Efforts to resurrect local gay Catholic group are misguided

Article on fledgling Dignity Dallas chapter raises questions about why LGBT people would want to be part of a faith that doesn’t accept them

The Feb. 17 Dallas Voice informed us, under the eyebrow “Spirituality,” that some locals are working to re-establish the LGBT Catholic organization, Dignity Dallas.

This is so weird it ranks right up there with Rick Santorum’s assertion that, if one of his daughters was raped and impregnated, he would advise her to make the best of a bad situation.

It ranks right alongside Mitt Romney’s sacred underpants, Newt Gingrich’s moon base and Ron Paul’s un-conservative earmarks.

I do not know Jim Davis, and perhaps he is a very nice man. Certainly, he seems sincere in wanting to re-establish a local branch of Dignity since he is willing to be quoted saying, “I want my name out there.”

Out where? The Catholic Church does not recognize Dignity’s existence. It certainly does not recognize Dignity’s value. The DV article reports that, according to DignityUSA Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke, the group is “still a place to take refuge from the mounting attacks by bishops and the pope.”

Well, isn’t that the problem? Hey, people, the church does not want you. It thinks your sexuality, gender identity and/or gender expression is a choice. It thinks you should turn straight. It thinks you should be celibate. It thinks you should at the very least keep your mouth shut. Not to mention other parts of your anatomy.

Here is some of what the church has to say about LGBT people:

According to published reports, on Oct. 31, 1986, under Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) made public a “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.”

In the letter, he calls homosexuality “a more or less strong tendency … toward an intrinsic moral evil” and “an objective disorder.”

In other words, not only is homosexual activity wrong, but homosexuality itself is wrong. Evil. Disordered. Wrong.

Googling for items related to Catholic positions on homosexuality is fascinating and terrifying. For example, it is fascinating to note the many references to the Book of Genesis and its “creation” of Adam and Eve and their “union” as the basis for heterosexuality and hetero-only marriage. (There is no mention of who wrote the book, though many Catholics and other religions believe it was dictated by God.)

But it is terrifying to read the November 2000 “Statement” issued by the Catholic Medical Association. The statement lists “considerations” — the first being all the bad childhood experiences it alleges turned some of us away from the path of righteousness, including not enough rough-and-tumble play for boys. In a sort of footnote to the list, it alleges that adult women are turned to homosexuality by having an abortion. That’s a new one on me and perhaps on you as well.

The statement then makes “recommendations,” which include this questionable gem: “The priest … is in a unique position to provide specific spiritual assistance to those experiencing same-sex attraction.” Is this a joke? I’m not going there.

In any case, the Catholic Medical Association statement was issued years after the American Psychological Association changed its retrograde position and stated: “The research on homosexuality is very clear. Homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity.”

I have nothing against the Roman Catholic Church — nothing against any Abrahamic faith. I simply do not believe the practitioners should be passing judgment on all of us or meddling with marriage and abortion and contraception and military service and workplace rights and intimate relationships among members of our community.

And yet they do, or they try very hard to. So why would any LGBT seek to dignify such patriarchal, paternalistic views? It’s a puzzle.

Phyllis Guest is a longtime activist on political and LGBT issues and is a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. Send comments to editor@dallasvoice.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

What’s Brewing: Craigslist congressman quits; iPhone confession app includes anti-gay query

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. New York GOP Congressman Christopher Lee resigned late Wednesday after Gawker reported that he sent a shirtless photo (above right) to a woman who’d placed an ad in the “Women Seeking Men” section of Craigslist. Lee, who is married and 46, told the woman in a series of e-mails that he was a 39-year-old divorced lobbyist. According to the Associated Press, Lee had cultivated a family values voting record since being elected to the House in 2008. With so many sexually repressed conservatives in Congress these days, we look forward to an abundance of stories like this one over the next few years, and we can only hope some involve lawmakers from Texas.

2. A new iPhone app that allows users to make Catholic confessions is under fire from LGBT advocates for asking, “Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?” The app, “Confession: A Roman Catholic App,” is currently ranked No. 22 in sales worldwide. (INSERT PEDOPHILE PRIESTS JOKE HERE.)

3. On the local front, there will be no 7-11 at Oak Lawn Avenue and Gillespie Street, after a property owner withdrew the proposal in response to concerns from angry Oak Lawn residents. The property two blocks southwest of the Cedar Springs strip previously was home to Tony’s Wine Warehouse but has been vacant for the last two years. Nearby residents and businesses were concerned about the crime and late-night traffic a 7-11 would bring. Among other things, the compromise reached Wednesday ensures that most crime will continue to occur near the Valero on Cedar Springs instead.

—  John Wright

Former colleagues testify for lesbian flight nurse discharged from Air Force under DADT

GENE JOHNSON | Associated Press

TACOMA, Washington — A lesbian flight nurse discharged from the Air Force under the government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays in the military was an excellent officer whose sexuality never caused a problem in her unit, former colleagues told a federal judge Monday, Sept. 13.

Former Maj. Margaret Witt is seeking reinstatement to the Air Force Reserve in a closely watched case that “don’t ask, don’t tell” critics hope will lead to a second major legal victory this month. The trial began just days after a federal judge in California declared the policy unconstitutional.

Witt was suspended in 2004 and honorably discharged after the Air Force received a complaint from a civilian about her sexuality.

The first witness in her case, retired Master Sgt. James Schaffer, testified that Witt was exceedingly competent and said her dismissal was so unfair, it was part of the reason he retired in 2007.

“It was a rather dishonorable act on the part of the Air Force,” Schaffer said. “It should not be about what you are, but who you are.”

Witt’s case has already led to one crucial ruling — a 2008 holding by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel that the military cannot discharge people under “don’t ask, don’t tell” unless it shows that the firing is necessary to further military goals such as unit cohesion. The case has returned to federal court in Tacoma for U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton to determine whether Witt’s dismissal met that standard.

The 1993 law prohibits the military from asking about the sexual orientation of service members, but allows the discharge of those who acknowledge being gay or are discovered to be engaging in homosexual activity. Last week, U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips in Los Angeles determined the policy was an unconstitutional violation of the due process and free speech rights of gays and lesbians.

While Phillips’ ruling has no effect on the legal issues in Witt’s case, gay rights activists believe a victory — and Witt’s reinstatement — could help build momentum for repealing the policy. The Senate could soon take up a House-approved defense bill that includes a repeal.

Witt sat in the courtroom Monday amid her supporters, including Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, a fighter pilot from Idaho who is fighting his own discharge by the U.S. Air Force.

Peter Phipps, a Justice Department lawyer representing the Air Force, insisted during his opening statement that Witt’s conduct necessitated her firing. That included a long-term relationship with a civilian woman, an affair with a married woman and two earlier relationships with fellow servicewomen, Witt acknowledged in a May deposition.

A 2004 e-mail from the married woman’s husband to the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, prompted the investigation into Witt’s sexuality. Witt remains in a relationship with that woman, whose husband divorced her.

“By committing adultery, she compromised her integrity and her ability to lead,” Phipps said. “Plaintiff set an example of a disregard for Air Force policies.”

Witt’s discharge therefore eliminated a risk to unit cohesion and morale, he added. He said the support she has received from colleagues is irrelevant; the law’s constitutionality doesn’t depend on the views of her friends.

Furthermore, the military cannot handle discipline by referendum, because that would lead to uneven application of the law, Phipps said.

Witt acknowledged in her deposition the extramarital affair was not consistent with good “officership.” She also said she told two members of her unit about her orientation — forcing them to choose between loyalty to Witt and Air Force policy, the Air Force argues.

Former colleagues who testified Monday disagreed that Witt’s firing accomplished anything — especially because it came during a shortage of flight nurses.

“We were at war at the time,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Oda. “It was the loss of an able flight nurse is what that was.”

The court also heard from other service members discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell.” One, former Army Sgt. Darren Manzella, said that when his superiors first investigated him, he gave them pictures of himself and his boyfriend kissing to make it clear he didn’t want to hide anything.

The result of that initial inquiry? “No evidence” of homosexuality, Manzella said. He served almost two more years before the Army kicked him out in 2008.

One of Witt’s lawyers, Sarah Dunne of the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state, said in her opening statement that the McChord Air Force Base aeromedical evacuation squadron with which Witt served welcomed gays and lesbians, and it was her dismissal — not her orientation — that caused problems in the unit.

Schaffer, the retired master sergeant, said he went on hundreds of flights with Witt, including several missions to evacuate ill or wounded Americans from the Middle East and Afghanistan. Witt received a standing ovation when she showed up at his retirement party in 2007, he said.

Dunne said Witt received glowing performance reviews that attested to her nursing ability and leadership, even one that was written in 2005, after her suspension.

Her suspension came less than a year before she would have earned her full pension.

—  John Wright