In late March, 2005, Triangle Foundation reported that a parish priest in St. Clair Shores had refused to allow a lesbian couple to join his parish. The priest was reported to have told them: "I can’t have gay people here. You obviously won’t hide it and God knows you’re a sinner. I am sorry you are not welcome here."
As our Soulforce Catholic team checked into this report, they discovered that the priest, Fr. Michael Bugarin, was the same priest who had refused to serve communion to the 3 faithful Catholics at the Shrine in November, 2002. Soulforce sent the following letter to Fr. Bugarin who chose not to respond to either the email or regular mail that was sent to him.
April 6, 2005
Rev. G. Michael Bugarin
St. Joan of Arc Parish
22412 Overlake St.,
St. Clair Shores, MI 48080-2454
Dear Fr. Bulgarin:
It is with much dismay that I read the report of your refusal to allow a lesbian couple to join your parish.
After the act of spiritual violence committed against the three faithful Catholics at the Shrine in November of 2002 by denying them Eucharist, I would have hoped that the pain caused by these actions would have been a call to examine how God and the Holy Spirit can remain in a church that would reject faithful members of Christ’s family.
These actions push people away from God. They push people away from the Church they once loved. Do you truly believe this is what Jesus would do, Father? If you do, I feel sorry for you, and will pray for you to be able to see clearly through the cloud of doctrine and dogma the church has placed around you.
Did Jesus not choose to associate with the outcasts, those that society wanted nothing to do with? Do you not see the parallels between what the scribes and Pharisees did by adhering to the letter of the law and the stand that the church takes when it denies the Spirit evident in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people?
Surely, a shepherd would not act in a way that would create such pain in his sheep.
LGBT people in the church are part of Christ’s table. We are loved by God. And miracles happen despite the church’s denial of our inherent worth and dignity.
One such miracle was at the trial of the three who you refused to serve Eucharist at the Bishop’s Mass in Washington, DC. Judge Mildred Edwards, a devout Roman Catholic, refused to sentence the three of us, even though we were found guilty in the eyes of the law. It was she indicated, the first time in her 17 years on the bench that she ever suspended sentencing.
Judge Edwards said that a tremendous violence had been done to us, and apologized for the Church. She credits the trial as being a factor in her discernment to retire as judge and enter ministry. She is currently studying at Washington Theological seminary seeking her M.Div.
Miracles do happen. And they are happening outside of the Catholic hierarchy, which follows in the dogmatic footsteps of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus called them hypocrites. What do you think Jesus would say about the actions of the Catholic Church?
Fr. Bugarin, I pray that you will look inside your heart, and ask yourself these questions. Allow yourself time to discern the answer through careful study and prayer.
All I am asking is you take the time to look closely, and ask yourself what is behind these actions? Is it fear? Is it rigid adherence to dogma?
As we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus let us bring life and the message that all are welcome at God’s table.
I would welcome the opportunity to enter in the spirit of dialogue so that we might find some common ground.
Catholic Chair, Soulforce