The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix will not permit a West Valley events center to hold an early-morning Mass on Dec. 12 because a Planned Parenthood fundraiser recently was hosted there.
Calling Planned Parenthood "one of the largest abortion providers in the nation," the Rev. David Sanfilippo, vicar general, said it would be inappropriate for a Catholic Mass to take place at Corona Ranch and Rodeo Grounds, located at Baseline Road and 29th Avenue in Laveen.
But the owners will go forward with the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe vigil and celebration, which begins Dec. 11 and usually draws 400 people. It has been broadcast live on a Hispanic radio station, and food will be given to families.
"This is not a Catholic issue. This was a business decision," said Alex Corona, general manager for the grounds, which also has hosted gay rodeos. "We do business with everybody."
On Nov. 18, Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona held "Celebracion de Noche Latina" at the grounds, said spokeswoman Melissa Schiffman.
"It is a big event for us," she said. "It was partly a fundraiser and also to kind of bring the Latino community together to demonstrate a commitment to family planning and to the reduction of teen pregnancy through accurate health education in the community." Because of high rates of pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases in that cultural group, it was organized as "an awareness night" and a way to raise funds for two Planned Parenthood health centers in areas with high Hispanic populations, she said.
Corona said less than two weeks before the Planned Parenthood event, he received a call from "someone affiliated with the diocese" to cancel that event.
"This, in no way, has to do with the issues of abortion," Corona said. "This is an issue of information, of education, educating the Hispanic community on the issues of pregnancy."
Corona said his parents "have a very strong Catholic faith and Catholic beliefs," but "we are, in no way, going to let this stop us from believing in what we believe in."
"We believe we are doing a service to the community — not only a location, but the chance to be a part of the community, give information and help," he said. "We will still honor the Virgin Mary in the way we feel we need to."
Sanfilippo said the diocese staff thought the Coronas "might not be aware of what Planned Parenthood does."
The diocese also has a restrictive policy about what it allows on Catholic property. Banned from speaking are politicians and public figures who have publicly disagreed with church teachings on such issues as abortion and gay marriage. In one case, a talk that Gov. Janet Napolitano was to give at a Scottsdale Catholic church was moved to a neutral site.