20,000 Catholics under one roof
Re: 20,000 Catholics under one roof
"David P. Combs" <dpcombs@KAIWAN.COM>
March 28, 1996
Below is the story of my experience at the Religious
Congress, held in Anaheim, California,
USA, 22-24 March 1996.
Most of my experience was connected with the
Ministry with Lesbian
and Gay Catholics, a program of the Archdiocese
of Los Angeles.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles,
ministry in 1986.
All the opinions expressed below are my own.
I do not represent the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles, or the Ministry with
Lesbian and Gay Catholics.
The main excitement in my life this past week
was a speaking
commitment that I had last Friday. The
topic was my experience
with parish-based ministries with gay and lesbian
forum was the Archdiocesan Religious Education
is the largest annual Catholic gathering in California,
feeling for about a week before hand was sheer
I had agreed a couple of months ago to talk for
minutes as part of a panel. This was before
I found out that
there was a possibility that there would be "traditionalist"
protesters there. This was before I found
out that there would
be 700 people in the audience, some of them possibly
what I have to say. This was before I found
out that as a member
of the panel, I would be, in effect, a representative
Archdiocesan Ministry with Gay and Lesbian Catholics,
and so in a
sense speaking for the Church and so could not
teaching or opine that I think it is wrong.
So I had to walk a
fine line, telling my story without delving into
the difficult or
controversial issues that surround this whole
The talk actually went just fine, as well as I
had hoped and
much better than I had feared. I heard
a rumor that one person
booed at the end of the entire presentation (not
my talk), but
the sound of one person booing was lost in the
sound of 1400
hands clapping. Lots of people came up
to me afterward and
thanked me for talking. No one came up
to me and said anything
negative, but then I can't imagine that anyone
would. It was a
big relief to have gotten through it.
I spent a little time Friday afternoon hanging
out at the info
booth that the Ministry with Lesbian and Gay
Catholics had in the
convention hall. A week ago, we had a two-hour
long session on
how to answer peoples questions in ways that
would not cause more
controversy than necessary. Apparently
there are people who
would love for people connected with the ministry
to say things
contrary to the church's teaching so that they
can report it to
the archbishop and the pope and get the ministry
quashed. So we
were warned to be careful what we said to people
we didn't know,
even if they started off by saying that they
didn't agree with
During his presentation, Father Peter, the head
of the ministry,
spent a couple minutes talking about the difference
chastity and celibacy. I'm not sure why
he brings up this topic,
since as I understand church teaching, the only
people who can be
chaste without being celibate are men and women
who are married
within the church. I suppose that he brings
it up to remind
married people that they, too, are called to
chastity, to remind
them that the church's teachings on sexual ethics
apply to them
as well as to gay and lesbian people.
I had one woman come to me at the booth after
asking for clarification of what Father Peter
had said about the
difference between celibacy and chastity.
She asked what he was
trying to say: did he mean that gay people could
without being celibate?
I tried to dodge the question by saying that I
understand what he was trying to say. She
asked whether the
people in our group at St. Matthew's were required
celibate. I drew the analogy to group for
divorced people that
didn't ask questions about the exact legal status
of the members
but encouraged all people to come wherever they
happened to be
at the moment. In the same way, we didn't
requirements or an entrance exam, asking people
particular sexual situation, we welcome people
where they are.
She seemed to like the analogy. She asked
what my personal
opinion about chastity and celibacy was.
I said that while I was
working in the booth, I was representing an official
within the archdioceses, and so although I had
opinion, it was not appropriate for me to discuss
it in this
context. She seemed to be okay with that.
Then finally, she thanked me for talking earlier
afternoon, that she had enjoyed the workshop.
I sighed in relief
that this was not one of the rumored spies that
we had been
All this being afraid to say what I thought for
fear of being
reported to the authorities gave me a new appreciation
first amendment and American respect for freedom
I guess that its like being at work, where when
I am a
representative of my company, I am limited in
what it is
appropriate for me to say.
Last night a friend of mine told that later in
the weekend, one
of the two or three protesters who had been outside
convention center arena came to the booth.
He looked around at
the literature and then said to her, "I
am a reformed homosexual."
She replied, "Well, we each have our own problems."
He left in a huff.
She also told me that the audio tape of our workshop
number one best seller among the one hundred
or so tapes for
sale. So the word is getting out . . .
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