On Sunday January 10, DignityUSA and Dignity/Washington organized a peaceful witness to stand up to a local firing of a parish employee after the Archdiocese of Washington found out he had married his husband. Jeffrey Higgins, the cantor at Mother Seton Catholic Church in Germantown, Maryland, is the latest in an unfortunate series of dozens of firings of church workers over recent years because they were gay or had married their same-sex partner.
The witness in support of Jeffrey brought together a group of about twenty Catholics who stood outside the rural Maryland parish throughout the morning as parishioners came to and from Mass. Members of Dignity/Washington were joined by Jeffrey’s husband Robert, his parents, and others. Their action was broadly covered by local media, including WTOP radio, local NBC News 4, and the Washington Blade.
The Archdiocese released a statement standing by the firing of Jeffrey and saying that, “if someone chooses to live publicly in a manner that is incompatible with church teaching, their continued work in ministry becomes untenable.” Cardinal Donald Wuerl in a blog post also reiterated the decision and shared the church’s viewpoint.
DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, in a post reflecting on what 2016 may bring, pointed to the firing of Jeffrey Higgins and other such discriminatory terminations of gays and lesbians working at Catholic institutions around the country. But she also offered a message of support and hope, affirming that “DignityUSA will continue to provide support and guidance to those treated unjustly, as well as to the communities that rally in support of true Catholic teachings on the sacredness of work.”
Jeffrey is one of thousands of Church employees whose jobs are at risk because of who they are, whom they love, or because they exercise their civil right to marry their beloved. Catholic officials claim that entering a same-sex marriage is a public rejection of church teaching. Catholics know that LGBT people — even those in relationships or marriages — can be great employees for our parishes, schools, and social service agencies.
May we as Dignity/Washington continue to stand with those victims of the Church’s discriminatory practices and continue our everyday witness of God’s love for ourselves, our families, and our communities, in the Church and throughout the world.
Want to Take Action?
Show your support for Jeffrey and thousands of others. Please call Bishop Barry Knestout, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, at 301-853-4500. Tell him Jeffrey should not have lost his job. Malicious efforts to out LGBT people are mean, unjust, and violate our faith. LGBT people love the Church and work hard for the people of God. Our Church needs non-discrimination policies that protect all employees. This should never happen to anyone else!
Photo credit: Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade
Other News and Links
New Ways Ministry, Bondings 2.0 post by Bob Shine, January 9, 2016
New Ways Ministry Blog
WJLA-7 Local ABC, interview of Jeffrey Higgins, January 6, 2016 : Jeffrey Higgins Interview
Michelle Boorstein’s article from the Washington Post December 31, 2015: WashingtonPost Article
This year for Advent, we at D/W are poised and ready: “Awaiting the Promise” of Jesus in our world and in our hearts. The Liturgy Committee chose “Awaiting the Promise” as D/W’s Advent theme because we thought it best expressed where our community’s faith journey intersects with this liturgical season.
Advent has always been a time of hope, when we focus on the coming of the promised Messiah. The Scriptures point us toward the Divine promise of a Savior who ushers in a new era of peace and unity. In so many ways the visit of Pope Francis reawakened that hope in us – the promise of a truly inclusive church that welcomes and recognizes all people as equally beloved of God, worthy of equal protection and afforded equal dignity.
But it is important to note that waiting in the Scriptures is not a passive time of simply hoping change comes. Instead it is a time of intense preparation (Isaiah: “Fill the valleys, and level the mountains and hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places.”) and powerful prophetic voices (Jeremiah, “I will raise up for David a just shoot who will do what is right and just.” )
Authentic hope is never a naive belief that good things simply come to those who wait, but rather a trust that when we have done all that we can, God’s goodness cannot be out done. Awaiting the promise means that our efforts to make the world more peaceful and just, both come from, and are fulfilled in, the Love which always and everywhere springs forth from the Source of all creation. We are co-creators in this emerging love even if we do not know how or when our efforts might lead to its fulfillment.
In the Catholic tradition, the great archetype of awaiting the promise has been Mary, Jesus’ mother. In her pregnancy she awaited the coming of Jesus into the world, and by her “yes” she made that coming possible: “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.” With this in mind, we are using Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) as the anthem for our Advent liturgies. In the arrangement entitled “The Canticle of the Turning” written by Gary Daigle, Rory Cooney, and Theresa Donohoo in 1990, Mary’s Song asks us to join with the efforts of our God in making the world a more just and joyful place.
Provocatively, the song asks, “Could the world be about to turn?” Our Advent liturgies ask us that same question phrased in different words, “Are we actively awaiting the promise of Love’s presence in our lives?” Because as the Scriptures remind us so forcefully these days, the world is indeed turning, but only to the extent that we are turning it – and allowing God to turn us as well!
Liturgy Committee Co-chair
The Dignity/Washington Board of Directors announces that it is seeking to hire a paid part-time Communications Coordinator to promote public awareness of Dignity/Washington and its mission. Communications will focus on current and upcoming activities (as well as reporting on recent events) to its own members, and to the LGBTQ, Catholic and broader public through various media (e.g., press releases, social media, etc.).
The job description is available on request by e-mailing the Dignity Center office at firstname.lastname@example.org or by following this link:
Applicants should include a résumé with cover letter. Applications should be submitted by December 11, 2015. The Dignity/Washington Board is hopeful the successful candidate can begin before the end of the year.
Dignity/Washington and Dignity Northern Virginia supported the greater LGBT community Saturday morning Oct. 24 by participating in Whitman-Walker’s Walk to End HIV. The Walk, which supports Whitman-Walker Health, took place on Pennsylvania Ave near the Capitol. Ruthie Shipps, Anne Shipps, Carl Shipps, Allen Rose, Francisco Carvalho, Joe Hennessy and Larry Ranly participated in the walk.
Please join Chris Schroeder and others at 5:30 p.m., prior to our 6 p.m. Dignity-Washington Mass this Sunday, September 20 to pray the Glorious Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. We will pray the Rosary in front of the transept behind the choir. There will be extra rosaries in case you need one.
Also, if you’d like to refresh your memory on the prayers of the rosary, there is a good smartphone app called “Pocket Rosary” that has all the information you need. I will also bring hard copies of the prayers and the mysteries for you to follow as we say the Rosary. Please join us Sunday!
Join Dignity/Washington for a summer ice cream social on August 23.
“Oh Happy Day” is a well known and loved Christian Spiritual that has been translated into many languages. It is most appropriate for today — a day for marriage equality. Read about the historic Supreme Court decision at these news sources. The first link includes the poetic final paragraph of the majority opinion written by Anthony Kennedy.
Join the DC community for the Capital Pride Interfaith Service – Tuesday, June 9, 2015, 7:30 PM
Hosted by All Souls Unitarian Church at 16th St. and Columbia Road N.W. ( a couple of blocks north of Meridian Hill Park)
The theme of this year’s serves is “Radical Equality: Faith, Race, & Justice; Exploring our response to issues of racial justice in LGBT Communities of Faith and society”.
Featured speakers: Rev. Cedric A. Harmon, Co-Director, Many Voices, Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera, Religion and Faith Program Director of HRC Latino and Catholic Initiatives.
Dignity/Washington will be participating by blessing the space with incense and bells and taking up the collection. If you would like to volunteer for these activities or to be part of the community choir, please contact Tom Bower at Mass or at email@example.com.
DignityUSA’s biennial convention will be held July 2 – 5, in Seattle. Click on the link above for more information and to register. DignityUSA’s convention will page will give your information on speakers, the convention program, hotel information, and more. The convention will feature three keynote speakers:
- Sister Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK
- Dan Savage, writer, TV personality and gay activist
- Paul Coutinho, author and speaker
Reserve your place using the Convention 2015 All in One Registration form.