Dignity/Detroit Pledges to Remain a Eucharistic Community Despite Archdiocesan Sanctions
March 18, 2020.The challenges facing the world right now with the corona virus are overwhelming and eclipsing all other news, but important events continue to occur that merit our attention. This is one of them.
The 46-year commitment of Dignity/Detroit to provide an affirming and welcoming Catholic liturgy to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) Catholics, along with their family members and supporters, remains unchanged, despite recent orders from the Archdiocese that they not celebrate Mass in Catholic space and forbidding priests from serving the community. The announcement was made to the Dignity/Detroit community in an email from the Council sent to members on March 15, after Masses across the Archdiocese were suspended due to concerns about COVID-19, preempting their in-person weekly celebration.
The statement from the Dignity/Detroit’s Leadership Council noted that Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby had contacted Chapter leaders in mid-January 2020, asking to meet with them about the rollout of the next phase of an initiative called “Unleashing the Gospel.” The letter stated that the Archdiocese, out of concern for those “experiencing same-sex attraction,” would be implementing programs aimed at helping them live celibate lives in accord with church teaching. After a series of communications that Dignity/Detroit leaders characterized as “cordial,” a meeting was scheduled for late March. The letter detailing the restrictions against Dignity/Detroit was sent to all priests on March 9.
“It is extremely disappointing that the Archdiocese moved forward with these drastic measures before we had a chance to have this important conversation,” said Frank D’Amore, President of Dignity/Detroit. “We truly believe that it is impossible to learn anything about our community and not be moved by the love our members have for the Catholic faith, and the integrity with which they live their lives. It is hard to understand why church officials would cast out people struggling to remain connected with the church while so many are leaving.”
D’Amore said that the community is currently exploring its options and intends to keep the meeting scheduled with Bishop Battersby. “We believe strongly in our responsibility to speak out on behalf of LGBTQI Catholics and our families,” said D’Amore. “Archdiocesan officials clearly do not understand the truth of what it means to be gay or transgender, and how integral these components of our identities are. For many of us, it took years of struggle with what we’d been taught to be able to embrace our identities as grace, as blessings from our loving God. Dignity/Detroit’s work helps save many people from shame, and many families from the kinds of divisions that used to be the rule among Catholics. Our ministry literally saves lives.”
DignityUSA is supporting Dignity/Detroit through this process. Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke noted that nearly all Dignity chapters have already been expelled from Catholic space and had priests banned from serving them in the 1970s and 1980s. “There are few experiences as devastating as being kicked out of your family home and being told you are not worthy of being fed,” said Duddy-Burke. “That is what has happened to Dignity members all across the country. Yet we have persisted in sustaining communities that are graciously hosted by other denominations and have found ways to continue to celebrate the sacraments of our Church. We will do that in Detroit, if necessary, and will not allow church leaders to deny LGBTQI Catholics our human right to our faith.”
D’Amore said that many members are struggling with how the Archdiocese could take such hurtful action during Lent. “This is a very sacred time for Catholics and other Christians,” said D’Amore. “We are called on to turn to God and prepare ourselves for the experience of Easter. This experience of exclusion, which is currently happening to all Catholics and others because of COVID-19, is causing great pain. However, we firmly believe in Resurrection, and look forward to the triumph of love over prejudice, community over isolation, life after death.”
DignityUSA works for justice, equality and full inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in our Church and society. Founded in 1969, it is the longest-standing such organization in the world.