Arizona: Catholic priest leaves priesthood over church's anti-gay stance

Troy Espera | January 18, 2007

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
PHOENIX — A Catholic priest in Arizona who clashed with the head of the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix over gay issues has split from the priesthood after taking a yearlong leave of absence.

According to the Associated Press, Chris Carpenter 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 told the AP, 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."

The Arizona Republic reports that Carpenter told Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of his decision in October but has not heard from the bishop since he took leave last January.

A diocese spokesman, according to the Republic, 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, reports the Republic.

He said Carpenter remains a priest in good standing.

According to a media statement, Carpenter said 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 wrote in his statement.

Carpenter served for more than eight years as pastor of Christ the King parish in Mesa, Ariz.

He also 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, who leads the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, 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.

The AP reports that 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.

Carpenter took a yearlong leave of absence in January 2006, six months after the Vatican took an anti-gay position on seminarians. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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