The Spiritual Ruins of Detroit

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by Christine Niles, M.St. (Oxon.), J.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 21, 2015   

The Detroit archdiocese has dismantled its spiritual defenses and given the enemy easy access

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Detroit is home to the highest murder and violent crime rate in the nation, according to the FBI. With 44 murders per 100,000 people, that's 10 times the national average. The child death rate for those 18 and under is also higher than any other city in the country. Its statistics for sexual assault fare little better, with a total of 11,199 in 2013, making Detroit one of the most dangerous cities for women to live in.

Detroit is also home to the world's largest Masonic temple, founded in 1926. The decision to build the temple had been considered as early as 1908 because interest in Masonry had grown to such an extent that the existing temple became too small. Masonry has had a long and antagonistic history with the Catholic Church, and has the distinction of being the most condemned religious system in the Church's history. Masonry's tenets are so incompatible with the Catholic faith that the Church imposes the penalty of automatic excommunication on Catholics who join a Masonic lodge — a penalty that remains in force to this day.

Detroit also contains the largest Muslim population in America and the second largest outside the Middle East. Although a satirical piece several years ago claimed Dearborn — a suburb of Detroit — was the first in the nation to fully implement Sharia law, the claim is not far from reality. Calls from local Muslims are growing more strident to impose Sharia morals police and restrictions throughout the city. There are also reports that the terrorist group Hezbollah is also firmly ensconced in the suburb. There is at the very least widespread backing for the group: In July 2005, 3,500 Muslims paraded through the city streets in support of Hezbollah, chanting, "Jews are diseased!"

Into this unhappy mix arrived the flagship chapter house of the Satanic Temple last year, the first of its kind outside New York. Founded by Harvard graduate and Detroit native Doug Mesner (a.k.a. Lucien Greaves) and headed by Andrea Potti (a.k.a. Jex Blackmore), the Temple has received "wonderful support" from locals since its opening last fall, and its membership is thriving. Its online community is also growing, with nearly 5,000 likes on Facebook.

The organization has been controversial from the beginning, making national news over its Snaketivity display as well as its attempt to set up a satanic statue on the Oklahoma state capitol grounds. Its latest stunt involves plans to unveil its statue of Baphomet July 25 in Detroit. (Detroit is also home to a rival satanic group, called the Temples of Satan, which — unlike the allegedly agnostic Satanic Temple — worships Satan as a literal spiritual being.)

Although the Satanic Temple claims to be a non-theistic organization that advocates for justice, freedom and religious pluralism while championing gay "rights" and abortion, its real motives are made clear by the graphic found on its membership page:

Satan is shown struggling to dethrone the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, whom he attempts to drag from the Chair of Peter, which represents the seat of authority for the entire Catholic Church.

Wise Catholics will see in this depiction the spiritual reality that underlies the temporal sphere: the ages-old battle between good and evil, the war waged between Lucifer — an actual spiritual being, with an intellect and will — and God's children — His Church established through Jesus Christ and founded on the rock of Peter, the Pope.

"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

As the verses following note, this spiritual war can only be fought with proper arms: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation.

But what happens when the spiritual fortress has been compromised — when those tasked with guarding the watch tower have dropped their arms and fallen asleep — or worse, have snuck the enemy in? The enemy never sleeps and is always gathering forces against its mortal foe the Church. If Her sons fail to remain vigilant, they will find their fortifications soon overrun — the battlements crumbling, the escarpments scaled, and the ramparts blown wide open. 

The Temple of Satan — along with the host of other evils noted above — found their way to Detroit because the spiritual fortifications were long ago dismantled by the very ones charged with guarding it. The archdiocese's long track record of heterodoxy and toleration of sexual immorality have paved the way for a spiritual wasteland.

Long considered the epicenter of dissent, Detroit was led for 20 years by the nation's "leading liberal voice," Cardinal John Dearden, who oversaw the spiritual decline of his archdiocese from 1958–1980. Deeply involved with the more progressive factions at Vatican II, Dearden became the first president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1966. 

It was Cdl. Dearden who spearheaded the dissident Call to Action conference in 1976. Held in conjunction with the nation's bicentennial, the conference consisted of more than 100 American bishops, along with 1,340 voting delegates and 1,500 observers, who met to discuss ways to reform Church teaching on priestly celibacy, female ordination, contraception, homosexuality, and lay involvement in the Church. At the end of the conference, after agreeing that change needed to take place in these areas, bishops were asked to take the recommendations to their home dioceses and implement the reforms.

Since that Detroit meeting, the Call to Action movement has spread to Chicago and multiple other regions in the United States, and continues its destructive work even now.

Detroit was also home to the longest-running diocesan-approved Dignity Mass in the nation, which only ended in 1997 once media reports brought national attention to the gay liturgies, becoming a source of embarrassment for the archdiocese.

Dignity is a dissenting group that "advocates for change in the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexuality." By 1996, the organization had essentially been banned in every diocese in the United States — except Detroit. Here, the archdiocese allowed Dignity Masses to take place every Sunday on diocesan property — at Most Holy Trinity Church — with more than 20 diocesan priests offering the liturgies on a rotating basis. In the words of the Detroit chapter of Dignity, "For 22 years, Dignity/Detroit has been blessed with broad-based support from clergy both in and out of the Archdiocese." Some of these priests had no qualms about publicly defying Church teaching on homosexuality.

After Jay McNally, the reporter who was an eyewitness to such Masses, reported on the scandal, making it national news, Cdl. Adam Maida, then head of the archdiocese — who had previously denied the gay Masses' existence — finally put a stop to them. But Dignity merely moved to a new location, and continues offering its Sunday Masses to this day at Marygrove Chapel on the grounds of an independent Catholic college. In 2013 Dignity held its 39th anniversary celebration Mass in Detroit, with retired auxiliary bishop and well-known dissenter Thomas Gumbleton presiding.

The current archbishop Allen Vigneron has done nothing to end Dignity Detroit's weekly gay Masses.

In fact, a dissident group called Elephants in the Living Room operates freely within the archdiocese, and has met with Vigneron on at least one occasion. They describe themselves as "an organization of priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit, strongly supported by participating laity, who seek renewal of the Church of Detroit." Such renewal consists of pushing for an end to clerical celibacy, a male-only priesthood and condemnation of same-sex acts, among other things, while inviting dissident Catholic speakers like Fathers Charles Curran and Donald Cozzens or Sisters Joan Chittister, Pat Farley, Simone Campbell and others to address the group.

A number of these priests were no doubt formed in the archdiocese's original seminary, St. John's Provincial. Michael S. Rose, author of Goodbye, Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the Catholic Church, an exposé on the homosexual subculture in American seminaries, wrote:

Several Detroit-area priests recalled the widespread homosexual promiscuity during the 1980s at St. John's Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. They described their seminary as a "veritable hothouse" for the gay subculture. Said one of the priests: "Everyone there knew what was going on. There were visits at night as gay seminarians cruised from room to room." Little effort was made to hide either the sexual orientation or the homosexual activity of the seminarians at St. John's, and, he added, "it was not uncommon to see seminarians acting out in a fairly public setting."

The priest recited a long list of active homosexuals who were ordained: Some of the priests are now vocal gay activists, and others have left the priesthood to take up a full-time gay lifestyle in the San Francisco area. At least two are known to have died from AIDS. Others have been placed on administrative leave after charges of sexual abuse of minors. All of the offending priests, my informant said, were known to be active homosexuals during their seminary years.

One of the professors at St. John's, Fr. Anthony Kosnik, authored a controversial sex ed textbook used widely in American seminaries, and which received the rare distinction of being formally denounced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Titled Human Sexuality: New Directions in American Catholic Thought, the book suggested that confessors abandon the idea that fornication, adultery, same-sex acts and bestiality are intrinsically evil. The book also states that "God is surely present" in sexually active gay relationships that manifest "sincere affection."

The seminary was also rocked by a porn scandal. Fathers Kenneth Untener and Robert Rose, both seminary administrators, aired pornography as part of a course on morality. According to one local priest, "They showed a man masturbating, a woman masturbating, couples copulating, homosexuals humping." When news of the controversial seminary program reached the Vatican's ears, Fr. Untener was summoned to Rome to justify himself. Accompanied by Bp. Thomas Gumbleton, and with the backing of Cdl. Dearden, Untener left vindicated.

Saint John's — nicknamed "The Hothouse" for its rampant homosexuality — was shut down in the late 1980s. Although the current seminary, Sacred Heart, is known for its crop of more orthodox faculty, problems still remain; homosexuality remains enough of a worry that the vice rector recently called a house meeting to caution seminarians not to emerge from the shower wearing only a towel, as it could be an occasion of sin for same-sex-attracted seminarians.

The spiritual decline in the archdiocese is also seen in its numerous parish closings. In 1990 there were approximately 400 parishes in Detroit. Now, just one generation later, that number has been cut nearly in half to barely more than 200.

Scenes of Detroit's blight — crumbling and abandoned buildings, smashed windows, lots overgrown with weeds and littered with trash — are an apt metaphor for the spiritual landscape of the archdiocese. After decades of dissent tolerated and even promoted by Church leaders, who, rather than charging to do battle against the Church's enemies, have opened up the barricades and granted them entry, it's little wonder evil in its various forms has manifested and found its home in Detroit.

The unveiling of the satanic statue this Saturday is yet another outward sign among many that the spiritual fortress has been overrun — and the blame lies at the feet of those guardians tasked with the care of souls, who more often than not have contributed to their sickness and death.

 

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