The arrival of a new conservative Catholic bishop in the diocese of Berkeley, California has meant that a popular, gay, progressive priest has been ousted from his job. The East Bay Express reported that neither the clergy nor the parishioners at Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish in Berkeley were given any say in the matter.
On Sunday, Feb. 16, said the Express, Father Bernard Campbell delivered a sermon on anger, sadness and bitterness. He then made the abrupt announcement that he and openly gay priest Father Bill Edens would be leaving Newman Hall on the orders of newly installed bishop Michael Barber.
Barber reportedly dismissed Campbell and one other priest and has announced that worship at Newman Hall will be taking on a “major redirection,” a phrase parishioners find ominous.
Campbell and Ednes are favorites among members of Newman Hall. Edens is open about his gay orientation, although he, like all Catholic priests, purports to maintain a celibate lifestyle.
Parishioners have bombarded the bishop and other Catholic officials with letters demanding that they be allowed to keep the pair of progressive priests. Newman Hall members worry that the new bishop is bringing with him a more conservative, exclusionary version of Catholicism.
“The bishop hasn’t responded to any inquiries or letters or phone calls,” said parishioner Matt Werner to the Express. “He’s been completely silent on the topic.”
Werner worries that Barber is going to try to interfere with Newman Hall’s progressive culture.
“All are welcome here,” he said. “Gays, lesbians, people who may not find a home at other Catholic churches. We want to make it a home for everyone.”
Eight parishioners signed a letter to the new bishop which urged him to respect the existing culture at Newman Hall.
“The well-known ethnic and cultural diversity of this parish, its generosity, its rich intellectual environment, and its welcoming spirit are all integral to the identity of our parish,” they wrote.
“We sincerely believe,” the group said, “that our multi-generational parish is a unique blessing for both the students at U.C. Berkeley and the non-student parishioners.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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