Dignity/Detroit Celebrates 39th Anniversary Amid Protests

The same weekend Catholic parents held vigil in Detroit to affirm their LGBT children’s place in the Church, an anti-gay organization protested Dignity/Detroit’s 39th anniversary celebrations at Marygrove College, Detroit.

Only about twenty protestors showed up to oppose the anniversary Mass.  They were upset that the Catholic college granted permission for Dignity/Detroit to hold a liturgy on its campus. Protesters gathered at the edge of Marygrove College, where they claimed to defend ‘traditional marriage’ and Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s assertion that pro-LGBT Catholics should not receive Communion.

However, the minor protest did not impede the Mass and the Detroit Free Press reports:

“A group of gay rights advocates staged a counter-demonstration on the other side of the college entrance, carrying a large rainbow flag. One attendant of the mass came out and challenged the protestors.

“‘The message of Jesus is love and acceptance,’ said Rick Gillon of Detroit. He said as church attendance across Christian denominations is falling, Christians should welcome people through church doors rather than push them away.”

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

The Mass was presided over by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, who recently said all are welcome in the Catholic community in response to the archbishop’s exclusionary statements, along with other priests who minister with Dignity/Detroit. He received two standing ovations during the liturgy. One of the preacher’s at the Mass spoke about the protests:

“Justin Kelly, an associate professor of religious studies at the University of Detroit Mercy, said he was one of many preachers speaking at the evening mass. He said the protestors had every right to be there, but that he had no issue ministering to gay and lesbian parishioners.

“’They’re fellow Christians and I believe it would not be following the example of Jesus to exclude them,’ he said.”

For it’s part, the Archdiocese of Detroit remained neutral on the matter of Marygrove College hosting Dignity/Detroit’s Masses, saying through a spokesperson to CBS Detroit:

“‘There are hundreds of Masses celebrated in the Detroit archdiocese every weekend…It’s always Archbishop Vigneron’s expectation that these liturgies are conducted in full conformity with the Catholic Church’s teachings and practices.’”

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke

Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity/USA responded to the Detroit controversies with this statement:

“Our faith is very important to us…Most Catholics would be appalled to know that fellow Catholics cannot easily access our sacraments, have a Mass. We also believe we are all children of a loving God and should be able to worship in peace.”

The matter of LGBT Catholics finding communities to worship has been highlighted in recent weeks, with comments by Archbishop Vigneron and Cardinal Timothy Dolan sparking demonstrations and outcry. Bondings 2.0 previously reported on the New York City Catholics threatened with arrest for entering St. Patrick’s Cathedral with ‘dirty hands.’

As American bishops continue closing church doors in the face of LGBT Catholics, their families, and their allies, Pope Francis preaches instead on being a church of ‘yes’ that welcomes all. During Mass last week, the new pope said:

“We ask the Lord that the Holy Spirit help us always to become a community of love, of love for Jesus who loved us so much. A community of this ‘yes’…A community of open doors. And it defends us from the temptation…to seek a para-evangelical purity, from being a community of ‘no’.”


Perhaps the American hierarchy should take a cue from Rome and try opening church doors, instead of literally closing them — modeling their efforts after the many gay–friendly parishes, Dignity chapters, including Detroit, gay-friendly Catholic colleges, and intentional Eucharistic communities– all who have decades of positive ministry could be a good start.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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