Marquette Diocese’s New Policy Could Ban LGBTQ People from Sacraments and Ministry

Bishop John Doerfler

A new set of directives from the Diocese of Marquette seeks to greatly restrict LGBTQ people’s participation in the life of the church, including possible bans on the sacraments and leadership positions. They are the most wide-ranging set of such prohibitions yet.

The directive is titled “Created in the Image and Likeness of God: An Instruction on Some Aspects of the Pastoral Care of Persons with Same-Sex Attraction and Gender Dysphoria,” and it is signed by Bishop John Doerfler and Vice-Chancellor MaryAnn Bernier.

The first sections of the text examines pastoral accompaniment and church teachings on sexuality. Readers are warned against “merely using labels such as ‘gay’ or ‘transgender,” and told that same-gender relationships “can never reflect total and fruitful love.” Being LGBTQ is compared to “a disordered desire for alcohol” and anorexia.

The prohibitions on LGBTQ people come in a section regarding specific pastoral situations, in which pastors might be “made to delay the celebration of a sacrament, withhold Holy Communion or the other sacraments, or determine that a person is not disposed to exercise a liturgical ministry or position of leadership (e.g., reader, extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, catechist, parish finance or pastoral council member, etc.)” based on someone’s relationship or identity.

Regarding the Sacraments of Initiation, someone in a same-gender relationship or who affirms their transgender identity “may not be Baptized confirmed, or received into full communion in the Church, unless the person has repented.” For trans people, the document repeatedly uses language similar to the following to differentiate people who affirm or do not affirm their identity:

“Repentance does not require reversing the physical changes to the body that the person has undergone.  The experience of incongruence in one’s sexual identity is not sinful if it does not arise from the person’s free will, nor would it stand in the way of the person serving as a sponsor or a Christian witness.   However, deliberate, freely chosen, and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex do constitute such an obstacle.”

Regarding the reception of Communion, people in same-gender relationships and transgender people “should not present themselves for Holy Communion.” If LGBTQ people who are public about their identities and relationships, they are to be denied Communion. Likewise, there is to be denials for the Anointing of the Sick outside of a person being unresponsive and close to death.

Regarding marriage, transgender people are considered their assigned sex at birth, not their gender, and so can only marry accordingly. There is an explicit prohibition on blessing same-gender couples, as well as use of church facilities for blessings or weddings by such couples.

The directive also addresses whether transgender people and people in same-gender relationships can exercise leadership and liturgical roles, which is answered in the negative when someone has not “repented and withdrawn from the relationship” or exercises “deliberate, freely chosen and manifest behaviors to redefine one’s sex.”

Finally, the directive takes up students in Catholic schools and religious education classes. Similar to policies in other dioceses, students are to be addressed and treated according to their assigned sex. Two appendices are included for covenants between families and schools or parishes, which, while not explicitly mentioning LGBTQ issues, stress adherence to church teaching.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, commented on the Marquette directives in a statement. He said they would “backfire explosively in the face of the leaders who wrote these restrictive and harmful rules,” adding:

“Catholics in the pews, who polls consistently show overwhelmingly support LGBTQ people, will balk at these penalties.  Theologians who are opening up new ways of thought to further affirm LGBTQ people will refute the faulty reasoning the diocese uses.  And bishops in other dioceses will certainly speak out to let Catholics in their areas know that LGBTQ people are welcome as full members of the Church.

“The downside of such a statement is the grave and lasting pastoral and psychological harm that it will cause. Not only will LGBTQ people feel further alienated from the church, but their family members, friends, and supporters will also end up leaving for more welcoming communities. Worse yet, such harsh messaging will certainly cause some LGBTQ people, particularly youth, to develop negative self-images and potentially practice self-harm.

“These guidelines are not a tool for evangelization, but for decimation of the Catholic community. Far from being pastoral, these guidelines reflect church policy which restricts Jesus’ inclusive message for all and which does not protect the Catholic Church, but gravely harms it.”

Tomorrow, Bondings 2.0 will feature more reactions to the Diocese of Marquette’s directives.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2021

11 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Can Bishop Doerfler possibly understand how insulting this is ?
    I sometimes liken the hostile position of some bishops to political theatre. They think they are appealing to some ‘base’ . It’s as though your country (church) has an administration that scapegoats your personhood. It isn’t the country doing it….it’s the administration. It will change. I hope Francis DeBernardo is correct and that this will backfire. Meanwhile, we suffer these slings and arrows.I suspect many LGBT people who might read this Bishop’s words will suggest boycotting the church in general. There are other bishops and clergy who would disagree with Doerfler. They need to speak up. Now.

  2. Duane Sherry
    Duane Sherry says:

    These words are pertinent to the Church hierarchy: their discrimination against LBGTQ individuals; their efforts to marginalize them; their attempt to make them disappear from the body of Christ:

    “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity… I believe in the teachings of Christ… I read the Bible faithfully and see little in Christendom that those who profess faith pretend to see.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  3. Tom Bower
    Tom Bower says:

    I am confused. I assume the bishop would agree that God created us in His image and granting that God’s image stretches far enough to include male and female, then there is room for a bit of variety among the reality of God’s image. Why is the option to be born lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or a variety of skin tones or level of intelligence such a challenge to be a member of the Roman Catholic Church? Does the bishop claim knowledge that he knows more about what God’s image is than God Himself? No one receives a sacrament because it is a fun thing, but it is a call to be a better self as created by God as a sign of God’s love for the world. Why does a bishop or anyone think that one of the markers that show us as different in so many ways excludes us from joining God’s effort to be a sign of His love for all of us? Bishop please quote the Gospels and stop making your own rules.

    • Cecile
      Cecile says:

      I agree. Jesus was loving. He loved everyone. Period. He asked EVERYONE to join him. Period. This is par for the course for the patriarchy. Condemn those who are different. Berate, belittle or just ignore them. I left. I could not abide the prejudice against women, and mean-spiritedness toward the LBGTQ. This is not the church that Jesus had in mind.

  4. Celine Goessl
    Celine Goessl says:

    Our denomination will be in super trouble in the future when we chase so many people talented by God away telling them we don’t need their gifts! What a shame, John Doerfler, that you can do such a thing. You are NOT above the law.

  5. Paula Ruddy
    Paula Ruddy says:

    I just want to be counted as a Catholic in deep mourning over the Doerfler’s and Bernier’s in Church leadership. What terrible damage to the People of God.

  6. Dale
    Dale says:

    The ignorance of this statement on gender dysphoria should warrant removal of these 2 from their positions. How they have the cruelty to ignore the reality of the anguish of these people is abusive. Sadly this is the result of Pope Francis culpable ignorance of his gender theory rubbish.

  7. Jim Riley
    Jim Riley says:

    One most concerning aspects of this is that those of us who are trying to remain within the Roman Catholic Church are rightfully viewed as bigots and homophobes even by those who are close to us such as our children and grandchildren—actions such as these unjust, hateful and unChristian ones by Bishop Doerfler of Marquette must be condemned by all Christians of good will especially the clergy and hierarchy or all of us as the followers of Jesus and the Church should hang our collective heads in shame

  8. Nick A Smith
    Nick A Smith says:

    Let me see if I’ve got this right. It’s OK for priests and bishops to molest hundreds of thousands of children and then cover it up but it’s not OK for a gay man to sing in the choir? I’ll bet all those bishops and priests presented themselves for communion.

  9. Alan Leonard
    Alan Leonard says:

    Where is grace in this: “Likewise, there is to be denials for the Anointing of the Sick outside of a person being unresponsive and close to death.” How is waiting till someone is unresponsive and unaware helpful to one sick or dying? There must be more to this since it offers so little hope to those suffering. Jesus waited till Lazarus was dead to intervene, but that was to bring glory to God. This directive by the bishop is of a different character than that, and seems neither to point to Jesus or bring glory to God. But maybe there is more, I hope so. Following Jesus dealing with same sex attractions can be a lonely road, and church often makes it more so. There’s more in this report that I question, but this was so discouraging.


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