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Catholic bishop to gay marriage supporters: Keep communing

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Bishop Thomas Gumbleton says Catholics that support same-sex marraige shouldn't stop going to communion. Bishop Thomas Gumbleton says Catholics that support same-sex marraige shouldn't stop going to communion.

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.

Gumbleton read from a pastoral letter penned years ago at a bishop's conference called "Always Our Children."

"Judging the sinfulness of any particular act is a matter ultimately between God and the individual person."

He also says that an individual person must choose whether or not to receive communion.

"Their conscience is the ultimate voice they have to follow," Gumbleton explained.  "A person coming up to communion has a right to make their own decision about am I in a state of grace?... Am I ready to receive?  Well, that's for the person to decide not for the minister or not for any bishop."

Twice this week, I've asked for an interview with the archbishop or another priest who can articulate his views.  I was given a statement that reads, in part, "The archbishop's focal point here is not 'gay marriage'.  It is a Catholic's reception of Holy Communion.  If a Catholic publicly opposes the church on a serious matter of the church's teaching... that would contradict the public affirmation they would make of the church's beliefs by receiving communion."

The archdiocese told me they respectfully decline further comment on this issue at this time.  

In addition to reaching out to the archdiocese, I also attempted to contact several metro Detroit priests asking if they could speak out in support of the archbishop.  They were either unavailable or did not grant an interview.

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