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WYO Families Appeal to Pope for Compassion

April 17, 2008

Cheyenne, WY – A group of Wyoming families is appealing to Pope Benedict XVI for understanding because they have relatives who are gay or lesbian. The families feel that statements the Pope has made validate violence towards gay and lesbian people. He has said homosexually-oriented people are "objectively disordered."

Lifelong Catholic Drew Conneen with Fortunate Families has a gay son, and he says statements like that are misleading for families.

"Sometimes, they feel they have to choose between their child and their church, and it's unfortunate because a lot of that is based on misinformation."

Conneen says perception is important because the suicide rate for young gay people and those questioning their sexual orientation is three times the rate of the general population. He says those people need to know they are loved by God.

"There's a lot of people who think that the Catholic Church, like some other churches, condemns homosexuality, when in fact, they welcome the people. People themselves certainly can be saved."

Vatican documents don't specifically condemn gay or lesbian people; in fact, they are welcome in most parishes - it's their sexual activity that is condemned. A recent U.S. Catholic church document called for opening a dialogue to talk about how to make gay and lesbian people feel welcome, and Conneen is meeting with Catholic leaders in June to pursue that.

The matter still has particular resonance in Wyoming because of the brutal murder of a young gay man, Matthew Shepard, near Laramie 10 years ago. Two perpetrators were sentenced to life in prison in the case, which drew nationwide attention.

For more information online, visit www.fortunatefamilies.com.

Deborah Smith/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WY