Dignity Canada held their annual national conference in Ottawa from May 8-21. Although Dignity claims to be a group intended for Catholic male and female homosexuals, it rejects the Catholic Church’s teaching that prohibits homosexual activity. Speakers attending the conference included John J. McNeill, a priest expelled in 1987 from the Jesuit order; Guy Menard, professor of religious studies at the University du Quebec in Montreal, and author of a “theology” of gay liberation; and Kathy Horton, Regional Director for Lutherans Concerned of Canada.

John McNeill, who was to speak about pastoral care for AIDS victims, is well-known homosexual activist whose books are best sellers. In his 1977 work, The Church and The Homosexual, McNeill argued that God does not intend all people to be heterosexual and approves of same-sex relationships. In his latest book, Taking a Chance on God: Liberating Theology for Gay, Lesbians, and their Lovers, Families and Friends, McNeill attempts to create a special “sexual theology” for homosexual men and women. Incredible as it may seem, he argues that Holy Scripture does not condemn homosexual actions.

Although McNeill’s position on homosexuality is at odds with Catholic teaching, he and Dignity enjoy support in some Catholic circles in Canada. As reported in the Montreal Gazette, May 10, Most Rev. Leonard Crowley, auxiliary bishop of Montreal, celebrated Mass at a Dignity conference that year. The bishop stated that Catholic bishops have “informally accepted” Dignity although they do not agree with what all its members do in private.

Besides having the unofficial blessing of some Catholic bishops and such influential Catholics dissidents as ex-priest Gregory Baum, McNeill and Dignity get sympathetic treatment in the liberal Catholic press. Doug O’Neill, who is a member of the Catholic New Times collective, stated in a December 1988 review of Taking a Chance on God, that McNeill presents a challenge “ideally to be embraced by all Christians.” The Catholic New Times, a bi-weekly newspaper published in Toronto, publishes regular ads for Dignity.

Vatican directives order Roman Catholic churches and institutions not to serve homosexual groups, but this seems to be bypassed or ignored in Canada. The homosexual magazine Gays of Ottawa, quoted Dignity president Marc Desjardins as stating that Father Gerry Morris, o.m.i., pastor of Ottawa’s St. Joseph’s parish, presides at liturgies for Dignity on occasion.

Also in November 1989, Saskatchewan Oblate Father Michael McCarthy and others publicly protested the regular, collective presence of homosexuals at the noon Sunday Masses held at St. Joseph’s. This earned him a rebuke from his Superiors who suggested he might want to leave the Oblate order. Fr. McCarthy’s account of the altercation was published in the Human Life International Canada newsletter of January/February 1990, as an “Open Letter to my fellow Oblates.”

The Archdiocese of Ottawa, headed by Most Rev. Archbishop Marcel Gervais, was sent two letters about the Dignity conference in May, but no public statement was issued. Subsequently, about 20 Catholics protested what they regarded as inaction by the Archbishop, outside Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral. “He is supposed to be the shepherd of the flock, and we would like him to make the statement that these are not Catholics in good standing,” said a spokesman. (“Archbishop should’ve banned gay priest, say protesters,” Ottawa Citizen, May 22, 1990.)

The Ottawa Citizen reported Archdiocesan spokesman Father Giles Lavergne as stating that an archbishop has no control over a priest who comes to the city. The same attitude was displayed early last March when Dominican priest Matthew Fox was brought to Ottawa. Fox approves of homosexuality and abortion and preaches a peculiar brand of paganism, yet he received the active support of a number of committees attached to Ottawa Catholic parishes.

Similarly, posters advertising the Dignity conference were seen pinned to the bulletin boards of some Ottawa Catholic Churches. According to Ottawa homosexual activist Graham Haig, the Archdiocese of Ottawa is sympathetic to Dignity. When The Interim contacted Archdiocese and asked if what Haig said was true, spokesman Gilles Lavergne declined to either confirm or deny it. Instead, he stated that Archbishop Gervais had only been in office in Ottawa for about six months and needs time to adjust to his new position.

Another individual who over many years has defended homosexuality as a true form of love is Fr. Andre Guindon, o.m.i., moral theologian of St. Paul’s University in Ottawa. One of his more memorable sayings is his comment on the 1986 Vatican document The Pastoral Care of Homosexuals: “I disagree with everything from the title to the last line. It’s homophobic.” (Fidelity, February 1987, p.34).

Gay Pride Day

At about the same time, Ottawa city council rescinded its earlier approval of Gay and Lesbian Pride Day, when they discovered it has been scheduled for Father’s Day, June 17. This provoked a full attack by Ottawa homosexuals and their supporters who decided to seek an order from the Ontario Supreme Court to quash council’s decision.

The Association of Gays and Lesbians also threatened to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission against the city and eight aldermen for “discrimination.” Three Catholic aldermen, Tim Kehoe, Michael Janigan and Mark Maloney, supported the proclamation. (Kehoe changed his mind when the vote held on May 16th was rescinded). According to the Ottawa Citizen, Alderman Mark Maloney was denounced by his parish priest from the pulpit for supporting the Gay Day but this proved to be untrue. When contacted by The Interim, Father Donegan, pastor of St. George’s parish in Ottawa said he merely asked parishioners to complain about the Gay Day to their elected officials. He never mentioned Alderman Maloney by name.

On June 15, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that Ottawa City Council has discriminated against the Gay and Lesbian community when it revoked “Gay Pride Day.” Thus 500 Ottawa homosexuals paraded on Father’s Day.