DENVER, August 10 (RNS)--Catholic priests in religious orders have been warned by Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput not to say Mass or officiate at same-sex ceremonies for the local gay Catholic organization, Dignity.

The warning went out to provincials of men's religious orders that have members in the Denver archdiocese because, according to Chaput, Dignity "publicly dissents from Catholic teaching."

The Denver Dignity chapter has a Mass each Sunday at a local Presbyterian church. About 18 priests--both those in religious orders and those attached to the diocese, who are called diocesan priests--say Mass for the group on a rotating basis, said Sheryl Green, chairwoman of the Denver Dignity board.

Chaput wrote that he has received "a number of concerned letters" about the Mass "and some inquiries" about a same-sex commitment ceremony that may have taken place during or before one of the Masses.

He said he regards both of these matters as "serious."

Dignity leaders said they were "disappointed but not surprised" by Chaput's letter.

"The 26-year ministry of Dignity Denver to Colorado's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, including people in committed relationships, will continue," said Green, speaking for the Dignity board. She added that Dignity leaders would welcome open dialogue with Chaput on the subject.

Green said priests defying the archbishop's letter and celebrating the Masses had declined comment.

Chaput's letter doesn't mention diocesan priests, but he warned all priests last summer not to participate in a national Dignity convention that was held in Denver.

In his August 4 letter to the provincials, Chaput wrote, "If there are brothers in your community serving in the archdiocese who feel they cannot support church teaching on homosexuality, I ask them to remove themselves from ministry to homosexuals immediately."

Chaput declined comment on the letter because "it was private correspondence," said his spokesman, Greg Kail. "The archbishop sees using the newspaper as an intermediary as serving no other purpose than to create confusion," Kail said.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts "are intrinsically evil" and that gays are "disordered."

However, the bishops said in 1997 that parents of gay children should continue to love their children and "nothing in the Bible or in Catholic teaching can be used to justify prejudicial or discriminatory attitudes and behaviors" against gays.

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