Skip to comments.Don't back gays, bishop tells priests -- [Holy Bishop Olmsted alert]
Posted on 04/28/2004 8:18:31 AM PDT by Phx_RC
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted privately has ordered nine Catholic priests to withdraw their support from an interfaith statement supporting gay rights.
Two of the nine priests who signed the Phoenix Declaration in January 2003 confirmed they received "personal and confidential" letters from the bishop last week. In the letter, Olmsted tells the priests and one religious brother to remove their names "under obedience" to him. No consequences are spelled out for those who decline.
A copy of the letter was not available, and, as of Tuesday, none of the priests had asked that their names be removed.
Olmsted said the declaration came to his attention "a few weeks ago," leading him to invite the priests "to talk with me personally about this serious pastoral matter." The bishop, who gave no reason for his action, said he is writing a series of articles on homosexuality for the diocesan newspaper.
Olmsted's predecessors, Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, both knew of the declaration but declined to take action against the priests who signed it. O'Brien led a bishops committee in 1997 that drafted "Always Our Children," which before it was watered down by the Vatican was seen as the church's most progressive stance toward homosexuals.
The Phoenix Declaration calls for "full acceptance" of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals in churches and in civic life. It calls for an end to "religious and civil discrimination" against those individuals.
The Rev. Vernon Meyer, one of the priests who signed the declaration, said the group signed after making sure it did not conflict with Catholic positions. He said the bishop apparently is concerned that the declaration does not make clear the Catholic teaching on the matter, which encourages support for homosexuals but describes homosexual behavior as "intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to natural law."
Meyer, who has not yet decided how he will respond, said Olmsted's letter missed the point.
"Are we going to jump on the priests signing this letter or is the real issue the violence against people because of their sexual orientation?" he said.
Meyer argued that the wording of the declaration, issued by 120 clergy members calling themselves No Longer Silent, Clergy for Justice, representing 20 religious groups and denominations, was ambiguous enough that it did not conflict with Catholic teaching.
"This was a statement of support and respect for the dignity of people who are homosexual," said Meyer, who is an associate at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Scottsdale. "It was not intended to state church doctrine or teaching."
. . . [snip]
Joe Haley, 60, who attends St. Helen's Catholic Church in Glendale, said he supports the bishop.
Haley, who is president of the Phoenix chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, said the priests should never have signed such a document.
"Priests should be a little more knowledgeable about the dangers," he said. "They could be easily manipulated. This is a hot-button issue, and church teaching is clear."
But Tom Donovan, 66, of Phoenix, who attends services at the Franciscan Renewal Center, said the bishop's action "creates an issue of conscience for those few priests who signed on, some of the finest clergy I know."
Meyer said the letter is troubling because its reflects a renewed "push for orthodoxy on social and sexual issues."
Donovan added that concerns were raised among church liberals by the bishop's activism on the abortion issue, his reinstatement of the Latin Mass and other issues.
Peggy Roberts, president of No Longer Silent, said the Catholic priests "knew they were sticking their necks out" by signing the declaration.
"I would support them in whatever decision they make, whether to remove their names or not," said Roberts, pastor of Palo Cristi Presbyterian Church in Paradise Valley. "I believe that the message of the Phoenix Declaration is written upon the hearts of those priests and is nothing that the bishop or pope can erase."
Fletch Wideman, president of the local chapter of P-FLAG, or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said the priests "have had nothing but bad flak on this since Olmsted came."
He said only one Protestant denomination, the United Church of Christ, has taken a strong pro-gay stand. The others have taken positions similar to that of the Catholic Church.
Wideman said such positions cause the gay community to respond "to hell with the church, you're really not there for us."
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8550.
(Excerpt) Read more at azcentral.com ...
On this list in addition to the 3/31/2004 names is a NEW name: Rev. Nils F. Thompson, OFM, Phoenix
Names that have been removed from the March 31, 2004 List:
L#19--Rev. Scott Brubaker, pastor, St. Bridget, Mesa.
L#25--Rev. Chris Carpenter, pastor, Christ the King, Mesa.
L#87--Rev. Ray Ritari, pastor, St. Matthew, Phoenix.
Names still on the List as of May 6, 2004 @ 4PM:
L#15--Rev. Andre Boulanger, retired.
L#31--Rev. John Cunningham, pastor, St. Mary Magdalene, Gilbert.
L#48--Rev. Hugo Gonzalez, pastor, St. Charles Borromeo, Peoria.
L#63--Rev. Matthew Mampara, associate, St. Mary Magdalene.
L#70--Rev. Vernon Meyer, Sunday associate, St. Patrick, Scottsdale.
L#110-Rev. Nils F. Thompson, OFM, Phoenix [Not yet mentioned in the Press***]
L#113-Rev. Ken Van de Ven, pastor, St. James, Glendale.
L#120-Brother Doug Zlatis of St. Matthew.
Here and following is some info about these names.
The Arizona Republic -- Opinions online print edition
May. 3, 2004 12:00 AM -- Link to the Opinion Article
Regarding the Wednesday article "Don't back gays, bishop tells priests": There are several points that require clarification.
First, the original draft of the document "Always Our Children" was not "watered down by the Vatican," as stated in the article. The original draft of that document contained inaccurate representations of Catholic teaching. Thus, the Vatican restored (not watered down) the document so it could be useful and instructive.
Second, you reference church "liberals" and "conservatives." These descriptors suggest that there are different philosophies or viewpoints, as with, say, a political party. However, in the Roman Catholic Church, they do not exist; there is only orthodoxy and heterodoxy.
Third, your article says Father Vernon Meyer argues "the document was ambiguous enough that it did not conflict with Catholic teaching." For 2000 years, the church has labored against ambiguity, and strove to make her teachings clear and unambiguous. Ambiguity can lead the faithful astray, and no Catholic, let alone a priest, should ever endorse anything that is not a clear reflection of the magisterial of the church.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted understands this principle and is working diligently to clarify matters such as these.
Finally, the phrase "in obedience to him" contained in his confidential letter to the priests might suggest to some that power and ego are involved.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Allowing members of the clergy to persist in error would be a failure of leadership on the bishop's part. And isn't it just this sort of episcopal failure in other recent issues that is something that all Catholics seem eager to remedy? -
Michael J. Malone, Phoenix
The Arizona Republic -- Opinions online print edition
May. 4, 2004 12:00 AM -- Link to the Opinion Article
Church teaching is very clear in its condemnation of any discrimination, violence or prejudice against anyone regardless of their race, gender or orientation.
This condemnation is based on the teaching that all people are made in God's image and likeness. This means that whether conservatives and fundamentalist like it or not, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered human beings are made in God's image and likeness!
Secondly, church teaching is also clear that those who have been divorced and remarried, those who practice birth control, those who support the death penalty and those who support the war in Iraq also stand in conflict with the church. If we are going to condemn some for immoral behavior, let us also be consistent in condemning everyone's immorality.
But let us also remember that Jesus taught us to love our enemies and taught us not to judge, lest we be judged. Anyone's rush to orthodoxy must not at the same time negate the teachings of Jesus about compassion and mercy to be shown to everyone regardless of their orientation. -
The Rev. Vernon Meyer, Scottsdale
Note: Underlines added. Meyer seems to believe orthodox Catholics are "fundamentalists". There was a letter to the editor of the Catholic Sun some years ago in which Meyer blasted the "fundamentalists". Orthodoxy seems to be a source of irritation to him.
As of this moment Meyer has not yet removed his name from the Current NLS List.
FYI: An article from 2002 involving Meyer follows this post.
The Arizona Republic -- Jun. 23, 2002 12:00 PM [Old article about Meyer]
Link to complete Article
A meeting touted as a forum for Catholics struggling with sexual scandals in the church caused a handful of parishioners to storm out of St. Patrick's Church in Scottsdale early Saturday.
About 80 Catholics from across the Valley attended the meeting led by the Rev. Vernon Meyer to air concerns about sexual misconduct by priests against minors and the crimes' subsequent handling by the church.
"There's a lot of people who have been voicing their opinions about this that I'm not so sure are competent," Meyer said, urging the congregation to know canon law and wait for solutions to emerge from Catholic leaders and Scripture.
Retiree Louise Kern of Scottsdale walked out after being rebuffed by the priest and several onlookers. She made a statement about the church allowing the Rev. Harold Graf of St. Joan of Arc Church in Phoenix to remain in service despite improper conduct with a minor 24 years ago.
"This place is a joke. That's why we came out here, because we thought this was a discussion of what's going on. He doesn't want to do that," Kern said. "We would never sit there and listen to what they've done with the Catholic Church or that hypocrite of a bishop [O'Brien]."
Kern said it was as if she were being lectured on the "do's" and "don'ts" of expressing opinion instead of being allowed to speak freely. But Joe Santa Cruz, 31, of Phoenix, said he felt the opposite.
. . . [snip, Excerpted article]
The discussion came a day after Bishop Thomas O'Brien of the Phoenix Diocese announced he would reprimand all priests found guilty of committing sexual acts with minors. He began by removing Graf, and the Revs. Joseph Lessard and Joseph Brecino from active ministry, a move he should have made earlier, Santa Cruz said.
"He did what he had to do, but he's a little late," he said. "I think the bishop should allow more discussion from the laity, more of a dialogue, listen to people's needs."
Kern said she and her husband, Neil, are longtime Catholics who are tired of the corruption being ignored.
"The people that Neil and I have respected most of anyone in our long life is Catholic priests, and these people do not deserve respect for what they've done to the church," Kern added. "They say we need to uphold the hand of the priest. I don't want to hold his hand. I want to give him the back of my hand."
Meyer said he's "just as ticked off" about the sexual scandal as anyone else, but he was more concerned about setting an amicable tone in the first meeting. He will facilitate follow-up forums from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Monday and Wednesday at the Scottsdale parish.
Read some Aquinas and try again, Padre.
Note that nowhere in his very misleading letter does Meyer ever refer to the fact that, while opposing unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, the Church absolutely condemns sodomy.