Dignity, the movement of Catholic homosexuals, is struggling with internal problems while also playing a more marginal role in the American church, according to Commonweal magazine (July 14).
In an in-depth report on the group, Shawn Zeller reports that “Dignity has struggled to bring in a new generation of gay Catholics. Its congregations are graying, and becoming more male-dominated. Lesbians, upset with the church for what they see as sexist as well as heterosexist policies, have abandoned the group in droves and joined more lesbian-friendly denominations or ceased to worship altogether.”
Dignity has sought to challenge and also dialogue with the Catholic Church on gay rights issues in the church, particularly on the acceptance of practicing homosexuals, but that task has grown more difficult as both parties’ positions have hardened. Most dioceses have prohibited parishes from hosting Dignity events.
Dignity, both the national office and in its 75 chapters in the U.S., has increasingly broadened its agenda, assailing the church’s failure to ordain women and approve the use of birth control. Criticisms of Catholic teachings on abortion, and priestly celibacy and support of liturgical innovations in the Mass (omitting the Nicene Creed in some cases) to avoid supposedly sexist rhetoric have become common in Dignity chapters, although the national organization does not take a position on such concerns.
The services at many Dignity chapters have a strong therapeutic dimension with a de-emphasis on sin. Zeller adds that Dignity’s increasing ties with other dissident Catholic organizations (such as Call to Action) as well as with secular gay activist groups (taking part in gay marriage initiatives in Vermont and other states) “further lessens the chance of reconciliation with the church, according to skeptics.” That may be one reason why many dioceses are seeking to win over Dignity members, setting up their own gay and lesbian outreach programs.
(Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, NY 10027-9832)