Local Austin News: Dignity Conference Draws Crowd

July 7, 2007

From the Austin American Statesman:

About 225 members of Dignity’s chapters across the country convened in Austin to continue spreading the message that “our sexuality is not in conflict with our Catholicism,” said Jeff Stone, a national spokesman for Dignity.


Such church teaching can be changed only if gay Catholics learn “to be honest and upfront” about sexuality, said the Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop and supporter of gay rights.

Spong, who gained notoriety when he ordained a gay priest in 1989, delivered the keynote speech Friday morning, arguing that no church has the right to withdraw its blessings for two people “who live in love.”

“Christianity is not about making someone more religious, moral or righteous,” he said. “The single mission of Christianity is to help people live fully.”

Spong recalled his childhood years in South Carolina, where he said liberals saw homosexuality as “an incurable disease” and conservatives condemned it as an evil lifestyle.

Maddock, who has attended eight Dignity conventions, said she’s seen signs of improvement. Her parish in Long Island has started baptizing gay couples’ children.

She said she and Kane have found the strength to confront those who question her faith.

“They want us to go away,” Kane said, “but we will not.”

Read the whole thing here.




15 Responses to “Local Austin News: Dignity Conference Draws Crowd”

  1. FrMichael Says:

    I enjoyed the story for what it didn’t say:

    1) A national Catholic organization only gets 225 people? I bet Jeff has been a member of TEC parishes with more than 225 LGBT parishioners.

    2) The keynote speaker is not only a non-Catholic, but basically a non-Christian.

    3) The keynote speaker, unaware of the Catholic Church’s interior dynamics, recommends that gay Catholics be “upfront and honest.” This will not cause the change he seeks but will help identify such people for termination from diocesan and parochial ministries.

    4) Another quoted speaker appeals to the supposed split between bishops and tolerant parishes. Basically, what that means is that once responsible authority becomes aware of miscreant pastoral practices, the hammer will come down. Excellent!

    Anyways, one can find out the truth via the mainstream media IF one knows how to read it.

  2. Jeff Says:

    Well, Fr. Michael, you are certainly entitled to your opinions.

    I certainly do not know nor can I relate to those who are GLBT and choose to remain Roman Catholic, given the authoritarian polity and anti-GLBT theology. But there are many who ask why I continue to remain Episcopalian/Anglican given what is going on (or even Christian), and I can simply answer “this is where I am called to be.”

    Given that, I cannot fault those, however many or few they are, for standing up and speaking the truth. How sad it would be for them not to.

    How much your comments remind me of the temple authorities who tried to silence Jesus. Same on your other thread with comments about ‘normative tradition’.

    ‘Normative tradition’ is change. For a long time, the ‘normative tradition’ had no problem justifying slavery, condemning bi-racial marriage, treating women as men’s property, and many other things that we just don’t do.


  3. Joe Muray Says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Thank you for the update concerning the Dignity convention in Austin, Texas. The organization has done a lot over the years to help a lot of people enter the kingdom here and now.

    Concerning the remarks of Fr. Michael, I find it curious that a catholic priest would engage himself in the numbers game concerning attendance at the convention. Applying his same standard let’s say to the ordination of priests in the Catholic Church it must mean the leadership is somewhat dysfunctional. The numbers game has nothing to do with effectiveness or justice.

    Addressing his second opinion about the convention’s speaker I think Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal bishop was a wonderful selection. Sure I would have loved to see a Catholic Bishop speak at the convention, but Fr. Michael get real. Would you come out in such a arena, if you were gay?

    I was glad to see that Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond had the courage not to condemn this conference, rather he offered his prayers and full support of the Church’s none discrimination position against GLBT people. I am sure this pastoral bishop will get the fundamentalists up in the air over this, like he did in supporting Texas – Futile Law in the baby Emilio matter.

    Jeff, keep up the good work. Please keep me in your prayers, as I will you. God bless.

    Joe Murray
    US Convener
    Rainbow Sash Movement

  4. Jeff Says:

    Thanks for your comments, Joe, and you will be in my prayers.


  5. FrMichael Says:

    When it comes to a ministry setting, I don’t play the numbers game: some of it is conducted in large settings, some of it is one-on-one. But a national convention is not ministry per se, it is a meeting. And the size of this national Dignity meeting reflects its status on the outskirts– in the outer darkness, so to speak– of Catholicism.

    I have never met the Bishop of Austin but recently met a number of Austin seminarians. IMHO it doesn’t appear to me that the Lavender Mafia has a long-term future among the presbyterate of the diocese.

  6. Jeff Says:

    “Lavendar Mafia”? Come on, Fr Michael. You were the one who said that the “hammer was going to come down” on these folks. That sounds more like the mafia than what these folks are doing.


  7. Joe Muray Says:

    Fr Michael,

    Is that your response, whining about the Lavender Mafia? Please use a little reason and/or common sense. You are engaging in irrational generalizations. The subject matter is far more complicated than that.

    By the way, I was in Austin for vacation the same time the convention was going on. Stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel on 7th and Congress what a wonderful place, you should try it sometime. It may change your attitude.

    Did not attend the convention because I am not a member of the organization. However, my lover and I found the city to be tolerant and inclusive. You could learn from the good people of your city.

    Concerning our gay seminarians, and I will add religious who knows where they might appear. In any case, I do not agree with your opinions about men, and women who live out their vows with integrity.

    I will say our seminary system is dysfunctional it attracts immature people, thereby producing immature clergy. It needs fixing.

    Like the numbers game, name calling is not addressing the topic at hand.

    God Bless,

    Joe Murray

  8. Mark Says:

    Anyone who uses the term “Lavender Mafia” is unworthy of the collar.

  9. FrMichael Says:

    I looked diligently on the Austin diocesan website but didn’t find anything about the Austin bishop’s statement about the conference, so I’ll accept your characterization of it. I would note though that the Catholic non-discrimination position is significantly different than that expressed by the LGBT organizations. On the diocesan website, you can find a letter by Austin’s bishop strongly supporting the Federal Marriage Amendment, for example.

    My fourth point had nothing to do with the existence of Dignity and everything to do with wayward parish priests and parish ministries. The existence of the bishop’s prayers for this convention don’t address my point, which is that some convention speakers stated that “tolerant” parishes, in general, have to lay low lest their bishops discipline them.

    My fear is that these straying parishes all too often aren’t disciplined. It’s good to know that the truth of Catholicism is preserved somewhere in this country, because where I am (California) the dissidents run amuck.

    The Lavendar Mafia is not a figment of conservative Catholics’ imagination but a reality in all-too-many Catholic organizations. My own diocese is unaffected but we have a neighboring diocese in its thrall. The seminary I attended was afflicted until the bishop stepped in to correct some of the more glaring deficiencies. But I think we both agree that there is much to be done in the seminaries, although I somehow doubt we would agree on the solutions!

  10. Jeff Says:

    I myself was unfamiliar with the term “Lavender Mafia” until I just looked it up on Wikipedia.

    Given that, I still find the use of the term deragatory and inappropriate. I particularly find Wikipedia’s definition that relates gay priests to the Roman Catholic pedophilia problem troubling, since it is well-established that there is no correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia. I think those problems likely stem from the power imbalance that Fr. Michael has just been advocating– where he wants somebody to “discipline” those who don’t maintain the “truth of Catholicism”– as if there is some kind of “pure faith” to which anybody can claim an exclusive grip.

    That kind of authoritarian egocentrism is problematic for me, and betrays what I think is a truer catholicism– the truth that we are bound together in our diversity and ability to learn from each other because of our differences– not because of any mandatory uniformity.

    But I digress… I don’t know anything about Roman Catholic seminaries except that the new pope has tried to expel all gays from them, whether they are celibate or not. That, I believe, is a huge travesty of God’s justice and will be corrected in the fullness of time.


  11. Joe Muray Says:

    Fr. Michael,

    I am of the opinion that people of goodwill can communicate with each other, they do not always have to agree.

    Concerning Austin Bishop Gregory Aymond, I read his quote in a local Austin Newspaper. Has the Bishop said something that contradicts Church Teaching by saying “I will keep you in my prayers, and that the Church is opposed to any unjust discrimination against gay people?”

    Is it wrong to show compassion and love directed at individuals or groups, we may not agree with?

    Concerning the Bishop’s position on the Federal Marriage Amendment, that is interesting, but that is not we are speaking of here. I thought our topic was the “Dignity Convention.” However, I do find it interesting, and problematic that members of the National Council of Catholic Bishops are turning to the state to promote it’s dogmatic belief.

    I hope you would agree that language can be hurtful, and violent at times. While I cannot speak for Jeff, I think we are in agreement that the use of such terms as “Lavender Mafia” is offensive. That said I do not think that was your intention, and would hope going forward it is water under the bridge.

    Are we in agreement that the seminary system is broken? Would you agree, or disagree?

    Dignity nationally is losing members, and had to downsize even their national leadership offices in DC. But I think this is true for a lot of non for profit Catholic Organizations across the board. It is getting harder and harder to find volunteers to do the work of the Church.

    I live in Chicago, and I know Dignity is struggling here. However, Cardinal Francis George like his predecessor the late Cardinal Joseph Berndin, does allow for a weekly Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Mass every Sunday at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I suspect this is one of the reasons Dignity has such low numbers in Chicago. However, I do believe it touches the lives of many who have been hurt, and have brought many back to the Church. In my opinion, it is a worthwhile organization because of that.

    Father, there is tension in the Church between a lot of people, and groups. Sadly at this juncture in time the Church can only proclaim a unity of authority, but not love.

    Many are leaving. Both Gay and Straight. Perhaps that is where our energies need to be directed.

    There is a great deal of Diversity in the Western Church. In my opinion, authoritarianism is not an adequate response to that Diversity. We must begin to love each other in the way that Christ asks us to do. Only than will we truly have unity.

    Orthodoxy in the Church is an interesting topic. Who is and is not seems to be this Papacy’s hot button topic. Or, which community of faith is or is not a Church. Again, I think the solution is communication.

    Communication is key Father. We must begin to communicate respectfully, and be able to disagree respectfully. God Bless


  12. FrMichael Says:

    Dear Jeff:

    My usage of the term Lavender Mafia is very specific: where homosexual priests with strong bias against the Church’s teachings on homosexuality use their authority to attack or suppress priests who are in support of the Church’s position. It is not a fantasma but a phenomena I have personally experienced and witnessed.

    Reading the Wikipedia entry, I see there was a tie to the sexual abuse scandal of the Catholic Church. I think the presence of Lavender Mafias was a contributing cause in some places, but plenty of straight prelates engaged in coverups as well. Thus I see the Crisis more in terms of conspiracy by the bishops rather than putting it into a straight/gay category.

    That being said, there is a well-documented correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia in the Catholic priesthood, given that the vast majority of victims were male and a majority were adolescent males.

    Dear Joe:

    I don’t have any problem with the Austin bishop offering prayers for Dignity.

    Yes, the seminary system is broken but is improving from its nadir in the 70s to the mid-90s.

    Tension between the Church and a lot of people is to be expected. Jesus said as much. Particularly in a post-Christian society.

  13. Joe Murray Says:


    I think Fr. Michael’s justification for the use of the term is typical of stereotyping groups of people to justify another individual or group’s justification of bigotry (homophobia).

    Like racism the justifications were there a plenty. Like racism individuals were not allowed to marry inter racially, because that was not how God wanted it. O, and how they could justify it with the Scriptures. Fr. Michael do you remember when the slaves had to jump the brum stick? Or more recently when Catholic Church’s practiced red lining in certain Arch/dicoeses?

    If Fr. Michael cannot engage in little respectful dialogue than perhaps we should give him a little of his own medicine.

    All the Child molestors in the Catholic Church are priests, so all priests must be child molestors. Any priest should be suspect. This clerical system will protect their own at the cost of little children. Priest therefore are morally dysfunctional and incapable of controlling themselves while around little children. The recent settlement in the Archdiocese is yet another example of this. How many examples do we need of the Papal court’s support of this sickness?

    Fr. Michael the above is an example of what you are engaging in. I can justify about anything giving the time and so can you. That however is not the purpose of this conversation. I asked you not to use the term, because I found it offensive. Jeff, on his part is younger and had to look it up. This term has been used to attack good priests and bishops over the years.

    Again, I am asking you to refrain from the use of this term so a dialogue can take place. If you are only interested in hurlying insults, that tells me you have no interest in dialogue. This is so typical of the so called far right and pro life mentality within in the Church. When it comes reasoned discussion they engage nonsense.

    God bless,

    Joe Murray

  14. Jeff Says:

    I completely agree.

    And furthermore, the use of the term would not have originated at all in the first place would the Roman Catholic Church have initiated a doctrine of equality and respect for GLBT people instead of one of discrimination and intolerance. Then GLBT priests of good conscience could be “out of the closet” and celibate in their roles within the RCC’s priesthood (just as straight preists are – celibacy for priests is another matter entirely for the RCC), and the whole issue would be moot.


  15. FrMichael Says:

    OK, I won’t use the term “LM” but what that doesn’t remove the reality in some places within the Catholic Church in America of homosexual priests in chanceries, parishes, and seminaries using their position to undermine priests (both straight and gay) faithful to the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

    If you can think of another term, I will happily use it.

    “Any priest should be suspect. This clerical system will protect their own at the cost of little children.”

    I actually agree with this part of your rant. Up until the Dallas policy was implemented I had no confidence in the bishops’ ability (with a few notable exceptions) to remove child abusers from the ministry. I’m still suspicious, since in California a few more have appeared long after Dallas was supposedly implemented. This protection racket casts a shadow on all of us priests.

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