A (Long) Open Letter to my friends at Dignity/Washington
This evening, a Dignity/Washington “Task Force considering the issue of Women Presiders at Mass will facilitate a 1-hour community dialogue … to express thoughts and opinions on this issue.”
For many years, D/W was my spiritual home, a place where I was privileged, along with other LGBT Catholics, “our family and friends,” to gather regularly for the celebration of Eucharist. As I am not able to be present for this community dialogue, I’d like to do the next best thing. I’d like to say from afar what I wish I could say in person. So, I am putting in writing my thoughts and ideas on this fundamentally significant issue. I say it’s “fundamentally significant” because, for us as Catholics, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians. That phrase from the Second Vatican Council (Lumen Gentium, ch. II) reminds us that it is most clearly in the public celebration of Eucharist that we tell the world who we claim to be, and that we are united with all of our sisters and brothers throughout the world and even across the centuries who share this same apostolic faith. It continues to be a truism that any Catholic can go into a Catholic church anywhere in the world and join in the Eucharistic celebration — even if that celebration is in a different language and an entirely different culture — and still feel very much “at home.”
At the beginning of this dialogue, it’s essential to define some terms and then clarify what this discussion is really all about. Without those definitions, I contend that the conversation would be one of mere emotion and opinion, and as such, would be incomplete.
First, what does “presider” mean? In liturgical practice, a “presider” is any person who leads a community during a liturgical prayer. It is a term that has meaning precisely in the act of doing. Thus, in the Catholic context, it is a functional term only. There is no such thing as a presider outside of the act of presiding. The term should not be confused with terms referring to an office or position in the Church (such as “Pastor” or “Catechist”), nor with terms that denote one’s sacramental character. “Pastor,” for example, indicates someone who holds an official position as the leader of a local parish and “Catechist” is someone who has been designated to teach and guide those seeking full initiation into the Church (as in the RCIA process). “Baptized” and “Confirmed” and “Ordained” indicate the sacramental character of a person who has received those respective Sacraments. By way of illustration, consider the Abbess of a community of nuns who leads her religious sisters daily in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Each time she does this, she is “presiding.” While engaged in the act of presiding at morning and evening prayer, it would be correct to say she is the Abbess and that she is functioning as the presider at those particular liturgical celebrations. Outside of those times, she would still be Abbess, which is the formal office which is hers as the leader of her community. Outside of those times of liturgical celebration, however, it would be somewhat meaningless to refer to her as “presider” because there is no “presiding” going on. Similarly, there have been many times when the D/W community has had prayer services of various types and a community member — male or female — has led that prayer. At such times, that person could properly be called “presider” because he or she was engaged in the act of presiding over the celebration. Once the act of presiding is over, one is no longer a presider.
Second, what does “Mass” mean? Mass is a term which Catholics use to refer to our primary liturgical celebration. The Mass is the celebration of the Eucharist, and the Eucharist is at the heart of the Sacramental life of the Church. One of the hallmarks of the D/W community’s celebration of Eucharist is that it has, heretofore, always adhered to the Roman Catholic Church’s norms for what is called a “valid” celebration of the Eucharist. The apostolic Christian Churches of both the East and the West have, for two millennia, recognized the importance of “validity” in celebrating the Sacraments. For example, in order for the celebration of Baptism to be valid, water must be used, along with the invocation of the Trinity. If someone were baptized simply “In the name of Almighty God,” that baptism would not be considered valid Christian Baptism, because the Holy Trinity was not invoked. For some sacraments, one essential element for validity is the “minister of the sacrament.” Catholic and Orthodox Traditions have always identified a validly ordained priest as the minister of the Eucharist. Thus, as a way of expressing its own commitment to our Catholic identity, Dignity/Washington has always celebrated Eucharist with a presider whom the Catholic Church recognizes as a validly ordained priest. (I used this phrase very deliberately, because I suspect that those who would like to see a change in D/W’s current practice would state that there are women who have been ordained as priest. It is not my purpose — nor do I think it should be D/W’s purpose — to enter the contentious discussions about the validity/invalidity of any such ordinations.) It is this fact — that D/W has always celebrated Eucharsist with a presider whom the Catholic Church recognizes as a validly ordained priest — which has allowed many leaders of the D/W community to answer in the affirmative when a visitor or potential new member has inquired, “Is this really Catholic? Is that a ‘real’ priest?” Those leaders could honestly answer, “Yes, it is really Catholic, and yes, that’s a real priest.”
It is my perspective that this practice has been the hallmark of D/W community. Were it not, I know that I and many others would never have called D/W our spiritual home, because it would have felt illegitimate to call our celebrations of Eucharist “Catholic.” While there is no doubt that many Catholics — myself included — believe that women should be admitted to ordination within the Roman Catholic Church, the sad fact is that this is currently not our Church’s practice. I wish it different — but it’s not.
It’s About Sacrament (and not sex or gender)
Catholicism takes Sacraments seriously. They are the glue which binds us together. They mark not only significant moments in our individual lives, but also have, at their very core, the Mystery of Faith which brings us into the Christian family and which nourish, strengthen, and restore us throughout our lives. Because Sacraments are so central to the life of the Universal Church, no individual community — no parish, no diocese, no religious order — has the liberty to change by their own authority the fundamental character of how the Sacraments are celebrated. To do so would, in a significant way, “break communion” with the rest of our brothers and sisters around the world with whom we are united each time we gather “in word and in sacrament” to hear the Word of God and to be nourished by the Real Presence of Christ in Eucharist.
And so, I believe that the question posed by the D/W Task Force is fundamentally not about women, no matter how strongly we feel about the inclusion of women and their many gifts in the ranks of the Church’s ordained ministers. The question IS about whether or not the D/W community wishes to continue to celebrate Eucharist with presiders whom the Catholic Church recognizes as validly ordained priests. The question IS about whether the D/W community wishes, in all honesty, to be a Catholic community and not just a “Catholic-like” community.
Pope Francis and Hope for the Future
Most of us have been overwhelmingly surprised and pleased by the ways in which Pope Francis has made positive overtures to the LGBT community in the months since his election as the Bishop of Rome and the Successor of St. Peter. For the first time in decades, LGBT Catholics have legitimate reason to hope that the years ahead might be very, very, very different than what was imagined only a few months ago.
Until now, the D/W community can correctly state that what has separated us from the wider Church was not of our own choosing. If D/W strays from its practice of celebrating Eucharist with presiders whom the Catholic Church recognizes as validly ordained priests, that would no longer be true. The D/W community could no longer state that any distance between us and the wider Church was not of our creation. Rather, we ourselves would have taken steps to further separate ourselves from the institutional Church. A decision to move in this direction is a decision one would anticipate if D/W wished to become its own independent denomination rather than a community that proudly proclaims its status as an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church. Given the hope that fills the Church now under the leadership of Pope Francis, now is not the time to move further away from the Church we love and the Church we call home.
It is my prayer that Dignity/Washington will continue to be a place where LGBT Catholics not only are welcomed — for we are welcome in many gay-affirming Christian Churches — but that it will also continue to be a place where, through the community’s wonderfully rich, beautiful, and inspiring Eucharistic liturgies, LGBT Catholics, our family and friends, feel very, very, very much “at home”!
In God’s Peace!
P.S. Ignore all my typos and bad grammar. WordPress doesn’t have an edit feature. This is my own fault for not proof reading what I wrote before hitting the send button.
I just re-read this very well-written post (which which I wholeheartedly agree). There weren’t any comments here when I first read it… so I thought I’d follow up on your interchange with Eddie. We did indeed use the formulation that Eddie had in quotes when inviting people to the table. We shortened it, and this is the text we now use:
“We invite all who respect the sacramental nature of the Eucharist to join us at the Lord’s table. In order to make the Eucharist more accessible, consecrated grape juice will be available in the ceramic chalice at the far right.”
Thanks to Chris for “bumping” your post. I had no idea that you replied to my reply. I don’t remember seeing an email notification. But I’m glad you did. I ready Tom’s reply as well, as well as your reply to him. I actually saw Chris’s reply notification around 11pm and planned on replying tomorrow night. But it’s a restless night and I have this topic on my mind. This process continues to be a passionate discussion in the Dignity/Washington community. Before we ever began this process, I started to take the time to ask some of the members I know about their history with Dignity/Washington. Of course I still have a lot of people to talk to. I have only really listened to people I see outside of mass or meetings…people from book club, people I go out to dinner with, people I have over for dinner or parties, etc. It has helped tremendously in getting to know the history of the community.
There are a good number of people in the community (30 or so) I know who I see at least twice a week, so of course we talk about this quite a bit. All but one is in full favor of welcoming Roman Catholic presiders, the other is “unsure”. I feel I’ve done a good job of not hiding my feelings on the matter, but at the same time not giving strong evidence of my reasoning until the time is right. In fact I specifically requested as the Liturgy Chair that I not be apart of the Female Presider Task Force as I believed it would be a major conflict of interest. However, since the last community meeting with Mary Hunt (which I unfortunately missed) half a dozen or so members have asked me to help look into “how in line are we currently with Rome”, liturgically speaking. Perhaps some of the following information I researched would answer “how Catholic is our community” as well as how we view our holiest Sacrament, the Eucharist, especially since questions have arisen over whether our mass is illicit or invalid. It wouldn’t take a Canon Lawyer to point out that in the eyes of the Church, our mass would not only be illicit but may arguably be invalid as well as the Dignity/Washington community violates the following:
Canon 924 ß1 The most holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist must be celebrated in bread, and in wine to which a small quantity of water is to be added. ß2 The bread must be wheaten only, and recently made, so that there is no danger of corruption. ß3 The wine must be natural, made from grapes of the vine, and not corrupt.
GIRM 282. According to the tradition of the entire Church, the bread must be made from wheat; according to the tradition of the Latin Church, it must be unleavened.
GIRM 284. The wine for the Eucharist must be from the fruit of the vine (see Lk 22:18), natural, and pure, that is not mixed with any foreign substance.
CHANGING PRESCRIBED TEXTS AND PRAYERS AND SCRIPTURE
Sacrosanctum Concilium #22: (1) Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See, and, as laws may determine, on the bishop. (2) In virtue of power conceded by law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of bishops’ conferences, legitimately established, with competence in given territories. (3) Therefore no other person, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.
HOMILIES GIVEN BY LAY PERSONS OR NUNS
Canon 767 ß1 The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of Christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.
GIRM 66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.
KNEELING DURING THE CONSECRATION
GIRM 21. For the sake of uniformity in movement and posture, the people should follow the directions given during the celebration by the deacon, the priest, or another minister. Unless other provision is made, at every Mass the people should stand from the beginning of the entrance song or when the priest enters until the end of the opening prayer or collect; for the singing of the Alleluia before the gospel; while the gospel is proclaimed; during the profession of faith and the general intercessions; from the prayer over the gifts to the end of the Mass, except at the places indicated later in this paragraph. They should sit during the readings before the gospel and during the responsorial psalm, for the homily and the presentation of the gifts, and, if this seems helpful, during the period of silence after communion. *They should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by the lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason.
GIRM USA Appendix 21: At its meeting in November, 1969, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops voted that in general, the directives of the “Roman Missal” concerning the posture of the congregation at Mass should be left unchanged, but that no. 21 of the “General Instruction” should be adapted so that the people kneel beginning after the singing or recitation of the Sanctus until after the Amen of the Eucharistic prayer, that is, before the Lord’s Prayer.
CONCELEBRATING WITH MINISTERS OF OTHER FAITHS
Canon 908 Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the catholic Church.
OFFERING THE EUCHARIST TO PERSONS OF OTHER FAITHS
Canon 908 Catholic priests are forbidden to concelebrate the Eucharist with priests or ministers of Churches or ecclesial communities which are not in full communion with the catholic Church.
Canon 844 ß1 “Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments only to catholic members of Christ’s faithful, who equally may lawfully receive them only from catholic ministers, except as provided in ß2, 3 and 4 of this canon and in can. 861 ß2. (note: the latter covers Baptism)”
ß2 “Whenever necessity requires or a genuine spiritual advantage commends it, and provided the danger of error or indifferentism is avoided, Christ’s faithful for whom it is physically or morally impossible to approach a catholic minister, may lawfully receive the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick from non-Catholic ministers in whose Churches these sacraments are valid. (note: Protestant ministers do not pass this test)”
ß3 “Catholic ministers may lawfully administer the sacraments of penance, the Eucharist and anointing of the sick to members of the eastern Churches not in full communion with the catholic Church, if they spontaneously ask for them and are properly disposed. The same applies to members of other Churches which the Apostolic See judges to be in the same position as the aforesaid eastern Churches so far as the sacraments are concerned. (note: Protestant faiths do not pass this test)”
ß4 “If there is a danger of death or if, in the judgment of the diocesan Bishop or of the Episcopal Conference, there is some other grave and pressing need, catholic ministers may lawfully administer these same sacraments to other Christians not in full communion with the catholic Church, who cannot approach a minister of their own community and who spontaneously ask for them, provided that they demonstrate the catholic faith in respect of these sacraments and are properly disposed. (note: this covers the case where a Protestant converts on his deathbed)”
ß5 “In respect of the cases dealt with in ß2, 3 and 4, the diocesan Bishop or the Episcopal Conference is not to issue general norms except after consultation with the competent authority, at least at the local level, of the non-Catholic Church or community concerned.”
PRIEST AND LAITY MIXING ROLES
Sacrosanctum Concilium #28. “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister, or layman who has an office to perform, should carry out all and only those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the norms of the liturgy.”
Canon 907 In the celebration of the Eucharist, deacons and lay persons are not permitted to say the prayers, especially the eucharistic prayer, nor to perform the actions which are proper to the celebrating priest.
WASHING THE FEET OF WOMEN DURING HOLY THURSDAY
The Roman Missal specifically states that men are to represent the Apostles during the ritual:
“Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. … The general intercessions follow the washing of feet, or, if this does not take place, they follow the homily.”
“The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”
In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that only men’s feet are supposed to be washed in the document The Preparation And Celebration Of The Easter Feasts (Paschales Solemnitatis)
Again, I don’t at all have any intention to lessen your statement or even to change your view, only to point out the obvious…
* Our Eucharistic bread is made of buttermilk, honey, baking soda and baking powder (mine is Vegan).
*We permit the consecration of grape juice.
*We allow and invite lay men, women, as well as nuns to preach, deliver a homily.
*We don’t kneel during the consecration.
*Priest and laity most certainly mix roles.
*We wash the feet of women and would probably wash the feet of children too.
Then let’s not forget how many of our priest who are in open, loving, homosexual relationships…that’s a whole different story. I don’t even want to quote the authority of the Church on that one, as it classifies all into one ball of hate, and every time I read it, I weep.
In my understanding of Dignity/Washington is our community always has and continues to identify as Catholic, however over the years the community has evolved in many aspects. Think of how many members are active in ministry, were active in ministry, and those who left before ordination (myself included). We know all too well what the position has been and remains to this day. I agree with Tom that the Church will ordain women long before they fully embrace the homosexual as a whole…and quite frankly, I don’t see either happening in any of our lifetimes.
Tim, I really do appreciate your view, passion, and care for the community. You will always a member to our community. I’m not afraid to admit you have always been one of my favorite homilists, in fact I have spent many hours contemplating your words after mass. And though we may not see eye to eye concerning this subject, you have indeed made me think, pray, read, question, and repeat all of those.
I want to end with the last sentence in the mission of Dignity/Washington which reads, “We are a prophetic witness to the Church; to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender community; and, to society.” – How will the Church ever theologically evolve if the most ostracized Catholics don’t evolve in be a prophetic witness?
Tim, Bob, and Eddie,
I appreciated your comments. As a child of Vatican II with more than a decade of familiarity with life before the window was opened, I still feel graced by that breeze and am happy to have found a community and liturgy that lives it at D/W.
What D/W is doing over the next several months is to examine who can be a priest to us. We are a lay organization with no ties to the Catholic church, maybe attached by good will and faith, but not in any tangible form. We have a process to select the presiders at the D/W Mass. That process identifies the need to have an ordained individual presuming appropriate training and the sacrament bestowed by a Catholic bishop. There are women who can within reason claim that status. We are examining what their possible participation with us means to us.
In the eyes of the Church hierarchy, how “Catholic” the community is has been at best as second class citizens and since 1986 much less than that by order of someone who was until recently Pope. We are forced exiles and, like the Jews who could not worship in Jerusalem after the Roman expulsion, we have had to find our way to be Catholic as we see it, but in a new way. While we practice within the Catholic tradition, as we all know we are closer in spirit than the letter of the law. At this point we are sort of quibbling about how pregnant we are.
I suspect if the Church were to open its doors fully to same sex individuals, D/W members would sign up and the organization would become some sort of sodality at one or a few welcoming parishes. Whether we use female priests until then will not effect our status in the least for too many actions that others have already mentioned. D/W and DUSA are a tiny part of the lgbt movement to which the Church must open its heart in time. Ironically, I suspect the Church will accept women priests sooner than it will open to same sex individuals.
But we are not there yet and Francis has shown no sign to create any meaningful changes. Until that time we need to live our exile as best we can. From Galatians (“no longer male or female”) to Gaudium et Specs, #29 (“every type of discrimination based on sex is to be overcome and eradicated as contrary to God’s intent.”), the Holy Spirit has been trying to make the status of the sexes indistinguishable. For a variety of reasons this hasn’t happened. Perhaps D/W in our abandoned state will take women as the stone rejected by the builder and move to open this function for them – or not
Oh that I was as brief now as I was on Sunday.
Blessing to all.
Thanks, Tom. I do appreciate and respect your thoughtful comment. It does seem as if we have different perspectives on how much Dignity (either at the local chapter level or national level) sees itself and presents itself to the world as having “ties to the Catholic church.” The fact that Dignity leaders are regularly called upon by the media to be the voice of LGBT Roman Catholics (as well as the content of D/USA’s website) would suggest to me that those ties are seen to be closer in both the organization’s eyes as well as the eyes of the world. That said, you are indeed correct — there currently are no official ties between Dignity and the institutional Church. I pray that this will change and believe that one day, it will.
Tim, I too would like to thank you for your in depth thoughts and sharing and I know I can speak for more than myself when saying, your presence in our community is greatly missed.
Something that stuck me in your letter was, “Because Sacraments are so central to the life of the Universal Church, no individual community — no parish, no diocese, no religious order — has the liberty to change by their own authority the fundamental character of how the Sacraments are celebrated.”
But hasn’t Dignity/Washington done that already? Our acolytes perform rites and actions specifically designated to ordained priests and deacons. A few examples: the rite of the mingling of water and wine, as well as elevating the chalice in the concluding doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer.
By inviting non-Catholics to “celebrate” and RECEIVE our Eucharistic meal is a very strong change by our own authority as a community. Of course it has been known that special permissions can and have been given to non-Roman Catholic faithful to receive our Eucharist, yet our community goes much further in offering the invitation to all individuals whom simply “shares and respects our beliefs in the sacramental nature of the Eucharist to participate fully in communion.”
More significantly, the Sacrament of Marriage is celebrated among members of the same gender within our community. When such an act by a “validly ordained” Roman Catholic priest surely could be “just grounds” for excommunication and laicization, we have changed the fundamental character of how that Sacrament is celebrated and even administered.
Though I am still learning the history of our wonderful community, I understand the reasons that such drastic changes and incorporations have been implemented were to fulfill our call and obligation to be just, inclusive, affirming, etc. These are so incredibly profound and in all of my heart I strongly believe they were our duty, if we are to live up to our mission. The burning question I have is how allowing and practicing such changes, modifications, and incorporations in the way we currently celebrate our sacraments is ok, yet not ok when it comes to female priests. A big concern for me is how all of the changes our community have made fully favor men, yet the possibility of making such a change in regards to women celebrants is somehow not within our liberty to change. I think this really struck me more deeply this evening when a female member attended and states that she “honestly doesn’t feel welcome.”
Tim, I hope you do not feel like I am dissecting your letter to favor my view, because I’m not at all. In fact, you really bring a lot more for me to think about, as well as pray and discern over. I am hoping I can pick your brain some in regards to this discussion of possible change over the way we celebrate a sacrament versus the changes which have already been made in the way we celebrate sacraments.
I hope you are well in Florida and again, thank your for your wisdom and insight.
Warm Regards & Hugs!
Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Eddie, and I certainly don’t feel any disrespect.
You make some good points and I’ll be happy to share my responses. The bottom line, I suppose, is how far from communion with the Church D/W wishes to stray. In my post, I tried to do two things: First, I tried to re-ground the discussion by being clear about what some terms mean and don’t mean. Perhaps it was the influence of my HS English teacher, but she really impressed on us the importance of using words correctly … that’s why I tried to start with clarifying what some terms mean. Second, I tried to communicate what one might call a “hierarchy of importance” when it comes to things such as sacraments and liturgical practice. Just as we know that some things in the moral life (e.g. intentional murder) are much, much more grave than other things (e.g. lying about your age), so too are some things in our Sacramental and Liturgical life much more significant than others.
RE: having a non-priest prepare the cup (mingling the water and wine) and assist with the elevation of the consecrated bread and wine — While I’m not sure why this is D/W’s practice (certainly the presiding priest is capable of performing these ritual actions), they are, as such, less significant than the core action of the ordained person at Mass, which is to pray the Eucharist Prayer, including the words of consecration. If a non-ordained minister (such as the person serving as acolyte/altar server) were to do or say things that are reserved to the ordained, that would be problematic.
RE: “inviting non-Catholics to “celebrate” and RECEIVE our Eucharistic meal” — I had this conversation with a couple of D/W leaders, but to no avail. Let me first note that you reference “non-Catholics,” while the announcement at the beginning of the Liturgy typically says something like, “..everyone is invited…” Also, I don’t think I ever heard the opening announcer speak your other phrase about those who “share and respect our belief…” That’s a very, very different message than “everyone is invited.” As I’m sure you know, the resurgence of the RCIA in the life of the Church has been a wonderful thing. It’s been fantastic for those seeking to be initiated into the life of the Church, and it’s been wonderful for parishes and dioceses to recapture the ancient way in which new, unbaptized persons, were brought into the Body of Christ. Here, too, some distinctions are essential. The Eucharist has always, always, always been “the meal of the Baptized.” The RCIA (which is a Liturgical Rite — and not simply an “adult education program”) makes this very clear when those who are seeking Baptism and full initiation are “dismissed” after the Liturgy of the Word so that they can continue their catechesis and preparation for Sacramental Initiation at Easter. Rather than see their non-reception of Eucharist during this period of the RCIA as “exclusionary” or “disrespectful,” it highlights both for them AND the baptized assembly the significance of Eucharist in our lives of faith. Eucharist is a meal — but it is also much more than a meal. Our Theology of Eucharist is rich and deep and profound, and I could not do it justice in this brief comment. Fundamentally, Eucharist is about entering (in Liturgy) into the Mystery of God — and that is something that we do not do casually and without preparation. When I was in active ministry, it was very, very common to have celebrations of funerals or weddings when a large portion of the congregation was non-Catholic or non-Christian. There are very respectful ways to express what Catholic practice is re: Eucharistic participation, and I never had the experience of anyone feeling “excluded” — in fact, I had just the opposite. Non-Catholics or non-Christians would come to me after the celebration and remark that the way we explained our practice “made sense” and they appreciated it very much. To this day, I do not understand the theology behind D/W’s practice of “open communion,” especially when it has the potential to undermine our entire Theology of Initiation; I guess I’m of the perspective that in trying to be respectful of others and their feelings, we have been somewhat disrespectful (or perhaps uninformed) of our own practices and the reasons for them… but that’s another story! [BTW — if the D/W practice were to include your phrase of “… share and respect our belief…” then that would be a very, very different matter. In fact, that’s very close to the language I used to use and it is very supportable both theologically and canonically.]
RE: Marriage — this is certainly new territory, but let me make just one point. Catholic theology has always taught that the “ministers of the sacrament” of marriage are the two persons getting married, and not the witnessing priest or deacon. The priest or deacon stands as the “official witness” and “solemnizes” or blesses the union, but the Sacrament comes about when the two spouses express their intention and speak the words of lifelong commitment. The theological issue then becomes, “is the marriage of a same-sex couple sacramental” — and I would argue that it is.
So, to come full circle to the issue at hand, I’ll reiterate my main point that this IS about our understanding of Sacraments and how seriously Catholicism takes Sacramental practice (including Ordination). I guess it comes down to this: If D/W pursues this course, then “Why Dignity at all?” What would make D/W different from either MCC or another Christian community that is welcoming of LGBT people?
I apologize for the long response, but I’m grateful for your comment. I hope last evening’s conversation went well.
Thank you, Tim, for your comments. They are most helpful and express the throughts I have been trying to articulate. I hope the community hears them.
Thanks Bob. I had wanted to find a way to share my thoughts, doing so in a way that respects that others’ perspective is different, but also doing it forcefully enough to make clear that doing this (i.e. to have individuals preside at Eucharist “whom the Church would not recognize as being validly ordained”) is really, really important. Taking this step is like equivalent with saying, “we no longer wish to be in communion with the Catholic Church and have decided to go our own way.” I know other D/USA chapters have gone this route, and I think this is a mistake. I think D/W has done a great job of balancing the many pressures I’m sure chapter leaders are under … and I hope they continue to strike that balance. You will all be in my prayers this evening!