DETROIT -- For more than 45 years, Dignity Detroit has been a haven for LGBTQ Catholics looking to practice their faith in a respectful space for those with different sexual orientations.
The group held Masses in Detroit with the help of several Catholic priests, including even some bishops who would preside over their services, first held at Most Holy Trinity Church in Detroit and later at Scared Heart Chapel at Marygrove College.
But this year, the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit kicked them out, saying they are now forbidden from gathering at churches and having priests perform Mass for them. In addition, the Archdiocese also has kicked out another LGBTQ Catholic group, Fortunate Families Detroit. Both groups and clergy received letters earlier this year from Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby warning them they are no longer welcome in the Archdiocese because they advocate policies that he said clash with church doctrine on sexuality.
" ... a Mass for Dignity Detroit members -- one which rejects Church teaching on human sexuality -- is not possible in any parish church, chapel, or diocesan facility, and is indeed forbidden everywhere in the Archdiocese of Detroit," Bishop Battersby wrote in a March 9 letter to all priests in the Archdiocese. "Refrain from offering Mass anywhere in the Archdiocese of Detroit for Dignity Detroit, lest we confuse the faithful by seeming to endorse an alternative and contradictory path to sanctity."
The expulsion of the groups is part of a broader push by the Archdiocese to make sure that Catholic groups are in alignment with its teachings. In another case, the Archdiocese of Detroit fired in June a music teacher who is a lesbian after she married another woman. Conservative Catholics have been pushing the Archdiocese for years to distance themselves from LGBTQ organizations. In August 2019, Archbishop Allen Vigneron, who leads the Archdiocese, released a note titled "Imitating Christ's Charity and Chastity" that urged those with same-sex attractions to live a chaste life.
Leaders of the two groups, while shocked and hurt by their removals, say they are going to continue with their mission.
Dignity Detroit held last month its first in-person Mass since the coronavirus pandemic at the chapel at what used to be Marygrove College. And Fortunate Families is holding online meetings while it plans a future outside the Archdiocese.
"Dignity is still around, and we're not going anywhere," Frank D'Amore, president of Dignity Detroit, told the Detroit Free Press this week. "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."
Since 2014, Fortunate Families Detroit, which supports LGBTQ families, has been gathering at Christ the King Catholic Church in Detroit, led by the Rev. Victor Clore, for meetings and Mass. But on March 14, Bishop Battersby sent Fortunate Families a letter that told the group to stop its services.
"Fortunate Families Detroit provides a misleading and harmful message," Battersby wrote. "Having such an organization, with its competing vision for the sanctification of her members, operating within the boundaries of the Archdiocese is both confusing to the faithful and detrimental to the very membership the organization seeks to serve."