Marquette Catholic bishop responds to removal of gay man from ministry duties

Marquette Catholic bishop responds to removal of gay man from ministry duties

Yesterday, we reported on a parishioner at St. Michael’s in Marquette who was removed from his ministry duties after it was discovered that he had taken part in a same-sex commitment ceremony with his partner.

Bobby Glenn Brown was a cantor, lector and choir member at St. Michael’s Parish for the past three years. He’s been with his partner for 31 years. The two men held a commitment ceremony on Saturday.

Father Larry Van Damme, a pastor at St. Michael’s, told Brown on Sunday that he could no longer perform his ministry duties.

Good for Fr. Van Damme, he seems to have had the courage to do the right thing in a compassionate way.

I’m pleasantly surprised that this MSM article included the Priest’s quote explaining the Church’s teaching. They did get in their shot about the man going to a more “accepting” church of course, but overall the article is actually somewhat fair.


There is a basic principle of canon law the he is following:

Can. 1339 §1. An ordinary, personally or through another, can warn a person who is in the proximate occasion of committing a delict or upon whom, after investigation, grave suspicion of having committed a delict has fallen.

§2. He can also rebuke a person whose behavior causes scandal or a grave disturbance of order, in a manner accommodated to the special conditions of the person and the deed.

§3. The warning or rebuke must always be established at least by some document which is to be kept in the secret archive of the curia.

Can. 1340 §1. A penance, which can be imposed in the external forum, is the performance of some work of religion, piety, or charity.

§2. A public penance is never to be imposed for an occult transgression.

§3. According to his own prudent judgment, an ordinary can add penances to the penal remedy of warning or rebuke.

Not saying that removing this gentleman from his duties as cantor, lector, and choir member is a “penance”, per se, but in having a public ceremony where he affirms that he is committing sodomy with another individual, he is taking his private life (occult) and making it very public. Like he’s saying, “In Your Face, Church”.

The Church needs to have a public response to such a public challenge.

It would be interesting, if possible, to get Fr Marcel Guarnizo’s reaction to such a thing.

I don’t see that as, getting “in their shot.” If the gay man wants a commitment ceremony, and he also wants to be part of the ministry, then he does need to go somewhere more accepting of his decision. The reporting seemed fair to me.

When we put our sex attraction action,( of any kind), ahead of our Catholic Faith teaching and then go off so easily to ‘somewhere where they will accept it’, then we are putting ourselves ahead of Jesus Christ. That’s walking a very dangerous path spiritually. Every priest should stand for the true teachings of the Catholic Church!. God Bless, Memaw

What else could have been done? This issue is being faced all across the country and I hope that the Bishop will be supported by this action.


Good for the priest and good for the Bishop.

I like the Bishop’s comment about we give the benefit of doubt that they are living a chaste life. That’s a good way to handle this when it happens in schools (even with unmarried heterosexual couples), other parishes, etc.

God Bless

We have a similar situation in our parish and my pastor says: Well, we’re all sinners. And essentially, brushed me off.

Now the man in question, a lector and EM, is teaching CCD.

If he is truly blowing it off without explaning to you some details you may be unaware of, I would ask your Priest if he’d prefer for you to go directly to the Bishop, or if he wants to speak to the Bishop himself. Those are his choices.

This approach was recently referred to as, “Don’t ask. ask. Don’t tell,” in the military.

This is nothing new in pastoral care. Thirty years ago we had a cantor who entered into a civil marriage with a divorced man. She was told she could no longer be a cantor or continue teaching in a Catholic school. She would be allowed to remain in the choir. The bishop wanted her to continue coming to church.

Fornication and adultery are gravely evil and when you choose to make them public, there has to be a pastoral response. This is not about judging a person, but about protecting the Body of Christ from the scandal of doing nothing when a gravely immoral act becomes public.

In my youth, my parish had an young man organist who was single, never talked about dating, was somewhat effeminate… He even had a touch of a lisp to round out the stereotype. In the late 1980’s he became chronically ill and eventually died from what was described at the time as “complications of pneumonia.”

We had a tough old Irish pastor, but there was never any conflict that I was aware of. The organist never did anything publicly scandalous and the pastor never tolerated any whispering (schoolboys of that era pretty much defined the stereotype of homophobia!).

In hindsight, I’d say that was pretty well managed on both sides. Who among us isn’t sinful? Where it comes unglued is when people insist that their sins are virtues. That has to be confronted and refuted.

I support the action. I would not mind it if the Church was more proactive with everybody about following Church teaching. They are many times so hands off as to make it all pretty much do it yourself or not, as you wish, everything’s cool…not sure that’s the best ‘shepherd leading the sheep’ model.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit