The Archbishop has warned priests and deacons that they face severe penalties if they participate in a controversial conference this weekend in Detroit. But that hasn’t stopped lay organizers from continuing with their plans.
Calling for more democracy within the Catholic Church, liberal Catholics from around the world are coming to Detroit this weekend for a conference to help revitalize what they say is an archaic institution in need of reform.
Sponsored by the American Catholic Council, an organization of 30 Catholic reform groups across the U.S., the conference is three years in the making and comes on the 35th anniversary of a gathering in Detroit to talk about church reforms led by then-Cardinal John Dearden, the former archbishop of Detroit.
The conference is expected to call for more democratic decision-making in the church and the possibility of allowing women into the priesthood, as well as married priests. More than 1,800 have already registered, organizers say.
The council wants to “engage all Catholics in the United States in a dialogue about what the problems of the church are,” said co-organizer John Hushon, a Catholic attorney from Florida.
But Catholic leaders warn that the gathering at Cobo Center is not sanctioned by the church, as the 1976 event was. So they’re supporting a conference in Livonia for conservative Catholics planned for the same weekend.
In a letter sent Friday to local priests and deacons, Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron cautioned Catholics to stay away. In particular, he warned clergy not to attend a Sunday mass at Cobo, saying that anyone involved could be defrocked.
Two competing visions of the Catholic Church’s future will play out in metro Detroit this weekend with separate conferences — one liberal, the other conservative — that are expected to draw thousands.
The liberal one, sponsored by the American Catholic Council, is set to be one of the biggest gatherings of left-leaning Catholics in years, a three-day event that will attract high-profile critics of the church and about 2,000 Catholics from around the world to Detroit.
At the same time, the Archdiocese of Detroit is supporting a more conservative conference in Livonia, which will feature speakers who will critique the American Catholic Council’s vision and explain the church’s views.
Read more, including the full text of the Archbishop’s letter, right here.