Archbishop bans speaker from Catholic support group meeting at Detroit parish

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo

DETROIT — The Archdiocese of Detroit has banned a Catholic support group from using a Detroit parish for a meeting with a pro-gay rights speaker.

Francis DeBernardo

Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT Catholics

Archbishop Allen Vigneron prohibited a Saturday talk by Francis DeBernardo for Catholics with gay family members, the Detroit Free Press reported. DeBernardo is the executive director of Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, an advocacy group for LGBT Catholics.

“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,” DeBernardo said.

Linda Karle-Nelson of Farmington Hills and her husband, Tom Nelson, are gay rights activists who lead the Fortunate Families support group. She said she found out last week that the group couldn’t hold its meeting at Christ the King parish, even though about 40 people gathered there for a similar meeting last year — the only difference is DeBernardo didn’t talk.

Vigneron spokesman Joe Kohn said DeBernardo’s group isn’t an approved organization to address Catholic teachings on homosexuality.

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“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,” Kohn said.

The Rev. Victor Clore, pastor of Christ the King parish, said he was discouraged to learn the parish couldn’t host the Fortunate Families meeting.

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

The support group plans to hold its meeting at a Farmington Hills condo clubhouse instead.

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