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Banned Catholic Group For Families of LGBTQ+ People Announces New Alliance with DignityUSA

October 13th, 2020.

Families with Dignity, formerly known as Fortunate Families Detroit, is delighted to announce its new affiliation with DignityUSA. 

“DignityUSA has been at the forefront of the movement to fully include LGBTQ+ people in the institutional Catholic Church for more than 50 years,” said Linda Karle-Nelson, who with her husband Tom Nelson founded the Detroit-based family and allies group now known as Families with Dignity in 2014. “We thank them for embracing us in our time of need and look forward to advancing the cause of LGBTQ+ Catholics and our families.” 

Christopher Pett, President of DignityUSA, stated: “DignityUSA is excited to welcome this committed, passionate group of parents to our movement, and to a closer relationship with our local Dignity/Detroit chapter. The Dignity/Detroit community has an amazing history of pastoral, communal and spiritual care to LGBTQI+ Catholics. This partnership will expand and strengthen our ability to positively impact those who seek our support and advocacy.” 

In March of this year, the Archdiocese of Detroit sent a letter to Fortunate Families Detroit, as it was then known, asking it to disband and forbidding it from meeting on any archdiocesan property. The letter from Bishop Gerard Battersby cited the group’s rejection of Church teaching on sexual morality “for those who struggle with same-sex attraction.” Dignity/Detroit, a chapter of DignityUSA, received a nearly identical letter from the archdiocese in March. 

The letters indicated that Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron wants the only permitted ministries aimed at LGBTQ+ Catholics and their families to be EnCourage and Courage. These groups are patterned on 12-step programs and ask participants to accept celibacy as the only way to be a faithful LGBTQ+ Catholic. Families with Dignity and DignityUSA, on the other hand, believe that celibacy is a valid choice for any person who desires it, but also that the loving, authentic relationships and marriages of LGBTQ+ people should be celebrated.  

“Many of our LGBTQ+ children have married their life partners.  We joyfully welcome their spouses and partners, as any parent would,” said Karle-Nelson. “We are thrilled that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and all queer people are now allowed to marry in all 50 states.”  

In its new mission statement, Families with Dignity says, “We welcome the day when our LGBTQ+ family members are fully accepted by the entire Church, even as we know they are accepted by God. We pray with confidence that with acceptance will come acknowledgement and support of all legal marriages, of committed and loving family units, of transgender and nonbinary people, and of workplace equality for LGBTQ+ people.” The bold new mission statement put the group at odds with Fortunate Families Inc., its former parent organization, which asked the group to stop using the Fortunate Families name. 

After attempting to silence Families with Dignity and Dignity/Detroit, the Archdiocese of Detroit also pressured St. John Fisher parish in Auburn Hills to fire beloved music minister Terry Gonda from the job she had held for 32 years, apparently because her nine-year marriage to Kirsti Reeve had become grounds for dismissal. Terry’s situation was described in The New York Times.  

“After all this heartache and in the midst of this pandemic, we are eager to move forward with our ministry of support and advocacy,” said Karle-Nelson. The group has a new website and plans to meet monthly, mostly online.