Catholics protested a Michigan conference highlighting gay-negative views, including Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s suggestion that breaking up same-gender relationships is comparable to Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt.
The conference was titled “Welcoming and Accompanying Our Brothers and Sisters with Same-Sex Attraction,” but there was little welcome from conference organizers Courage International, Our Sunday Visitor publishing company, academic Janet Smith, and the Archdiocese of Detroit.
Most troubling was Archbishop Vigneron’s homily at the closing Mass, during which he compared leading people out of same-gender relationships to Moses leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt.
Vigneron further claimed conference participants were subversive because they challenged the established gay-positive cultural norm, but they were not bigoted in their condemnation of same-gender relationships. He told those gathered they were neither “a bunch of Queen Victorians, “a bunch of blue-stockings,” nor “old-fashioned.”
This homily shows that the archbishop’s comment last week in which he stepped back from his 2013 suggestion that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion is not the complete picture of his LGBT position.
Other conference moments included local celebrity priest Fr. John Riccardo stating that being gay is like jamming a bagel into one’s ear to make the point “that doesn’t go there.” Speaking of a gay member of his family, Riccardo advocated welcoming gay and lesbian people into one’s home so they can go “from not knowing Jesus to knowing Jesus.”
Organizer Janet Smith, a Catholic academic, previously defined the “gay lifestyle” as being marked by “promiscuity, anonymous sex, heartbreak, sexually transmitted diseases.” Additional speakers included psychologist Timothy Lock, professor Deborah Savage, and lesbian author Even Tushnet, reported Hometown Life.
Some two dozen LGBT Catholics and allies gathered peacefully outside the conference site for a prayer walk, critical of the views held by those inside who seek mandatory celibacy and even conversion therapy for lesbian and gay people.
Those walking in prayer included many parents involved with Fortunate Families and PFLAG, demanding respect for their children and a more inclusive church response. Noted advocates Linda Karle-Nelson and Tom Nelson helped organize the walk. Nelson told the Detroit Free Press:
“It’s medieval times all over again. . .If God created people gay, then gay sex seems to be a natural thing. . .[Church officials have] limited knowledge of human sexuality. . .they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Another protester, Jan Reynolds, a Catholic mother with a 24-year-old lesbian daughter and member of Fortunate Families, further critiqued church leaders in The Detroit News:
“I don’t want to have to leave the Catholic church, and I shouldn’t have to choose between my daughter and my god. . .I hope the leadership of the church open their minds and hearts and see these people are good people.”
Plymouth-Canton PFLAG president George Belvitch described his motivation for protesting the event:
“The message we want to convey is that our children and other children who are LGBT want to be part of the Catholic Church.We care about our church and we want our children to be a part of it. That want to participate.”
The loving criticisms of these faithful Catholic parents are comment enough on how devastating this conference is for the church an the world, but I want to highlight one more thing. Detroit experienced three violent crimes against trans* people in recent weeks, including two murders. These are tied to an uptick in LGBT hate crimes in the United States, a situation that requires the church to stand in solidarity with those suffering.
Instead or reacting to this terrible trend, Archbishop Vigneron welcomed some of the world’s leading anti-gay Catholic voices to his archdiocese and personally affirmed their views. When will he and other church leaders host a conference on anti-LGBT hate crimes?
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry
The Advocate, “LGBT-Supportive Catholics Protest Michigan Conference“