Detroit Archbishop Bans Parents' Group Because of Speaker Choice

Francis DeBernardo, left, at World Pride 2012 in London. British Catholic gay advocate Martin Pendergast, right, helps him carry the New Ways Ministry banner.

Michigan LGBT advocates will proceed with a planned meeting for Catholic parents of LGBT children today after being barred from the Catholic parish that was set to host it.

Archbishop Allen Vigneron banned Christ the King parish in northwest Detroit from hosting the Fortunate Families support group because Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry is scheduled to speak. According to organizer Linda Karle-Nelson, the parish hosted a similar gathering last year and this change of venue greatly disrupts the event. She told The Detroit Free Press:

” ‘It’s really been a problem trying to get the information out to people who have registered and those who might want to walk in…The reason we invited Frank DeBernardo, is he just returned from Rome and the Synod on the family, and he was going to share his perspective and where do we go from here…The pope has asked for reactions and to weigh in.’ “

DeBernardo, who heads New Ways Ministry, noted how far Vigneron’s action is from Pope Francis’ welcoming style and added:

” ‘I feel bad for the message that it sends to Catholics that there can’t be discussion of an issue of great importance to them and their families — how to stay in better communication with their church and their gay and lesbian children.’ “

Linda Karle-Nelson and Thomas Nelson

Christ the King’s pastor, Fr. Victor Clore, is also baffled by the archbishop’s decision, telling the Free Press:

” ‘I’ll give you a quote from one of my parishioners, who said: “It amazes me how Pope Francis eagerly and happily engages those who openly deny the divinity of Christ, yet (New Ways) DeBernardo is deemed unworthy to enter our church’…

” ‘That’s pretty much my feeling, too…It’s treating people as if they were children.’ “

Archbishop Vigneron’s record on LGBT issues has not been positive. In the past, he has warned that pro-marriage equality Catholics should not receive Communion (though his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton thought otherwise) and is on record saying Pope Francis “didn’t say anything different” on homosexuality.

In contrast, Karle-Nelson and her husband, Tom, were awarded by PFLAG for their pastoral efforts within the church through Fortunate Families. They have led protests at the Detroit chancery and stood by Dignity/Detroit when its 39th anniversary celebrations came under fire from the archdiocese.

Fox 2 News of Detroit quoted DeBernardo explaining a bit about the content of his talk:

“Pope Francis has demonstrated openness on these issues and he has called for greater discussion of them as we saw in the synod at the Vatican last month. I wish the Archdiocese of Detroit had inquired more deeply about the substance of my talk. They would have found that it is very Catholic on its content.”

His talk is about how the recent synod on marriage and the family discussed gay and lesbian people.  In the talk, he quotes almost entirely from bishops and cardinals, as well as the pope.

Please keep the Fortunate Families group in your prayers today as they meet at an alternate location. These dedicated parents and family members are answering Pope Francis’ call to create a church that is “home for all” through dialogue and welcome.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

8 replies
  1. Barry McCabe
    Barry McCabe says:

    What’s the alternative? If they want to book a hotel or anywhere else I’ll be happy to pay for it.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    Interestingly, this is an opportunity for what’s known in Buddhism as a “tantric flip”: taking a negative situation and turning it into a positive one! Vigneron has just demonstrated his ignorance — but Fox News has now clamped onto his case, giving his totally absurd and hateful behavior the public notice it deserves. The outcome can only be: “Score one for the good guys — Francis D. and his ‘Bondings Barnstormers’! Be sure that Francis’ presentation is recorded, so that it can be distributed more widely

  3. Friends
    Friends says:

    Following up: here’s some objective information on Vigneron’s background:

    He’s 66 years old…which means we’ll be dealing with him for almost another decade. He was apparently consecrated as an auxiliary bishop under JPII, and was later elevated to the Detroit post by Pope Benedict in the mid-2000s. (Given what we know of Benedict’s cultural, social and theological attitudes, I think we now can understand why Vigneron was raised to such a significant posting.) He seems to be an extremely hard-core “take no prisoners” hard-right-wing social and theological conservative. Given the actual pressing life concerns of the people in highly-distressed Detroit, to say that he appears to be “out of touch with the real needs and priorities of his Diocese” is a considerable understatement.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Francis, please update us: How did your presentation “in exile” work out, and how well was it attended? I was expecting (and hoping) that we’d have some follow-up on the outcome.

      • newwaysministryblog
        newwaysministryblog says:

        Briefly, the workshop went very well. We had about 15 more people than expected, about 1/3rd of the group, mostly people who learned about the program because of the publicity that the archdiocese’s announcement generated. And everyone showed up, despite the fact that Detroit experienced a freezing rain storm that morning. We delayed the program by an hour, and folks, eager to participate, braved the weather and roads to attend. All seemed to be enriched by their participation. For me, the high point of the day was listening to the parents’ stories of love and acceptance, and their courage in standing up for their LGBT children and their witness to others in the Church. Other than that, the day proceeded more or less normally, and while folks were angry and frustrated by the archdiocese’s decision, it did not deter them from doing the work of education, support, and encouragement that they needed to do.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the Exodus liberation, seeking to deny Communion to Catholics who support marriage equality, and banning a Fortunate Families event  from church […]

  2. […] Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (links here and here) and Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson. He also banned Fortunate Families from using church property because of their speaker, Francis DeBernardo of New […]

  3. […] equality should not receive Communion (though he eventually softened this stance slightly), and banned a Fortunate Families parents’ group from a local parish because it was hosting a speaker from New Ways […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *