Catholics have spoken out against a sermon by a Michigan priest who criticized LGBTQ people in the church.
The sermon, which Fr. Mitchel Roman delivered at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Traverse City, has been removed from the St. Francis Facebook page as a result of the laity’s opposition to it, Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.
In his sermon, Roman “took aim at the LGBTQ community, suggesting a person cannot be gay and also be Catholic.” He also “criticized Pres. Joe Biden, who is Catholic, abortion and today’s cancel culture.”
Jan Renollet Chapman, a parishioner, felt that the sermon “departed from the Catholic faith,” saying:
“‘Discrimination in any form is wrong. . .The Catholic thinking is love and promotes dignity for every human being.'”
Another church member, Sherri Glezman, called the sermon “upsetting and offensive,” explaining:
“’I am the proud mother of a gay son and I am appalled that Fr. Roman is now insinuating that my own son, his husband, and therefore my family are now unwelcome in the church. His message is insulting to the LGBTQ+ community and to those who love and support them, as God would ask us to. Aren’t we all suppose to ‘love thy neighbor?’ Imagine a lonely resident sitting in church that day needing to find God, to find a place they belong and feel safe and this being the sermon they heard.'”
Roman’s words drew opposition beyond the Catholic community as well. Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers responded after numerous people contacted him about the sermon. Carruthers said, “It was a typical right-wing Trump kind of thing.”
Carruthers wrote a letter to Roman and to Bishop Walter Hurley of the Diocese of Gaylord asking for an apology. In the letter, the mayor called for respect for all people:
“‘As the mayor and as a citizen, I’ve worked long and hard to grow a community that supports all its citizens. Working alongside many of our faith-based leaders, we have supported tolerance, diversity and acceptance for all our human differences … Your statements fly in the face of this work and our city human rights ordinance and all our efforts toward building a community that welcomes everyone.'”
The mayor went on to say, “Our general Traverse City community does not embrace the division you sow and you should do the right thing by supporting an inclusive message, not one that divides us.”
In a public statement posted by local news station Up North Live, Roman expressed regret about discussing the Biden administration but did not apologize for his remarks about the LGBTQ community, saying:
“‘We have … removed the video [from the Internet] because of the negative response in the community, which was unintended. I regret that this message caused contention within our community, as the goal was to address the complex situations of our times and not to cause division. My mentioning of specific political representatives or administrations was inappropriate, and in future messages, this will much more carefully be taken into consideration.'”
Roman went on to imply that his message was in line with church teachings, saying:
“‘The Catholic Church is never disconnected from the social and moral issues of its day, and it’s important to discern all sides. It is always the intention of the Church and her priests to be the voice of the many significant moral issues at hand, sharing the teachings of the Church, and inspiring us to live according to the Gospel.'”
Roman’s sermon, however, seemed disconnected from the reality of Catholic life. Queer Catholics are everywhere, as Glezman recognized. They are faithful, involved members of many parishes. And often, they are behind the altar table, as research suggests a third or more of priests are gay. So Roman’s suggestion that it is impossible to be gay and Catholic seems to be coming a bit too late.
More concerning is the impact words like these could have on parishioners who are struggling to accept their gender or sexuality. It is good to see parishioners speaking out about Roman’s sermon. Their words could be ones of hope for someone in their community who really needs it.
—Mac Svolos, New Ways Ministry, February 24, 2021