relationships are invited to participate in the convention’s parade of banners.
Let Justice Flow Like A River
Throughout the convention, attendees will be strategizing, praying, and strengthening the gathered community for the challenges ahead. Positive queer theology, marriage equality advocacy, transgender dignity, workplace discrimination, church worker injustice, bullying, mysogyny and homophobia in the church, racial and gender discrimination, these and other justice issues will be addressed.
Martin Grochala, convention chair and member of Dignity/Chicago described the goal of the convention: “Attendees will return home with skills for addressing injustice in their communities and with a clear understanding of what have been proven to be successful advocacy strategies. The work at this conference will be rooted in an understanding of Catholic social justice teaching through the lens of the LGBTQ experience. We will ask attendees to look seriously at justice issues in their communities -in both the LGBTQ and broader civic and religious communities.”
All Are Welcome
All are welcome to attend the convention, from long-time Dignity members to those brand new to the movement. A woman’s retreat and a Leadership Institute for young adults will precede the convention. Those new to DignityUSA are welcome to attend these also. Register at Conv2013.Dignityusa.org.
Year-round there is a small Twin Cities chapter of Dignity that meets every 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month at 5:00PM for Mass and potluck. Dignity/Twin Cities meets at Prospect Park United Methodist Church in Minneapolis. All are welcome to attend once or often.
Even the Pope Can’t Tell Us Who We Are
These aren’t easy times to be Roman Catholic for queer persons and families or their many, many Catholic allies. But a rich life is often found in the midst of righteous struggle, in the adventures faced when we walk with dignity and hope on treacherous ground.