Cardinal Donald Wuerl, who heads the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, has turned down an invitation by the LGBT Catholic group Dignity Washington to attend a Sunday Mass with the group at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church near Dupont Circle.
An official with the Archdiocese informed Dignity Washington in a Sept. 3 letter of Wuerl’s decision not to join the group at its weekly Mass or at its social gathering following the Mass. Dignity released the letter to the media for the first time after its Sept. 20 Sunday Mass.
The letter came as Dignity members in Washington and across the country were hopeful that Pope Francis’s visit to the United States, including the nation’s capital this week, would nudge the Catholic Church in the United States into taking a more welcoming stance toward the LGBT community that many believe Francis has taken.
“Is it correct that your community is founded upon the assertion that the Catholic Church’s teaching on chastity is inconsistent with her affirmation of the dignity of all?” William W. Gorman, the Archdiocese’s Associate Moderator of the Curia, asked Dignity President Daniel Barutta in his letter announcing Wurel’s decision not to attend a Dignity Mass or social gathering.
“The Church’s teaching magisterium does not accept this assertion, and attendance at a gathering such as the one you propose could symbolically communicate the opposite, thereby causing confusion,” Gorman said in his letter.
Gorman was referring to the longstanding teaching by the Catholic Church that sexual relations are only allowed for heterosexual couples joined in a marriage recognized by the church and that those not joined in such a marriage must remain chaste or celibate.
“The response from the letter inviting him to come to either our social or our mass is very disappointing,” Barutta told the Blade. “We took him at his word that he was trying to be more open minded and walk with us and be with the community at large like Pope Francis is trying to be,” said Barutta.
“What we got back is pretty much what we’ve been hearing,” Barutta said. “What we’ve been hearing for the last 25 years was we don’t promote chastity. We’re not really Catholic and we’re not valid and therefore he’s not coming to meet with us.”
Added Barutta, “So the Pope is saying one thing and the Archdiocese is saying another. And quite frankly, we’re very disappointed.”
In his letter inviting Wuerl to attend a Dignity Mass or social gathering, Barutta noted that the Cardinal stated at a recent news conference that he admired Pope Francis’s call for more inclusiveness.
Barutta quoted Wuerl as stating that Francis “keeps saying, ‘Go out. Go out and meet people where they are. And in that encounter, walk with them, accompany them.’”
“In this new spirit of openness which has energized the Church we all love, we invite you to join Dignity Washington (D.C.’s largest LGBT Catholic group) as we celebrate a Catholic Mass at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church,” Barutta wrote.
“We love the Scriptures, and our Liturgy, and the Faith tradition that has shaped our lives,” Barutta told Wuerl in his invitation. “Indeed, although we have been exiled from Catholic buildings and rejected by Catholic leaders because we want to live our sexuality openly and without apologies, we are still Catholic and we still look to you for leadership,” he said.
“That is why we invite you, in the words of Jesus to his first disciples, to ‘Come and see’ (John 1:39).”
In his letter informing Barutta of Wuerl’s decision to decline the invitation, Gorman suggested that not all gay Catholics agree with Dignity’s position.
“There are many persons who live with same-sex attraction and who believe that the Church’s teaching on chastity leads us to better understand our God-given dignity and its relationship to the meaning of sexuality and love,” Gorman wrote.
“Many persons have been treated badly by others in the body of Christ, and this I sincerely regret,” Gorman said in his letter. “However, every Catholic has the responsibility to seek communion with the Church and to believe what the Church believes.”
Cardinal Wuerl was among the first to greet Pope Francis, along with President Obama, as Francis arrived by plane on Sept. 22 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland in his first-ever visit to the United States.
Barutta noted that Wuerl lives near St. Margaret’s Church and sometimes walks past the church as Dignity members are arriving for Sunday evening Mass. He said that if Wuerl has ruled out attending a Dignity mass, members of the group would be happy to meet with him at another location.
“If he wants to meet at a coffee shop or at his office, at the Cathedral, at the Basilica, we’d love to meet with him,” Barutta said. “We’ll meet him on the Metro if we have to.”