Catholic bishop moves on gay-friendly ASU Newman Center
All Saint’s Catholic Newman Center in downtown Tempe, integrally part of the Arizona State University campus, has long been listed as a “gay and lesbian friendly” Catholic community. Its inclusivity, its ministries, its attitude have made the Newman Center an oasis of thought and openness in the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.
But no-nonsense and orthodox Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who has a long record of intolerance toward gays and their having a legitimate place in the church, has played his hand at the Newman Center.
On Sunday, the All Saint’s parish was shocked to learn that the Dominicans, the 800-year-old Ordo Praedictatorium (Order of the Preachers) would be sent packing, and the diocese was sending in its own acceptable priest. Affected would be Dominicans Father Fred Lucci, the pastor; and Father James Thompson, associate pastor.
During my years as the religion editor/writer for the East Valley Tribune, I was heartened to cover a series of events related to tolerance and ministry to the gay, lesbian and transgendered community at the Newman Center. I recall listening to Catholics telling their personal experiences of being rejected and their feelings dismissed by Catholic clergy while growing up. Some found a wholly different attitude at the Newman Center with an outreach ministry to the gay community.
This was the church that nurtured Neil Giuliano, a Catholic who acknowledged his homosexuality during the 10 years he was mayor of Tempe and who then moved on to lead the national organization Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) for more than four years.
At the end of Sunday night’s Mass, a letter was read from the bishop announcing that there would be a change of the management of the Newman Center. They were told that the diocese would be using the ASU Catholic Center as a great incubator for fostering the vocations of the Catholic Church – steering the right kind of ASU Catholics toward helping to close the overwhelming gap in men and women willing to devote their lives to the celibate life as priests and nuns.
One e-mail that went out Sunday night said, “The Dominicans of Newman Center are out by the end of the month for their Liberal and pro-gay stance. They have been at the church since 1969. The Phoenix Diocese is taking back the church.”
Another said, “They’ve had a large gay and lesbian ministry there that Olmsted has been displeased with.”
One report was that the Rev. Matt Lowry, a 2000 graduate of ASU who was ordained a priest in 2008, might be dispatched to lead the ASU Newman Center.
He has spent almost a year at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mesa and was starting at the Northern Arizona University Newman Center as the priest as well as vicar of vocations for Northern Arizona for the Diocese.
The Dominicans state their purpose thusly:
• “Our reason for being is PREACHING the Good News of JESUS CHRIST, who came that we might live abundantly.
• “Our lives and words preach God’s great COMPASSION for all people, especially the poor and disenfranchised.
• “Looking for TRUTH untiringly, we STUDY to find answers to give men and women today.
• “Living with MINDS set on God and open to the newness of the world, we work at the frontier where a new culture is forged.
• “We live in COMMUNITIES of discipleship so that our preaching springs from our authentic living of the Gospel.
“Our lives are a response to God’s greatest commandment: to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves. As Dominicans, we emphasize sharing the Word of God as the way to love our neighbor. For our own salvation and for the salvation of others we make profession to a rule of life that incorporates us into the community of preachers. Thus we are a family of brothers and sisters bonded by our common vocation and dedication to preaching.”
One Valley blogger with the Phoenix Catholic Examiner, Max Lindenman, was there Sunday night and gave his observations in this blog on Monday: www.examiner.com/x-7216-Phoenix-Catholic-Examiner~y2009m7d6-Diocese-to-assume-control-of-All-Saints-Catholic-Newman-Center
Meanwhile, the economy has further affected the diocese, which is shuttering the Diocesan Center in downtown Phoenix and sending employees home. Furloughs are across the dioese. This is the announced on the diocesan Web Site: “The Diocese of Phoenix Pastoral Center Office, located at 400 E. Monroe St., is closed from Friday, July 3, 2009, to Sunday, July, 12, 2009. The public is asked to be aware that staff will return phone calls and e-mails the week of July 13, 2009, when all normal Pastoral Center activities are expected to resume. The Diocese thanks you for your patience and understanding.”