Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Arizona Catholic Priest Leaves Ministry in Dispute with Bishop over Gay Rights

The Arizona Republic reported that:

Jan. 17, 2007 12:00 AM

A Catholic priest who clashed with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted over gay issues and other matters has left the priesthood after taking a yearlong leave of absence.

Chris Carpenter (pictured left) said he is concerned about the church's outreach to gay members and "the current state of church leadership."

"The enforcement of church doctrine and liturgical practice are taking a step backward to the pre-Vatican II era," he said, referring to the 1960s council on adapting the church to the modern world.

"Attempting to turn back the clock and re-create a time when the Catholic Church enjoyed greater authority and respect culturally is not a realistic way to deal with current problems and challenges."

He said he told Olmsted of his decision in October but has not heard from the bishop since he took leave last January.

A diocese spokesman disputed Carpenter's claim, saying someone from the diocese has been in touch.

"Whether it was the bishop or someone else, I don't know," said Jim Dwyer, the diocese's director of public information.

He said Carpenter remains a priest in good standing.

Carpenter said the intricacies of leaving his vocation make it more accurate to say he does not plan to return to priestly ministry in the church.

"From now on, I won't formally identify myself as a priest or as 'Father' or dress as one," he said in a statement.

Carpenter, who was ordained in 1995 by Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and served for more than eight years as pastor of Christ the King parish in Mesa, was a leader in the gay-advocate group No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice. He was one of nine priests who signed the organization's Phoenix Declaration, which affirmed the right of gay men, lesbians and others to participate in Christian churches.

Olmsted ordered the priests to remove their signatures in May 2004.

Six of the priests who signed the document are no longer working as Catholic priests.

Carpenter said the bishop's order destroyed many priests' efforts to bring gay members back to the church, wounded relationships with other Christian leaders, and damaged hopes for a good relationship with Olmsted.

The complete story may be found here:


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