Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Retired Bishop Not Welcome - USA

A retired auxiliary bishop from Detroit who is an outspoken advocate for sexual abuse victims and gays and lesbians will be in Tucson next week, but he's not being welcomed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.

Tucson Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas said that decision is based on the identity of the group hosting the Rev. Thomas J. Gumbleton's talk, which he says takes positions that are contrary to church teachings.

For that reason, the group's messages cannot be promoted on church property, the bishop said. He said he's had written contact with Gumbleton and made it clear that Gumbleton will not be in Tucson at the invitation of the local diocese.

"I'm saddened and disappointed to hear it," said Laurie Olson, vice president of the Tucson chapter of Call to Action, a group of lay Catholics that seeks changes in the church and is sponsoring Gumbleton, who will talk about homosexuality and Catholicism.

Olson said her group, which has about 150 people on its mailing list, has found a non-Catholic church to host Gumbleton as its keynote speaker.

The national group Call to Action says its mission is freeing the Catholic Church to become a force for peace and justice in the world. Its Web site includes information on optional celibacy for priests and on the status of women, gays and lesbians in the church.

The local chapter of Call to Action says it follows the national mission. The group has hosted speakers who urge improved transparency and inclusion in the church, and its members have proposed more democracy in the church, such as electing bishops.

Gumbleton, a 77-year-old retired bishop from the Archdiocese of Detroit, is to speak next Tuesday at First Christian Church, part of the Disciples of Christ denomination.

The Rev. Robin Hoover of First Christian Church said he offered his church because his congregation supports changes to make all religious entities more open and affirming of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

"Reverend Hoover welcomed us. Bishop Kicanas did not," Olson said. "What Catholics will hear from Bishop Gumbleton is not what they hear from the Arizona bishops who, as you know, supported Proposition 107."

Proposition 107 was an Arizona ballot initiative that failed in November. The measure called for an amendment to the state constitution that would have banned gay marriage and also barred governments from giving benefits to employees' domestic partners.

"Bishop Gumbleton calls for homosexuals in general and homosexual priests in particular to come out and share their gifts with our church," Olson said. "It is not what they (Catholics) hear from the Vatican, which calls homosexuals inherently disordered." Gumbleton, featured in a Jan. 24 article on the National Catholic Reporter's Web site, has been in the national news lately because he was not reappointed to serve as pastor of the inner-city St. Leo's Catholic Church, which he'd led since 1983.

In a video of his last Mass at St. Leo's, filmed by a parishioner and posted on the National Catholic Reporter Web site, Gumbleton says he still wants to lead St. Leo's and believes he was not reassigned because of the recent openness with which he spoke concerning victims of sex abuse in the church.

Gumbleton also has talked about his own childhood sexual abuse by a priest.

The Archdiocese of Detroit says it did not renew Gumbleton's position because of his age. At age 75, all bishops must submit a letter of resignation directly to the pope, wrote Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit, in a letter to parishioners distributed the weekend of Jan. 20-21. Maida wrote that the pope had accepted Gumbleton's resignation.

Gumbleton's supporters point to other priests around the country older than 75 who continue to lead parishes.

Gumbleton was unavailable for comment.



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