DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit allows pro-homosexual Dignity Masses to continue under his watch because he fears a "rebellion" by gay priests, according to Sacred Heart Seminary Professor Mary Healy.
Vigneron has been tightlipped about his support for the dissident group Dignity throughout his nearly full decade as archbishop of Detroit, installed in January 2009. Indeed, there are no known public or private comments about Dignity from Vigneron as to why he consents to the scandalous Mass at Marygrove College, which is now in its 44th year.
Dignity was founded in 1974 by Fr. Francis Reiss, who is now an auxiliary bishop in Detroit. The group, which rejects Church teaching on homosexuality, has long been publicly supported since its inception by another Detroit auxiliary bishop, Thomas Gumbleton, well known for his dissent on Catholic teaching on sexuality. Dignity/Detroit has boasted that at least four local bishops and upwards of 30 priests have celebrated their Masses.
Today, a decade under the leadership of Abp. Vigneron, several Dignity/Detroit priests are as powerful as ever. Some are pastors of parishes, and one, Fr. Marc Gawronski, is a faculty member at Sacred Heart Seminary. Gawronski was the keynote speaker at a Dignity/Detroit annual banquet.
Healy's comments came during a question-and-answer period following her talk with Catholic radio personality Al Kresta, at a Dec. 6 Catholic Men's Movement meeting at Christ the King parish in Ann Arbor. The event, titled "Crisis in the Catholic Church," attracted about 200 attendees who heard half-hour talks from both speakers, followed by an hour of questions and answers.
The question presented in writing to Healy noted that Vigneron allows his priests to preside over Dignity/Detroit Masses, then asked: "Mary, what are you going to do about it?"
"I think he means the Virgin Mary," Healy joked to laughter from the audience, a mixed group in the tightly knit parish known for pro-life activism and straight-up orthodoxy on doctrinal matters, and where Kresta has been a member for more than 20 years.
"I know of two people of higher stature than me who have spoken to the archbishop," Healy said. "I have heard [he does nothing] because he is taking into account how some priests would be in rebellion."
She then added that "the Lord is taking us to the point where bishops are willing to make tough choices. … It does not serve the Church for priests to be living double lives. I have heard recently that steps are being taken. We can only hope."
Kresta then added, "I may be a fool, but I think Dignity will not be here in six months."
Quite a bit of the public commentary by both Healy and Kresta was hard-hitting regarding the scourge of sex abuse and negligent bishops — the kind of verbiage one hears from Church Militant — but both carefully soft-stepped and gingerly danced around the ongoing, never-ending crisis of flagrantly homosexual priests in the Detroit archdiocese and Vigneron's refusal even to acknowledge the existence of a "lavender mafia" that many insist controls the archdiocese and defines the parameters of behavior allowed by its archbishops.
Healy listed several action items for laity as a course correction for the Church and several times made sharp distinctions about the roles of the hierarchy and the laity. Much of the recent problems, she said, can be attributed to the "idolatry of money and power," explaining that both Cdl. McCarrick and Fr. Marcial Maciel were legendary fundraisers.
"Don't be intimidated," she advised. "The Church has been abused by its pastors. The Church does not equal the hierarchy!"
"Speak up! The role of the laity is not to be passive, to 'stay, pray and obey.' … If you know a priest who is living a double life, go to the bishop," she said. And if that does not work, she added, "There are other means," but she did not specify those means.
Kresta said the crisis of unchaste priests and bishops "is a real ugly animal, much worse than most realize. … The problem is not new. It's been going for a long time. Cardinal Wright in the '60s was a flaming homosexual."
When asked what to do about unchaste priests, he replied, we need "to get rid of these guys with double lives. We have to begin talking this way."
He cited several routines of bishops today that he said are "intolerable," including covering up for and silently moving bad priests. "We deserved to know where the bad priests are, and when they get pulled with no explanation, this is intolerable."
Healy and Kresta announced they are part of a new group, No More Victims-MI, based in the diocese of Lansing, where Ann Arbor is located. The group, founded in August, according to its website, is a non-profit coalition that intends "put an end to sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic clergy in the diocese of Lansing. We represent victims, document their stories, make referrals for counseling, and advocate for justice through canonical and secular means."
Jason Negri, a local attorney and a member of the first graduating class of Ave Maria School of Law, is the group's executive director.
Perhaps the most notable comment by Kresta was statement that "my experience with bishops has generally been positive," and noted that "mature adults know how to speak" to bishops about the various issues plaguing the Church today, and it is in this spirit that the new group, No More Victims-MI, intends to deal with Bp. Boyea.
Yet, more than 20 years as a radio host in Ann Arbor, the group Dignity/Dignity has prospered in Detroit, and after a decade of access to Abp. Vigneron, there has been not a single syllable spoken about Dignity/Detroit on the air about what many consider to be the most urgent symbol of spiritual decay in the archdiocese. Kresta's generally positive relationship with Vigneron requires acquiescence in Detroit's lavender mafia: a decade-long mature adult wink and nod.
After the talk, Mary Healy was asked if she has spoken to Vigneron about Dignity/Detroit during her eight years at SHS. She has not.
"Are you going to talk to him about it?" she was asked.
"I will think and pray about it," she replied.