Archdiocese of Detroit bans longstanding LGBTQ+ groups from holding service

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Two Catholic LGBTQ+ groups have been banned from holding services or recruiting clergy to perform mass after the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit pulled the “lest we confuse the faithful by seeming to endorse an alternative and contradictory path to sanctity” card in March.

The oldest of the two barred community groups, Dignity Detroit, which was founded in 1974, received the news after a letter penned by Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby dated March 14 stated that any parish, church, chapel, or institution must “refrain from offering Mass anywhere in the Archdiocese of Detroit for Dignity Detroit,” The Detroit Free Press reports, claiming the group “rejects Church teaching on human sexuality.”

A second group, Fortunate Families Detroit, is also expelled from holding services. Battersby claims the organization, founded in 2014, “provides a misleading and harmful message.”

“Recently, the Archdiocese and others have attempted to silence us. We refuse to be silenced and will continue our ministry in the Archdiocese,” Fortunate Families Detroit's response reads. “The time for speaking our truth has never been more urgent. Our emboldened voice has created division with Fortunate Families, Inc. As a group, we are taking time to build our future and explore a new name and affiliation.”

Fortunate Families has been holding online service and support during the pandemic, though, normally, they gather at Detroit's Christ the King Catholic Church. Due to the ban, however, they are continuing online service as they plot their next move.

Last month, Dignity Detroit held an in-person service, the organization's first since the pandemic, at a chapel on the former Marygrove College campus, where they plan on staying until they are able to come up with other solutions. Though the college closed last year, the campus is overseen by the Marygrove Conservancy, which told Dignity Detroit that by kicking them out they could violate discrimination laws.

“Dignity is still around, and we're not going anywhere,” president of Dignity Detroit, Frank D'Amore, told The Detroit Free Press. “We just celebrated our 46th anniversary in May. We never went out of our way to embarrass the church hierarchy. We're on our fourth Archbishop in 39 years, three cardinals. Now, all of a sudden, it's an issue? I don't get it.”

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Detroit told the Free Press said they've suggested that both groups join Courage and EnCourage, organizations aimed at those Catholics who have same-sex attraction. D'Amore said he's insulted and compared Courage and EnCourage to “12-step programs.” On the Courage website, one of the program's objective states: “Homosexual attraction or feelings are not a sin; however, homosexual acts are immoral and do not lead to a deeper life in Christ.”

Following the ban, the Archdiocese of Detroit also fired Terry Gonda, a longtime parish music director, after learning that she had married a woman. Like Dignity Detroit and Fortunate Families, Gonda was informed by her pastor via email that the firing would take place. According to Gonda, the termination was against her pastor's wishes.

The June 12 email said that the Archdiocese activated its “morality clause” t0 justify the firing.

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