National Coming Out Day was marked in Chicago with several events, among them a 'Public and Prayerful Gathering in Support of Gay and Lesbian Families,' sponsored by the GLBT Catholic group Dignity/Chicago outside of Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral downtown.
A coalition of GLBT Catholics and their allies sponsored and attended the gathering 'to celebrate and bless gay and lesbian families and to call the church to repentance for its sins of homophobia.' Several dozen people, including many children, attended the event, just as a heterosexual wedding party was getting ready to celebrate inside Holy Name Cathedral.
The coalition, 'Always Your Families, Always Our Church,' was formed in response to this summer's letter from the Vatican calling for all Catholics to work against legislation recognizing same-sex unions.
The coalition was supported by Call to Action Chicagoland, and Call to Action's Mary Nichols spoke to the crowd.
Individuals brought their own personal messages to the Vatican and to Cardinal Francis George in response to the Vatican document. These messages will be sent to Rome and the Chicago Chancery.
The event was not meant to be confrontational, said speaker Bob Dwyer of St. Gertrude Parish, and an openly gay former candidate for judge.
'We hope to have some dialogue with the hierarchy,' Dwyer said. 'This is not a personal attack on the cardinal or the pope, we just think [George] is missing the personal exposure to people. We want him to come into the communities and try to gain experience and knowledge.'
Nichols said as a straight, single mother, she, too was offended by the Vatican's statement about what truly makes up a family. 'So I can only imagine how you felt. Love is the one central gift that characterizes a christian community.'
Many gays and non-gays who attended were from St. Gertrude Parish on Granville in Rogers Park. The church held a forum on same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian families last week, and representatives from the Cardinal were there taking notes—and possibly intimidating speakers.
Gloria Woods, from St. Nicholas Parish in Evanston, read the coalition's dream letter from the Vatican, 'one which we would want to receive,' that confirmed the validity of all kinds of families and relationships.
'I think that the GLBT community has to be more forceful and more aggressive in our actions with the church,' said Chicagoan Jim Bussen, a former Dignity national president and someone who has worked on Catholic gay issues for 30 years.
'The recent stances, by the Vatican and the hierarchical structure, have been more aggressive and hateful. In our recent history, we have been more quiet in our response—and that is not working. We especially have to be more aggressive because of the stance on politicians,' Bussen told WCT, referring to the Vatican pressure on Catholic politicians to follow the Catholic party line in their votes.
Coalition members want a meeting with Cardinal George to begin a dialogue. Dignity's Martin Grochala said 'gay and lesbian faithful were not at all consulted on this summer's directive from the Vatican. Our church leadership won't have credible teaching authority on this topic until they know about our lives.'
www.dignitychicago.org; (312) 458-9438
PHOTO #1 Beth Holzhauer (back, left) and her partner Kathy Chuckas and their four children.
#2Mary Nichols and Bob Dwyer address the group.
#3FROM LEFT: Dignity's Martin Grochala, and couple Jennifer Cowan and Jennifer Rosinia with their three children. Photos by Tracy Baim
#4Children and their families.