The idea for a national meeting of Catholic Lesbians was first discussed at a retreat for lesbians sponsored by New Ways Ministry in May 1981. Six months later, K… and C… of New York City drew up a proposal for a national conference for Catholic Lesbians. This conference, from which the organizational name is taken, was held in November 1982 at Kirkridge, a retreat center in Bangor, Pennyslvania. Over 100 women participated in that historic gathering, coming from throughout the United States, Canada and Argentina. The catalyst for the conference came from the fact that none of the groups participants belonged to–women’s, Catholic, or gay–encouraged activities or environments, either social or spiritual, that affirmed our own unique identity as Lesbians of Catholic heritage.
The deeply felt need that emerged from Kirkridge–and the outpouring of letters from women who heard about the conference but were unable to attend–was for a network through which Catholic Lesbians could be in touch with one another for support and for spiritual community.
Shortly after the Kirkridge conference the organizers met to form the Conference for Catholic Lesbians. The original goal of the organization was to act as a clearinghouse of information and resources for Catholic Lesbians. Over time, this expanded to the formation of local groups, bi-annual national conferences, a quarterly newsletter, regional events and retreats, and participation in a number of Catholic coalitions.
CCL members have written or been featured in books and articles in the mainstream, religious and gay and lesbian press, emphasizing the importance of the integration of sexual and spiritual identity. Throughout the years, CCL members have been active participants in a number of protests, public education efforts and coalitions, chief among them A Call To Action and Women-Church Convergence. We are an annual participant in New York City’s Gay Pride Day march down Fifth Avenue.
The issues we are particularly concerned with include overt and subtle discrimination against lesbians and gays in Catholic schools, agencies, facilities and religious communities; the ordination of women priests, the use of inclusive language and imagery in liturgies and texts, and the need for Catholic Lesbians to live and participate fully in their faith communities and parishes being exactly who they are. In addition to the discrimination we face from the Church, we are equally concerned with the treatment we receive as Christians and as Catholic from our own Lesbian community. Sadly, sometimes we find it is easier to be a lesbian among Christians than a Christian among lesbians.
CCL’s message across the years has remained the same: You are not alone. There are others who believe and feel as you do. Join us, and reach out to others.