Standing Up For Gay Catholics

On March 7 and 8, a peaceful vigil was held protesting the Courage workshops put on by Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Detroit.

DETROIT – When Tom Nelson and Linda Karle-Nelson learned that Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Detroit was holding classes on how to minister to potential LGBT members of congregations by asking that they be celibate, the couple knew they had to do something. They rallied supporters through various inclusive faith-based organizations and held a prayer vigil in front of the church. The Nelsons also went inside for the class.
"Friday was for clergy and Saturday was for parents, educators and therapists," Karle-Nelson said. "We had 20-25 people each day doing a peaceful prayer out front. We had very positive signs and a very positive message 'standing on the side of love.'"
Among the LGBT-positive people of faith were people from groups such as Call to Action Michigan, Fortunate Families, Inclusive Justice and Affirmations Faith Alliance. The aim of these groups is to create change from within religious institutions. Their philosophy of inclusion is different than what was taught at the Courage workshops last weekend.
Judy Lewis, coordinator of Affirmations Faith Alliance explained that, "Their teaching is basically 'we can't change the sexual orientation, but we can ask people to tell gay parishioners to be celibate.'"
Nelson nearly lost his gay son to suicide. He has seen first-hand the pain rejection can cause. Now he is very active in support groups for parents and organizations that fight to create change from within. Karle-Nelson, who he met in PFLAG, has a gay son of her own and an equal passion for standing up for LGBT rights.
"The reason Linda and I go to these things is because it is important. In our work with PFLAG and Fortunate Families we see the consequences first-hand. They are blind to how it affects LGBT people when they judge and discriminate.
"We see broken families. We see kids that are close to suicide and in depression. We see families that are torn apart. A large number of homosexual people do not come out of the closet."
Nelson shared the story about a young man who came out to his mother, and the mother took some time to collect her thoughts. She ultimately chose her faith over the child. "Think of the suffering for both of them. The anguish the mother feels about her son, and the son about his mother. This is the fear instilled by the Catholic doctrine. They refuse to see the consequences," he said.
When the Nelsons went to the class, they found themselves in a group of over 100 people. They listened to the psychologists talk about how homosexuality is not natural, and that it is the result of childhood trauma or bad parenting. "They hold antiquated beliefs," Nelson said. "They had a psychologist there, supposedly he was, but he was ludicrous. The church is living in the dark ages." Such views contradict every major health and psychological organizations' stances on being LGBT.
Karle-Nelson was dubious of the church's good intentions. "We felt like these kinds of classes are because the conservatives and churches are laying the groundwork to strike out against marriage. They know its coming and they want to get the word out through the churches in case it goes to a vote," she said.

For more information on getting involved in the movement to bring inclusivity to the church, check out:
Call to Action Michigan –
Fortunate Families –
Inclusive Justice –
Affirmations Faith Alliance –