Sunday, November 18, 2007

Toledo Bishop's Homophobia Driving Catholics From the Church

I received several phone calls about the cruel homophobic decree that the Bishop of Toledo issued at all masses this weekend. Anger, disbelief, and disgust may well describe the feelings of Catholics who listened to this un-Christian proclamation.

I was told that a Catholic nun announced to the group after mass that she didn't believe she could continue to serve an intolerant church such as this. As she left she said that she didn't know if she could stay in the church any longer. A high school girl turned to her father and said to him, "I don't want to be part of this church." The father said to me, "She's right."

Folks were in tears at hearing this letter being read; some left during the reading. What has this diocese become under this narrow-minded, righteous and unwelcoming leader? It will surely drive many from the pews. Maybe that's what he wants: cleanse the church from the more liberal, more tolerant people and bring it back to the 'good old days.' The ask-no-questions good old days, the days of 'yes father.'

My wife and I were part of a discussion many years ago led by Fr. Bob Wilhelm, recently retired from the priesthood. He said to the assembled group some 25 years ago: I think the Catholic Church in America will split into two very different groups- one liberal and the other very conservative. He predicted this would happen in 20 or 30 years. His vision was sharp. The delineation has become clear, especially with this current bishop.

One could see the handwriting on the wall early on in his tenure when he replaced all of the women who were serving as associate pastoral leaders in the diocese. Men need serve these positions, not women. He has mandated other conservative features into the liturgy and the dress of the priests of the diocese. Piece by piece, he is turning this diocese to the conservative branch of Catholicism where he, himself, feels comfortable.

The treatment of the pastor of St. Rose in Perrysburg, Fr. Jim Leland, was nothing more than a power play on his part, asserting his hierarchal authority as a reminder to the priests of his power.

He will continue to act this way because he can, not because it serves the Catholics of the diocese. He wants to bring the sheep back to the fold, to the days of structure, authority and control. Sheeple, not people. He will lose many along the way, but he sees it as a cleansing, I'm sure.

The only thing that can stop the man is money. If enough people of the diocese withhold their weekly donations in protest of this most recent act, he will feel the pain. I hope he does, just like the pain his letter has caused to many, many Catholics.

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