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  Home :: 2007 January :: Outspoken Catholic Pastor Replaced; He Says It’s Retaliation

Outspoken Catholic Pastor Replaced; He Says It’s Retaliation

In his last Mass as pastor at the St. Leo's inner-city parish inDetroit where he has served for 23 years, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J.Gumbleton told his parishioners that he was being forced to step downas pastor. He told them it was because of his lobbying efforts onbehalf of the victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

"I'm sure it's because of the openness with which I spoke out lastJanuary concerning victims of sex abuse in the church. So we're allsuffering the consequences of that, and yet, I don't regret doing whatI did because I still think it was the right thing to do," he said, asthe congregation rose and erupted in applause.

In his remarks at Mass last Sunday, Bishop Gumbleton told the parishthat after he turned 75, he had sent resignation letter to CardinalMaida asking to stay on as pastor at St. Leo's on a year-by-year basis.He said he was surprised by his sudden replacement. "I did not choose to leave St. Leo's," he said. "It's something that was forced upon me."

Last weekend, the archbishop of Detroit, Cardinal Adam Maida, sent aletter to St. Leo's parish saying that Bishop Gumbleton had to beremoved because of the church rules about retirement. Bishop Gumbleton,who turns 77 on Friday, had already retired last year as a bishop. Hehas told his parish there are many other pastors who are even olderthan he is who are still serving their parishes.

Bishop Gumbleton is known in church circles as a liberal maverick.He co-founded the peace ministry Pax Christi and has accompaniedantiwar delegations to Haiti and Iraq. He has broken ranks with churchteachings by preaching in favor of acceptance of gay men and lesbiansand the ordination of women.

Last January, he lobbied in favor of a bill in Ohio that wouldextend the statute of limitations and allow victims of sexual abuse tosue the church many years after they were abused. He said he wasspeaking out because he had been abused by a priest as a teenageseminarian and knew how hard it was to speak publicly even decadeslater. Bishops in Ohio opposed the bill, which did not pass.

A spokesman for the archdiocese of Detroit, Ned McGrath, said BishopGumbleton's removal from St. Leo Parish had nothing to do with hislobbying on sexual abuse or his political stands.

All bishops are required at age 75 to submit resignation letters tothe pope, Mr. McGrath said, and the pope has the option to accept orreject the resignation. Bishop Gumbleton's resignation was acceptedlast year, and that it was done with the understanding that BishopGumbleton would give up any pastoral office.”

Cardinal Maida announced in his letter to parishioners that he had appointed a new pastor, the Rev. Gerard Battersby.

Bishop Gumbleton has already moved out of his room behind the churchand plans to move into an apartment in Detroit. He did not respond toan interview request. A video of his remarks during Mass was taken by aparishioner and posted on the Web site of the National CatholicReporter, an independent Catholic weekly newspaper that publishes acolumn by Bishop Gumbleton.

MaryBlack, a parishioner at St. Leo's, said: "Almostuniversally, everyone in the parish is hurt and angry and upset andbewildered. He talks after Mass with people, and he is there ahead ofMass to say the rosary for anybody who has problems. And we all havehis personal phone number. You do not have to go through a secretary.He was a pastor in the truest sense of the word."

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Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia