New York’s gay Irish keep mass attendance alive
Dignity group seeks to fill spiritual need for Catholics
Two authoritative Catholic voices in New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, and Bill Donahue, head of the Catholic League, a conservative Catholic civil rights organization, both espouse traditional religious teaching. Donohue referred to homosexuals as “disqualified by nature” from marriage, since they cannot have children, on the June 28 broadcast of PIX 11 Morning News.
According to Dignity, homosexuality as an expression of love is consistent with Christ’s teaching.
“For most, ‘coming out’ means leaving the Church,” said Fay. “Thank God for Dignity. It challenges certain aspects of the Catholic tradition it comes from.”
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Dignity’s unconventional theology opposes the conservative tradition embodied by Irish Americans like Dolan or Donohue. Dignity priests including Morris consider progressive preaching on a variety of social issues a necessity, since the Roman Catholic Church has grown increasingly conservative under the guidance of Pope John Paul II, and the current Holy See, Pope Benedict XVI.
The Archdiocese of New York last published Church statistics in 2009. That year, 2.6 million Catholics were registered, roughly 45 percent of the total population of the area. Many lay Catholics in New York support same-sex marriage, yet Diginity membership is at an all-time low, with young people particularly under-represented.
“Although we’ve diminished in weekly attendance at Dignity over the last 30 years, our message has gotten out more and more,” said Morris. “Lay Catholics are way ahead of the Church in accepting LGBT persons.”
On Sept. 20, Archbishop Dolan, in his capacity as the President of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote a letter to President Obama, urging him to dissuade his administration from discounting the Defense of Marriage Act. The Act was enacted in 1996 and defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. Dolan wrote that the Department of Justice’s decision to disregard this piece of legislation last February would “precipitate conflict between the Church and state, to the detriment of both institutions.”
Fay attended a conference on marriage chaired by Dolan in Poughkeepsie last September. “I sat for hours listening to people use their intelligence and power to denounce our families, our humanity,” recounted Fay. “The Pope welcomes conservatives. I would love to see him welcoming the gifts of progressive Catholics.”
On a recent Sunday evening, Morris stood in the small hall of St. John’s, and addressed his fiercely close-knit congregation. The focus of the service was solidarity, and Morris reflected on Dolan’s anti-gay message.
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