SPIRITUALITY: Restoring some Dignity to Dallas

Mirroring a national trend, local LGBT Catholic group finds itself in a rebuilding stage

Jim Davis

Jim Davis

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Dignity Dallas, the LGBT Catholic organization, is in a re-forming stage, according to leader Jim Davis.

Davis said he’s been out “beating the bushes to let people know who we are.”

Dignity is not formally recognized by the Catholic Church.

Jon Garinn, Dignity Dallas’ former spiritual leader, said the group once attracted 25 to 35 people to weekly Sunday mass.

But Davis said the group, on the verge of folding, now meets just once a month as it tries to rebuild. One problem, Davis said, has been finding local leaders willing to identify themselves openly and actively promote the group.

“The bishop already doesn’t like us,” Davis said. “What do we care what he says? I want my name out there.”

DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke said the role of the organization has changed, and the Dallas chapter’s situation isn’t uncommon. She said at one time, Dignity was the first connection a gay Catholic made to the LGBT community.

The organization was often a place of sanctuary — a safe place for LGBT Catholics who were verbally attacked in their parishes. That’s not true anymore.

“The LGBT community has blossomed,” she said. “As Dignity re-forms across the country, it’s taking many shapes and forms.”

But she said that Dignity is still a place for LGBT Catholics to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope that have hurt so many.

“We’re the group who will affirm who you are,” she said. “We’ll marry the couples. We’ll baptize their kids. Dignity is there to support the majority of Catholics who support LGBT rights.”

Duddy-Burke said a study last year indicated that Catholics are less likely to hear anti-LGBT messages from the pulpit than mainstream Protestants or Evangelicals.

A New York Times/CBS News poll released this week showed that more than two-thirds of Catholics believe same-sex couples deserve some sort of relationship recognition, while 44 percent support marriage equality.

But the message from the upper hierarchy is still negative and even getting worse.

“Dignity is the anti-hierarchy,” she said.

The national organization helps local chapters with quarterly leadership calls, a chapter-relations support team, leadership training programs and general exchanges of ideas.

Duddy-Burke said some chapters continue to offer weekly mass while others perform their own service monthly. Some attend a parish together and then go out to brunch as a group. Others maintain activities such as a book-discussion group or supper club.

Davis said the Dallas Dignity group has maintained its monthly supper club at Revlon House, one of the housing units of AIDS Services Dallas.

Duddy-Burke called that “more Catholic than the liturgy” in living the values that the church teaches.

Davis said that many Dignity members attend mass at Holy Trinity Church on Oak Lawn Avenue, where a large portion of the congregation is gay and lesbian. To explain what Dignity means to him, Davis coined the chapter’s motto — “The traditions you love. The acceptance you deserve.”

“I started attending Dignity when I began hearing edicts from Rome,” he said. “My church [parish] wasn’t welcoming either. At the time, I was ready to walk away from the [Catholic] Church.”

He agreed with Duddy-Burke that Dignity speaks for the values of the majority of Catholics who believe in equality for the LGBT community.

“We think it’s important as gay Catholics to hold a mirror up to the Catholic Church and say, ‘There’s no conflict there,’” he said.

Because the local bishop doesn’t support Dignity, Davis said the group has had trouble finding clergy to lead mass. Currently, a monk who lives in the area but is still affiliated with an order in another state and a priest from the Polish National Catholic Church with a parish in Oak Cliff act as its spiritual leaders.

“If the chapter is going to have any effect,” he said, “we have to be in your face.”

Davis wants new members who will let the group’s leaders know what the new Dallas Dignity should do.

Duddy-Burke said that the increasingly hostile rhetoric from the church hierarchy isn’t playing in the pews. DignityUSA is receiving stronger and stronger support from Catholics across the country.

“I’m giving 25 bucks to Dignity,” she said people write her after hearing anti-gay messages from the church, “because I’m not giving it to my parish.”

Dignity Dallas meets the first Sunday of the month at Cathedral of Hope at 5 p.m. For more info, visit DignityDallas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 17, 2012.

—  Michael Stephens

Great Spaces: Not-so-secret gardens

Partners Tom Lloyd-Boyd and Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, below, are putting Dallas on the map for impressive gardens like this green masterpiece at the Oak Cliff home of Ken Row and Sergio Remirez.

Three gay gardens make elite 5 highlighted in this year’s Garden Conservancy Tour

By Jef Tingley

Some people travel the U.S. looking for historic landmarks or quirky tourist traps like “the world’s biggest ball of twine,” but for Patrick Boyd-Lloyd, along with husband Tom Lloyd-Boyd, it’s the pursuit of the perfect petunia that fuels their vacations. To be more specific: the perfect garden. And as a result of their love of landscape, Dallas is now on the national garden circuit radar.

“We’ve been to [garden] tours in Upstate New York (seeing a couple of gardens owned by people who worked for Martha Stewart Living was a huge highlight), California, and, of course several, in Texas,” says Boyd-Lloyd. “This year, we’re going to Portland, Oregon and Brentwood/Santa Monica, California for a [tour] that features the garden of Julie Newmar of Catwoman fame.”

Mike Munsterman’s oasis, above, also includes a custom-built chicken coop. Row and Ramirez also included architectural details such as this fountain.

Through this green-thumb obsession, the Garden Conservancy was made aware to add Dallas to its list of Open Days Program. As Boyd-Lloyd tells it, “after returning from a Sonoma, California tour [in 2008], I contacted the Garden Conservancy to ask why Dallas wasn’t represented and walked right into being chairperson — open mouth and insert garden boot.”

This year marks his third time chairing the event.

In his role, Boyd-Lloyd helps to select the gardens that will be featured on the tour which, according to the organization’s website has, “unlocked the gates to hundreds of America’s very best private gardens.” It also raises awareness and finances to protect and maintain some of America’s best-loved historic properties. Boyd-Lloyd credits his passion for gardening and his 15-year history in the landscape design industry in helping him to find some of North Texas’ best-hidden treasures for Open Days.

“I look for gardens that are not ego-statements, but ones that the homeowners are actually a part of [and who] really get their own hands digging in the dirt. The point of the tour, to me, is to show the average homeowner that there are really interesting ideas and plants out there,” he says. “With our dramatic climate changes and alkaline, rocky and gumbo soils, this part of Texas is not an easy place to garden, but with a bit of knowledge and patience one can have a really special garden for their home.”

The May 21 Open Days Tour is a self-led experience through five gardens throughout DFW. This year, three of the gardens belong to members of the LGBT community.

The leadoff garden is located in Kessler Park and owned by Ken Row and Sergio Ramirez. It features terraced areas with views of the surrounding hills and trees, stone staircases, ponds and outdoor living spaces. According to Boyd-Lloyd, it’s especially known for its glorious display of hydrangeas and roses. Also in Oak Cliff does horticulturist Mike Munsterman own an impressive garden. In addition to the stunning flora, the “must-see” of this stop is a custom chicken coup built by Munsterman and his partner.

The Blue Lotus Gardens in East Dallas, owned by a husband and wife team in the landscape business, is a balance of arid plants like yuccas and agaves in one space countered by a water garden filled with Lotus flowers in another. The grounds also include honeybee hives and a turtle sanctuary.

Near Knox-Henderson, Alan Rister and partner Greg Armstrong have created an English-inspired garden mixed with Texas-native and adapted plants that play a large role in the landscape. The owners do all the planting and organic maintenance themselves.

The final stop on the tour is in Preston Hollow at the garden of Sharolyn and Stan Herndon. Here, the couple has transformed an unused backyard pool into a koi pond with multiple rills and streams.

But whether attending Open Days or just browsing at your favorite nursery, Boyd-Lloyd says it’s easy for anyone to get involved in gardening in North Texas. “Join a local garden club, hire a professional for a consultation, read books…[or] just start digging!”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 15, 2011.

—  John Wright

Dignity Dallas calls results of study encouraging

Research shows Catholics are more accepting of the LGBT community than the general population

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

In March, the Public Religion Research Institute released a comprehensive study on the attitude of Catholics on rights for gays and lesbians, and the results were clear: American Catholics are more supportive of civil rights for the LGBT community than the general population.

Nearly three quarters favor employment non-discrimination. Two-thirds believe gays and lesbians should serve openly in the military. Six in 10 think gays should be able to adopt.

Possibly the most surprising statistic was that 63 percent of U.S. Catholics support same-sex marriage. That’s 10 percent higher than the population in general.

Joseph Bordelon, president of the LGBT Catholic group Dignity Dallas, called those results very encouraging.

“Often we only hear what the bishops say,” he said, noting that the Catholic Church’s official stance is much more anti-gay.

Bordelon said that the survey should have a very positive effect on his group.

“We can incorporate our religion and sexuality,” and find acceptance among other Catholics, he said.

There is a disconnect, Bordelon said, between the hierarchy and the laity. He cited the example of Chicago Cardinal Francis George who recently said that God doesn’t love gays and lesbians.

Before Vatican 2, Bordelon said that Catholics were expected to “pray, pay, obey.”

Now Catholics study more.

“Catholics got to know the tenets of our faith and the why behind those tenets,” he said. “You can’t corral us back anymore.”

Dallas Dignity has been around at least 35 years. The group, whose slogan is “The traditions you love and the acceptance you deserve,” is not welcome to worship in a Catholic Church by order of the Vatican. So they meet at Cathedral of Hope on Sundays at 6 p.m.

But Bordelon said individual members retain ties to their local parishes.

The study result that Bordelon said surprised him the most was that a majority of Catholics do not believe that sexual relations between two men or two women is a sin.

“That one surprised me because the church teaches that sex should be for one thing — procreation,” he said.

But the study found that most heterosexual Catholics don’t believe or practice that in their own lives and possibly translate that to mean the church is wrong in its teachings on homosexuality as well.

Jon Garinn is a former pastor of Dignity Dallas and he agreed that the results of the survey are good. But while he thought this was very positive for LGBT Catholics, he said Dignity might not be the beneficiary.

“Catholics in the United States have always been very independent,” he said.

He said that’s why the church may be against reproductive rights but they can’t expect Nancy Pelosi, who is Catholic, to change laws regarding abortion.

“We’re a lot more tolerant of other viewpoints,” he said.

But Dignity was intended to be a means to an end, Garinn said. The goal was always to fully incorporate LGBT Catholics into the life of the church. As the Catholic Church grows more comfortable with their LGBT members, Garinn believes they will be incorporated into parish life.

“Then all Catholics will be the beneficiary,” he said.

—  John Wright

David the Dignity Dog to celebrate Pride

David the Dignity Dog and his tiger, which we’re told is stuffed and not real

With the paper almost three times as large as most weeks, we wrote and wrote and wrote this week but a few items didn’t make it into print. This was one of my favorites that got left out, about David the Dignity Dog who will be in Lee Park on Sunday celebrating Pride:

Among the booths in Lee Park after the Pride parade on Sunday will be the Doggy Watering Hole and Treat Station sponsored by David the Dignity Dog.

David is a 1-year-old, 100-pound bloodhound boxer mix lap dog. Speaking for David was his people Jim Davis.

He said that David cannot be trusted to hand out the treats so he, along with members of Dignity Dallas, will make sure other dogs get goodies.

Dignity is the Catholic group with outreach to the LGBT community. They meet in the chapel at Cathedral of Hope on Sundays at 6 p.m. for mass and fellowship meeting. Afterward, they go out to dinner.

Dignity will have treats for the people whom dogs bring to the booth, too. Davis said that last year they went through 1,500 Pope-sicles. He said they’ll have more on hand this year.

Davis stopped by the office earlier this week and assured us that David’s tiger is stuffed, not real.

—  David Taffet