While the bishop did not go into detail about the history of Dignity Detroit chapter or its national organization, Dignity USA has called for major changes in the Church and has been backed by major, politically powerful LGBT organizations.
In 2015 Dignity USA called for same-sex unions to be blessed as sacramental marriages in the Catholic Church, a position far at the fringes of historic Christianity. It also advocated for the ordination to the priesthood of women, those of same-sex sexual orientation, and those of variant gender identity. The Church has never recognized the ordination of women as valid and has explicitly barred the ordination of men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.
Dignity USA's annual convention in 2015 included as a keynote speaker the pornographic sex columnist Dan Savage, a critic of monogamy and of Benedict XVI.
As of March 20 the Dignity Detroit website publicized a Mass held every Sunday night at Sacred Heart Chapel of Marygrove College. The private graduate college was run by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary until December 2019, when it announced its closure.
Dignity Detroit said that the chapel is still open despite the college's closure, though it is unclear whether this information has been updated in light of new closures and other precautions since the coronavirus pandemic began to dominate U.S. life.
The bishop commended Dignity Detroit's outreach to the poor. However, he said the group's rejection of Church teaching on chastity is "incompatible with the path of sanctification on which Christ bids his Church to travel and is at odds with the important work of the Courage and EnCourage apostolates."
Courage is a Catholic apostolate intended for people with same-sex attraction who want to live according to Church teaching. EnCourage is a partner apostolate for parents and families of Courage members.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of Dignity USA, said almost all Dignity chapters have been expelled from Catholic space. As far back as the 1970s and 1980s Catholic priests were barred from serving Dignity chapters.
"There are few experiences as devastating as being kicked out of your family home and being told you are not worthy of being fed," she said.
Duddy-Burke said Dignity USA is supporting the Detroit chapter during the controversy.
Bishop Battersby said he has communicated the problems with Dignity with "respect and genuine affection" for the membership. He has extended to them a "heartfelt invitation" to "join us in our missionary efforts to promote the New Evangelization and to participate in a ministry to the same-sex attracted that is faithful to the teachings of Christ's Church."
He said such a step is needed as part of the "missionary pivot" underway in the Archdiocese of Detroit, following its 2016 archdiocesan synod and Archbishop Allen Vigneron's pastoral letter "Unleash the Gospel."
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"As we seek to leave no one behind in our missionary transformation and to help everyone entrusted to our care find salvation, please know that your support for the Courage and EnCourage apostolates, your prayers, and your pastoral concern for the men and women of Dignity Detroit, are greatly appreciated and will surely bear fruit for the kingdom of God."
Bishop Battersby, who has been an auxiliary bishop since January 2017, discussed why the matter wasn't previously addressed. He said he presumed it was addressed in a pastoral approach applying the principle of the "law of graduality."
While Bishop Battersby did not expand on his meaning, such approaches generally refer to accommodating individuals' or groups' gradual growth towards the fullness of morality and living a more consistent Christian life.
"No matter how you view that earlier approach, I pray that you recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the present decision," he told the archdiocese's priests.
Bishop Battersby spoke in his role as the archbishop's delegate for the pastoral implementation of the synod action step dedicated to providing "resources for developing a culture of empathy and understanding throughout the Archdiocese, according to the light of the Gospel" so that people who experience "the challenges of gender identity and same sex attraction will find support for growing as a human person in the virtue of Christ–like chastity." The action step is numbered 3.3B2 in Vigneron's pastoral letter.
As CNA has previously reported, Dignity USA has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from wealthy LGBT funders to support the Equally Blessed Coalition, which currently includes the dissenting Catholic groups Dignity USA, New Ways Ministry, and Call to Action.