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Detroit Archdiocese bans pro-gay speaker, meeting from church

Nov 22, 2014

New Ways Ministry Executive Director Frank DeBernardo
Credit via newwaysministry.org

A Catholic support group for families with gay children is meeting in a private spot in suburban Detroit today, rather than a Detroit church as planned.

That’s because the Detroit Archdiocese wouldn’t permit Fortunate Families, a support group for Catholic families with LGBT children, to meet there.

“The downtown Archdiocese people denied our use of any Catholic facility,” said Tom Nelson, who helps run the Michigan chapter of Fortunate Families with his wife Linda Karle-Nelson. “Which came as quite a shock to us, because we’d done this before.”

In fact, the group had met in Detroit’s Christ the King Parish last year, with the pastor’s blessing.

But Nelson says church leaders objected to the group’s planned speaker this year—Frank DeBernardo, leader of the pro-gay rights Catholic group New Ways Ministry.

In a statement, the Detroit Archdiocese said New Ways isn’t sanctioned by church leaders, and espouses views “that might cause confusion” about church teachings on homosexuality.

"It was brought to the archdiocese's attention a few weeks back that New Ways Ministry had been scheduled to speak at Christ the King Church," Kohn said in a statement. "Because New Ways Ministry had been identified as a group that might cause confusion in regards to Catholic church teaching, the archdiocese did clarify that a presentation by New Ways Ministry should not be hosted on church property."

But Fortunate Families’ Tom Nelson says that runs counter to Pope Francis’ recent, more tolerant sentiments regarding homosexuality.

“For him [DeBernardo] to be condemned by the church just doesn’t make any sense,” Nelson says. “And it is certainly not in accord with Pope Francis’ viewpoint—‘Who am I to judge?’ Well, apparently our local archdiocese feels free to judge.”

“We just seem to be at odds right now,” adds Linda Karle-Nelson. “It would be wonderful if we could have a meeting with the Archbishop, and share some of our experiences with him.”

Karle-Nelson says the group has not formally requested a meeting with Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigernon yet, but plans to do so.