Priest Intends to Defy Archdiocesan Ban on Celebrating Mass for Dignity/Detroit

Fr. Victor Clore

A priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit will continue celebrating Mass for the Dignity chapter in that city despite a bishop’s ban on doing so.

Last month, Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby instructed archdiocesan priests that they could no longer celebrate Mass for Dignity/Detroit, a chapter of DignityUSA, a national organization of LGBTQI Catholics.  Battersby also said that the chapter could no longer meet on church property. It had been gathering at Marygrove College, a school run by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In an open letter, Fr. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, Detroit, announced he would not stop celebrating Mass for Dignity members once in-person liturgies resume after the coronavirus pandemic. According to the National Catholic Reporter:

“Clore, a priest for 54 years, said that denying access to Dignity is akin to Catholic parishes in the 1960s who denied admission to African Americans, a time when he protested exclusion.

“In a letter mailed March 19 to archdiocesan priests and deacons, Clore defended Dignity’s ministry and called upon church leaders to extend their welcome to all.

“‘It naturally occurs, in all cultures, that a small but significant number of human persons have same-sex attraction. It is not a disease or a freak of nature. Same-sex love is their natural way for intimate sexual embrace,’ Clore wrote.

“‘Some love involves genital sexual expression; other loving experiences do not — friendship, professional care such as nursing, teaching, ministry, etc. Nevertheless, we are sexual persons; our sexuality is a part of our identity, and sexual overtones are a dynamic in every relationship,’ he wrote.

Clore followed up with a statement to NCR in which he said the efforts against Dignity were a “witchhunt,” adding that he would not be “preaching heresy from the pulpit” at the chapter’s Masses.

Leaders from DignityUSA and Dignity/Detroit gave background to how Battersby’s instruction developed and the pain the organization’s  members felt because of the archdiocese’s policy. The auxiliary bishop and Dignity/Detroit leaders were in conversation beginning mid-January of this year with a meeting scheduled for late March, which was pre-empted by Battersby’s letter to priests. Dignity’s statement continued:

“‘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 added that the expulsion was particularly hrmful as it comes during Lent and the coronavirus pandemic.

Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, commented that “there are few experiences as devastating as being kicked out of your family home and being told you are not worthy of being fed.” She continued:

“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.”

DignityUSA is in its 51st year, and Dignity/Detroit has a 46-year history.

But Clore and D’Amore were not merely angry; they expressed hope, too. Fr. Clore explained in his letter that if the Archdiocese of Detroit does not want a Dignity chapter active in its territory, then its parishes should become welcoming enough to eliminate the need for an LGBTQ-specific space. D’Amore tied it all into Holy Week:

“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.”

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 14, 2020

10 replies
  1. John Hilgeman
    John Hilgeman says:

    I admire Father Clore for his courage. But there is a certain amount of freedom that comes with being a priest for 54 years, and being a man in his seventies. I hope he has the financial resources to live independently if/when he is suspended, although I am sure he will have the support of the community that he has served, and will be continuing to serve.

    Reply
  2. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Fr. Clore speaks truth to power. The day is coming when the current stance of Catholic hierarchy will be looked upon by the Church itself with sadness and regret. Or, possibly, that very rigid stance will cause schism and irrelevancy. Message to hierarchy : Pick one.

    Reply
  3. Don Siegal
    Don Siegal says:

    Thank you Fr. Clore

    It is our baptism that makes us one at the table of the Eucharist. All the baptized are invited by Jesus to the table. Some Catholics seem to have a hard time with that. The Eucharist is not some kind of reward that one has to earn. It is a gift of grace freely given by Jesus in his love for us from the Father.

    Reply
  4. Mark Koenig
    Mark Koenig says:

    While I am a practicing Catholic, I’m not familiar with this particular issue, nor do I know any of the parties. Citing Father Clore’s statement: “Some love involves genital sexual expression; other loving experiences do not — friendship, professional care such as nursing, teaching, ministry, etc. Nevertheless, we are sexual persons; our sexuality is a part of our identity, and sexual overtones are a dynamic in every relationship”, I would even add other examples of loving experiences…love of one’s country, love of one’s family…certainly there are many others that do not involve genital sexual expression, regardless of one’s sexual orientation.
    Is Father Clore implying (or stating) that the choice to act on one’s sexual orientation in the form of genital sexual expression outside the bond of marriage between a man and a woman is morally permissible in some cases?
    My belief has been that the Catholic church, while in no way considering one’s sexual orientation sinful, has held that engaging in genital sex (be it either heterosexual or homosexual) outside the bond of marriage was forbidden and considered a serious (the old term was ‘Mortal’ ) sin. Please clarify.

    Reply
  5. Sarah Probst Miller
    Sarah Probst Miller says:

    Thank you Father Fr. Victor Clore for your commitment to serve and keep doors open. Bless you. May God open the hearts and mind of our Catholic leadership and people to welcome, include, and nourish our LGBTQI brothers and sisters in Christ.
    A concerned Catholic mother of 3 who wants to see her faith blossom with love for this generation and the next,
    Sarah Probst Miller

    Reply
  6. Mary Beth Pauline-Morand
    Mary Beth Pauline-Morand says:

    I am so proud of Father Vic Clore. I feel honored to have met him. It’s time to say what needs to be said.
    I left the Roman Catholic Church over this lack of inclusion; and I joined Christ the Good Shephard, am Old Roman Catholic Church, which welcomes all people to receive all of the sacraments and celebrate their faith no matter what!

    Reply
  7. Cheryl Rogers
    Cheryl Rogers says:

    Yeah Fr. Clore! So refreshing to find a priest who has heard Christ’s message and dares to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and not just the company line. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your true servanthood for Christ.

    Reply
  8. Paula Brown
    Paula Brown says:

    I have the utmost confidence & faith in the professional & priestly manner in which Fr. Clore has conducted himself in his role as Pastor of both Christ the King & Our Lady Gate of Heaven Church. His attitude has always been welcoming to all who wish to attend, barring no one no matter what a person’s orientation may happen to be.
    We are so thankful & blessed to have him as our spiritual leader & pray that all will appreciate his value to our community. Thank u, Fr. Clore
    We all love u!

    Reply

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