Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 17 February, 1997


Orlando Diocese Launches Gay/Lesbian Ministry

by John Long


"We may have hurt or wounded our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters through ignorance or misunderstanding," announced Orlando Bishop Norbert Dorsey. Citing the existence of an imagined "unwelcome" mood in Roman Catholic churches, the Bishop expressed his extreme regret that "many of them (gays and lesbians) have felt that the church was not welcoming and not interested."

"In the name of our church," he said, addressing approximately 200 worshippers at a special gay and lesbian community Mass in the Church of the Annunciation, "if that (hurt or wounding) has happened to any one of you, I ask your pardon and the pardon of God."

The Orlando Diocese gay and lesbian ministry now becomes one of approximately 30 of such gay and lesbian ministries established in 200-odd Catholic dioceses in the United States. It becomes part of a national movement within the Roman Catholic Church to reach out to the spiritual needs of the homosexual community. The Church's strategic move is significant because it contrasts with the prejudicial edict promoted by John Cardinal O'Connor of New York, who, several years ago, banished gay/lesbian Dignity groups from New York's Roman Catholic churches. Dignity, an international association, was the first Catholic gay and lesbian group to meet regularly on church premises. It made pioneering attempts to reform the anti-gay policies promoted by the top echelon in the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

In spite of the best of intentions on the part of Bishop Dorsey, who seems to offer an olive branch in hopes it will bring straying Catholics back to the Roman fold, even his associates in this newly-evolving movement admit that what the Catholic clergy now offers hardly goes far enough to satisfy the spiritual needs of gay men and lesbians who live full lives as such. Father James Schexnayder, of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries, admits that the Church's position on homosexuality still limits same-sex love in ways unacceptable to men and women who have effectively come out of their closets. He hopes, he says, that these people will feel that "its still essential that they be active as Catholics."

"What does this mean?" asks one estranged Catholic who no longer attends masses, "We're still not allowed to have sex." Another "fallen away" Catholic, Patty Sheehan, a one-time candidate for the Orlando City Council, says that the new ministry does not go far enough to encourage her return to church environs. "It's progress," she told the Orlando Sentinel, "but what kind of progress is it? I'd rather go somewhere where I'm welcome for what I am than have to go somewhere where I'm expected to change."

Roman Catholic doctrine still condemns same-sex love-making because it opposes any sexual activity outside of marriage. But the church condemns same-sex marriage too.

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