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 St. Joseph the Worker Beal City/YouTube

BEAL CITY, Michigan (LifeSiteNews) — A group of pro-LGBT activists in conjunction with dissident Catholics seeking vengeance on a conservative-minded priest have succeeded in forcing him from his parish. 

Bishop Robert Gruss of the Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, announced earlier this month that the “unfortunate situation” surrounding Father Tom Held in Beal City has resulted in the priest stepping down.  

“The division, lack of charity and the wounds caused by the division in the St. Joseph the Worker Parish community has brought deep sadness to the Lord Jesus,” the bishop remarked. 

Held first drew criticism from multiple local media outlets a month ago when he issued an apology on the church’s Facebook page after an unauthorized appearance of Dominic Thrasher to preschool children. Thrasher, a known 44-year-old “married” homosexual activist and author from the area, was invited to the school by a teacher who a source says is not Catholic.

The children he read to were enrolled in a state-funded program that was renting space in the building.  

While never identifying Thrasher by name or saying anything about his homosexuality, Held, who was never informed about his appearance, announced that a “new vetting policy” would be put in place to ensure students are not exposed to persons who are not trained in being around children and who “do not represent the values of our Catholic faith.”

Saint Joseph the Worker – Beal City/Facebook

Held’s Facebook post, which has since been deleted, was used by former parishioners and left-wing activists to launch a campaign to call for his resignation. Thrasher, who claims to have been raised Catholic, complained to sympathetic media, presenting himself as unfairly targeted for his homosexuality and calling for Held’s removal.

On several weekends in April, crowds of up to 50 persons protested outside the church while Held was saying Mass. Signs that read, “There’s nothing righteous about bigotry disguised as religion” and “Love thy neighbor NO exceptions” were held by attendees.

The Catholic Church condemns homosexual activity as “intrinsically disordered,” mortally sinful, and a “sin that cries to heaven,” in accordance with Sacred Scripture and the constant Tradition of the Church. The Church also teaches that homosexual tendencies themselves are objectively disordered.

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A current parishioner at the church told LifeSite that many of the individuals who were at those rallies were either not Catholic or former members. “Many of the elderly were emotionally distraught by their protests,” the person said. “After Father Tom was removed, many non-Catholics attended Mass with a visiting priest and received the Eucharist as a sign of ‘declaring victory.’ It is like our Lord was going through His passion all over again.” 

One man who decided to leave the church five years ago due to “disagreements” he had with Held told that the priest was “old school” in that he supported traditions that pre-dated the Second Vatican Council. “It was just a different experience than we were accustomed to. It was disruptive and divisive,” he alleged.  

The current parishioner has clarified that Held incorporated Latin into his Novus Ordo liturgies at various times during the year and that he also allowed for the reception of the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, though he was somewhat flexible on the implementation of such practices. The church was “extremely liberal” before Held arrived in 2017, the person explained. “These policies are what those persons claim to be ‘abuse.’” 

The diocese issued a statement in March expressing support for the priest’s decision to revise the policy. It also announced that the superintendent of Catholic schools met with parents to discuss the situation. Bishop Gruss himself reached out to Thrasher directly with the hope of engaging in dialogue. LifeSiteNews has not learned if the two ever had direct communication. As of the publication of this story, neither Thrasher nor the diocese has replied to LifeSite’s inquiries. 

A Facebook page titled “Remove Father Tom Held” was soon launched by his critics. Many of the posts from the 1,400 person-group are random complaints about the Catholic Church and strongly worded rejections of Catholic teaching on LGBT issues. Others allege unverified misconduct by Held.

The group has since been renamed “Rebuild BC.” Some individuals of the group have rainbow-themed profile images. Others disrespectfully refer to Held as Tom” or “Mr. Held.”

One person said that more than a dozen businesses have expressed support for their efforts.

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Sue Field, a reporter for the mid-Michigan based Morning Sun, is also a member. She has posted that she hopes a wider awareness of the story will help Thrasher collect money for his fundraising campaign. She has also said she would ask the Associated Press to bring attention to the page. 

Sue Field/Facebook

Other local media have profiled parents involved at the church. One allegedly threatened to pull their children from the school. The current parishioner who spoke to LifeSiteNews said that those who have escalated the situation by going to the press and by causing an uproar on social media are also seeking to ruin the reputations of other current parishioners. The person said the situation at the church is extremely tense. Hundreds of letters and text messages have been sent to Held by supporters since his departure, the person revealed.  

In an apparent attempt to push back against criticisms of the priest, a website defending him was launched on April 16. It is unclear who set it up or if Held or Bishop Gruss are even aware of it. On the website, there are more than a dozen posts declaring that Held is an exemplary priest who is devoted to the Eucharist and Church teaching. Others take on claims made in the Facebook group against him. 

One section of the website addresses specific practices adopted by Held that became a point of contention between him and left-wing laity. Some of the questions in that section include, “why would a priest not allow a eulogy at a funeral mass?” “why would a priest ask someone not to receive Holy Communion?” and “why would a priest insist on using Latin at Mass?” 

LifeSiteNews emailed the Saginaw diocese on Tuesday to learn if Bishop Gruss had asked Held to leave the parish to placate his pro-LGBT opponents or if he resigned on his own volition, as the statement released by the diocese says that he “has come to the decision that it would be impossible for him to bring unity to the parish, and therefore, he has tendered his resignation as the pastor, effective immediately.” 

A person who grew up in the diocese and is concerned about the situation told LifeSiteNews that “unity can only come about from the doctrines of the Catholic faith. You can’t have unity with sin. To uphold Church teaching is to bring about unity. There is no ‘unity’ with LGBT ideology.” 

LifeSite will update this story if and when Bishop Gruss or Thrasher reply to emails. For respectful comments only, the Diocese of Saginaw can be contacted here via their website or phone at (989) 799-7910. 

The Saginaw bishop made news recently for calling U.S. President Joe Biden “stupid” for not knowing the Catholic faith, which he claims to be a follower of. He walked back his use of the word “stupid” after heretical Catholic media outlets called on him to apologize. In his press release announcing Held’s departure, Bishop Gruss noted that visiting priests will say weekend Masses at St. Joseph’s until a full-time replacement can be found. It is not apparent what the priest’s future will look like.