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 The Rainbow Sash Movement - An International Action for Gay rights and Spiritual freedom!

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May 6th 1998

Dear Pope John Paul,

I am writing to you as an openly gay man who embraces and celebrates his sexuality as a Sacred Gift. I am also writing as a member of the Church and as a person who, like so many others, longs for a just and more loving society. 

I am writing to ask you to publicly welcome and embrace Gay and Lesbian people, including those who are members of the Catholic Church, and to enter into open dialogue with us. Surely the time has come. 

After many centuries of persecution, Gay and Lesbian people are finally finding a voice, claiming a place, celebrating the hope of freedom. Increasingly, people of good will around the world are encouraging us in our struggle for liberation and justice. 

In the Church, too, there are signs of hope. Catholic teaching now says that homosexual women and men "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity", that they "should have an active role in the Christian community" and that "every form of unjust discrimination in their regard is to be avoided". In some dioceses there are also genuine efforts being made to develop dialogue and pastoral care. 

Despite these signs of hope, however, Lesbian and Gay people continue to face entrenched hostility and discrimination in both society and Church. In families, schools, parishes, workplaces, secular institutions and Church structures we are still routinely silenced and excluded. Both the teachings and the attitude of heart of many in the Church continue to provide a foundation and a justification for those who condemn, reject and harass gay people. 

Within the Church community itself there is still real oppression and deep-seated fear. It remains true that reputations, careers and lives can readily be destroyed if people are named as Gay or even Gay-friendly in our Church , despite official claims of tolerance. The imposed silence, the invisibility, the neglect, the exclusion and the active rejection that Lesbian and Gay people continue to endure in our Church are an insult to the Heart of Christ and a scandal for the People of God.

A stark and deeply symbolic example of this rejection occurred late last year. In both Melbourne and London two Catholic men , one a priest , were officially refused Holy Communion because they came forward in the Church proclaiming that they were gay. The symbol they wore was a Rainbow Sash. 

At the time, Archbishop Pell and Cardinal Basil Hume gave different reasons for this refusal, but the message was the same: those who come forward in the Catholic community proclaiming that they are Gay will be met with one of the Church's strongest sanctions, they will be refused Communion. 
This rejection is a blow to the heart for Gay and Lesbian Catholics and Christians, and for all who seek a more just and loving society. It will encourage those who oppress Gay people. It will crush the spirit of Lesbian and Gay Catholic youth: What future will they see for themselves in a Church that condemns them to silence and invisibility or to public rejection? 
The time has come to break this silence, to challenge this rejection, to call for a change of heart in the Church. If not now, then when? 

We are therefore writing to you to ask you, to call you, to offer leadership and loving service. You are called the "Servant of the Servants of God" Will you be a servant for Gay and Lesbian people? Will you dare to do something new for love and justice?

We ask four things of you : 

07/30/2012 size=4 face="Garamond">Will you publicly welcome openly Gay and Lesbian Catholics to Communion, and will you call the Bishops of our Church to do the same?
  • Will you encourage Gay and Lesbian clergy, religious and laity to "Come Out", i.e. to openly acknowledge their sexual orientation, so that our young people may have mentors and role models and so that the rich gifts of all of God's people may be honestly celebrated? Will you guarantee that the ministries, careers and reputations of those who "Come Out" in the Church will be protected? 
  • Will you call all Bishops to set up diocesan ministries to Lesbian and Gay people and their families, along with education and support programs in schools and parishes, so that intolerance, prejudice and hatred may be overcome by the Love of God?
  • Will you meet with Lesbian and Gay people from around the world, with Bishops and theologians, and set up "Structures of Listening" in dioceses and in the Universal Church? Will you let our voices be heard and our wisdom and experience be honoured?
  • Will you seek, with us, a new appreciation for human sexuality in all of its diversity and beauty?
    We ask you to consider prayerfully all that this letter puts before you. We realise this may take some time. However, Love and Justice call incessantly, and so we hereby inform both you and the whole Church that :
    • We will continue to come forward in the Church, proclaiming publicly that we are Gay and Lesbian people who embrace and celebrate our sexuality as a Sacred Gift.
    • We will continue to call the Church to be a voice of justice, a promise of Liberation and an advocate for those who are oppressed and silenced.
    • We will wear the symbol of the Rainbow Sash with dignity, hope and pride.

    For the Love of God, please listen to us.

    Signed by the convenors of the Rainbow Sash Movement (Australia)


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