Bishop vs. bishop over gay marriage and communion

From Sunday: 

Catholic Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron of Detroit said on Sunday that Catholics who support gay marriage yet take the sacrament of Communion are contradicting themselves, echoing recent calls from a religious scholar for supporters of gay marriage to withdraw from taking the Eucharist.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Archbishop Vigneron said that Catholics who support gay marriage “deny the revelation Christ entrusted to the church.”

“This sort of behavior would result in publicly renouncing one’s integrity and logically bring shame for a double-dealing that is not unlike perjury,” Vigneron said.

Archbishop Vigneron has clashed with liberal Catholic groups in the past. Last June, he forbade priests and deacons from attending a eucharistic liturgy held at the international convention of the American Catholic Council (ACC) in Detroit, warning that they could be “dismissed from the clerical state” if they attended. The ACC is a coalition of liberal Catholic groups seeking to make changes in the American Catholic Church.

Edward Peters, who teaches canonical law at the Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and is a legal adviser to the Vatican, also wrote on his blog last week that gay marriage supporters should not approach for Holy Communion.

According to canonical law, Peters wrote, Catholics who promote same sex marriage could risk having holy Communion withheld from them, being rebuked or sanctioned for “gravely injuring good morals.”

Now, in an unusual public disagreement, a liberal colleague from the same diocese is urging people to do the opposite:   

The Detroit archbishop’s recent comments about communion and support for same sex marriage is still sparking debate among Catholics.

Now a local priest is speaking out publicly against the archbishop’s approach.

“Don’t stop going to communion.  You’re okay,” said retired Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Thomas Gumbleton.

Long a progressive voice in Detroit’s Catholic community, Gumbleton is breaking with Archbishop Allen Vigneron days after Vigneron declared that supporters of same-sex marriage should refrain from receiving Holy Communion, comparing it to perjury.

“If you look at it from a pastoral point of view where you’re trying to reach out to people, trying to draw them in, then the last thing you want to do is impose a penalty or make them feel like they have to impose a penalty upon themselves,” Gumbleton said.

The bishop says the church’s approach should be pastoral not punitive.  Just this week, he counseled a couple with a gay son.

“Husband, wife, raised seven children, Catholics all their lives, they’re in their eighties now, and the mother says to me, you know I can’t go to communion anymore,” said Gumbleton.  “They’re hurt and she’s crying because we can’t go communion and that means so much to them.”

Gumbleton says it’s a matter of conscience, which is deeply personal.

“Not everybody’s going to come to the same conclusion at the same time, so we have to keep on working with people and trusting people that they’re trying to do the right thing,” he remarked.

I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last on this.  Stay tuned.

Browse Our Archives