By Cornelius A. Fortune
DETROIT – As the cold wind crept across the street and ruffled the clothes of the well-bundled gatherers, signs of protest held high, a woman leaned out of her car to say: “Hold your head up! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. God blessed the world. It’s all good!”
The all-night vigil was held Friday, Nov. 11-12, and Saturday morning outside Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in Detroit as a plea against the spiritual violence. The themes were “Witness of the Wounded” and “Begin Healing.”
Erin Adriel, co-founder of Soulforce Detroit, said that since they won’t let them inside the church she’d have church outside, and what better a place?
“This is the icon of the Catholic Church in Detroit,” she said. “We’re here to let them know that they’re perpetuating spiritual violence unto God’s [LGBT] people, and that violence leads to sickness and death and we’re hoping they’ll join us in conversation about how to make that stop.”
As an interfaith group Soulforce, works nationally with religious organizations to end what they call “spiritual violence.”
“Spiritual violence is the misuse of scripture to dehumanize a group of people, whether that be black people, queer people, disabled people,” Adriel explained. “The misuse of scripture has been used historically for the isolation and dehumanization of peoples, and right now it seems the target of the Catholic Church is homosexual people. In Michigan alone, the Catholic Church spent a million dollars to amend our constitution last year. There’s small Soulforce organizations that are hooking up with their Catholic brothers and sisters and responding to the Catholic Church’s rhetoric.”
Tom Nelson, a life-long Catholic, was among the protesters to support his gay son. The father of six children and grandfather to 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, Nelson has a real problem with what he sees as exclusionary tactics.
“All I’m looking for is for my church to welcome my son into the church,” he said. “He was raised Catholic, but my son left church because he said, ‘Dad they don’t want me, they call me evil, they call me disordered, why the hell should I be a Catholic?’ It breaks my heart.” His voice cracked with emotion. “That’s why I’m here. This is a wonderful experience. I’ve never protested in my life. This is worth it.”
“There’s no room for hate in a church, in a religion,” said Mary Horon, a co-organizer with Soulforce. “It’s supposed to be a place of safety for everybody. There should never be any hate used in His name, and I think it’s important to do anything and everything that we can to show people that life is very important to be lived as happy and as open, not to be fearful or hurt or punished.”
She turns her face against the cold wind, staring off into the night, watching her co-protesters warm their hands, raised coffee thermos to lips, the cars whizzing by, some slowing to look out of curiosity, and then speeding back up to join traffic.
“When you’re told by a priest don’t come here, I don’t want you here, it’s very painful,” she said. “There’s no room for discrimination. Anything that you are is okay, God made us all.”