The bishop of Oakland, California Fr. Michael Barber has reportedly removed two priests, Fr. Bernard Campbell and Father Bill Edens, from the Newman Hall Holy Spirit Parish at the University of California, Berkeley. The center was, it seems, long known as very very progressive and gay-friendly.
According to at least one gay friendly Catholic-ish website, Fr. Edens “came out” a few weeks ago.
The Eastbay Express reports:
According to the pastor, Barber had made it clear that the removal of these two priests supported his broader goal “to see a major redirection of ministry at Newman.” The bishop had apparently expressed this intention last fall to the leadership of the Paulist Fathers, the Roman Catholic order that has run Newman Hall for more than a century.
The details of this “new vision,” as Campbell also described it in his remarks, are not yet clear. In the weeks since the February 16 speech — a copy of which was posted on the church’s website — parishioners at Newman Hall have continued to send letters to the bishop demanding an explanation. A day after the news broke, hundreds of churchgoers met at Newman Hall to discuss the situation and ways they might protest. Campbell and Edens did not attend. The bishop and the Diocese of Oakland have not publicly addressed this backlash or responded to individual parishioners who have written letters.
While some are focused primarily on the loss of Campbell and Edens, others said they are equally worried about any larger agenda the diocese under Barber’s leadership may be planning for Newman Hall. While it is standard in the Catholic Church to move priests to new parishes, the situation in Berkeley came as a surprise and is controversial for a number of reasons, parishioners said. One notable fear is that Barber, who was ordained as the bishop of Oakland last May, could be pushing to make Newman Hall a more conservative institution. Fueling this speculation is the fact that Edens is an openly gay priest who came out to the parish a few years ago and speaks publicly about his sexual orientation. (While he identifies as gay — a fact that he has discussed in homilies — Edens, like all Catholic priests, is celibate.)
The latest bulletin states that new pastors are already in place. The bulletin also has something like a farewell from the two Paulist priests:
THANK YOU TO THE MANY PEOPLE who have spoken/written to us in response to the announcement about the Bishop’s decision. This is a difficult but wonderful opportunity for all generations in this community to be church. In its infancy the church was a sign of bafflement and deep attraction to emperors and commoners, “See how they love one another.” May we continue to do so.
Let’s hope this doesn’t cause too much hurt over there and pray that this decision by the bishop will lead people to a greater faith.