Home » Featured

Catholic bishop moves on gay-friendly ASU Newman Center

Posted by on July 6, 2009 – 2:20 pm

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.”


  • Dominicans were just too Christ-like! When will the pewsitters wake up and oust this Tyrant?

  • DTungsten says:

    Bravo! Thank you, Bishop.

  • BCGD says:

    A Catholic all my life. Educated by Dominicans (grade school through college). I learned to love God above all things and to love my neighbor as myself. Why can’t we just do that?

  • HLEE says:

    I went through RCIA, was baptized by Father Fred, and married by Father Fred at the Newman Center. I am saddened by this news, and no matter what anyone says or does – The Newman Center for me will be changed forever. The Dominicans have done a wonderful job at The Newman Center. A job that I don’t believe the Diocesan priests can do any better.

  • James B. says:

    Isn’t ironic that this decision was made by a bunch of 50+ males who have never been married.

  • Erik T says:

    I worked at the Newman Center several years ago. I wish I still did, so I could throw my keys at Bishop Olmsted and tell him a variety of not-very-Catholic thoughts about where the sun does not shine.

  • WWJD says:

    I am sadden by the intolerance that permeates the Catholic buracrates who pretend to act in Gods name. The richeousness that Olmsted projects is the ugly truth that condemns him and those like him from achieving any real knowledge or closeness with God.

  • Aaron says:

    Truth is the people that are usually the most outspoken against gays are often closeted gays themselves. It’s only a matter of time before the leadership has it’s own internal scandal to deal with regarding one of it’s own being gay. But as shown in this example, if you don’t follow their rigid path, you’re out. I don’t think that’s the lesson Jesus was teaching, but this isn’t really about Jesus, it’s about business and making money. Good luck with the business and try not to rape any kids while you’re at it. It’s bad for business.

  • NorthTempe says:

    I am thankful the Dominicans have been part of the Newman Center and the ASU community and Tempe for 40 years. We have them for one more year. Let’s make it a good year.

  • Truth is love says:

    The Dominicans were asked over and over to commit to what they vowed, to teach, and preach what the Catholic Church teaches. It is better to have priests who are willing to keep their vows even in the small things. Thank you Bishop Olmsted for your pastoral decision!

  • Traditionalist @ Newman Center says:

    I don’t know their personal opinions, it’s true, but I have heard both Bishop Olmstead and Fr. Fred preach. There can be no question that Fr. Fred’s homilies (that I heard) were more orthodox than the Bishop’s (that I heard).

    The real reason for the takeover is probably money.

  • Tom K. says:

    Time for Bishop Olmsted to go before he ruins the rest of OUR diocese !
    He’s no bishop, he’s a TYRANT !!!!

  • Brian says:

    Thank God for Bishop Olmsted, a true shepherd protecting the Diocese from wolves. Ad multos annos Bishop Olmsted!

  • justin says:

    Fear of being “found out” makes people do strange things. Easier to “protest”than deal with one’s own stuff.

  • TKRay says:

    God is a Comedian
    Dr. Tushar K. Ray

    God is the Master Comedian before a tense global audience
    Where people are too shallow to grasp His wits, noted Voltaire
    And this is a correct scenario even today for our world at large
    Since this appears to be the state of mind where most people still are

    Imagined fears out of ignorance have besieged our humanity
    Without realizing the fact that God Himself dwells in us
    Spanning over His vast creation all through the Cosmos
    It is His copious love and complete power that keeps us conscious

    Only if we could feel His power both within and without
    Then nothing in this universe could intimidate us
    As His kindness will be felt ceaselessly within our own heart
    Regardless of our karmic state or no matter where we are

    Life is Lord’s fun game with us to help the humanity grow
    Through a process of neat karmic plan to make us really learn
    And we do learn in time that we must forgo own ego
    As ego is the only barrier between God’s Will and the will of man

    Once we grasp the plan of God we begin laughing with Him
    Realizing how meticulously cunning He has been for our sake
    Being forever so diligent for us in guiding to the right course
    But we make wrong choice in life ignoring what He wants from us

    God really is playing in person with each of our human soul
    Like a father playing with his child to arouse her learning skill
    But so long as the child knows her father is up and around
    She enjoys fun with her adored father no matter how hard it is

    So, if we know how to play in life lead by the Almighty Lord
    He never fails to guide us along so we could play it smart
    And never to worry again what to happen if we lose in the end
    As win or loss remain the same when honoring the will of God

  • Rick says:

    Bishop Olmstead is a perpect axample of why the church is in decline. An ultra conservitive bigot. Who may very well be turned OUT himself in time. I think he would like to be Pope someday. A giant in his own mind.. what a fool. I really think he not only believes that…. but wants the cash the Newman center has amassed from their good work. (Fr. Fred) Yes… Fr. Fred… the best thing that’s happened at the Newman Center for many years. Fired !!! OP’s are the really very good…… (Dominicans)

  • Hi Lawn,

    This is exactly one of the many reasons the Reformed Catholic Church is
    starting a new ministry across the nation at colleges and universities. We
    welcome ALL to the table of the Lord, and do not talk out of both sides of
    our mouth. Please contact my office Lawn, so I may share our plans for
    ministry here in the Greater Phoenix area !

    Peace and joy !
    Archbishop +Michael J. Hillis, D.D.
    Tel: (480) 649-0901

  • Lisa says:

    I went to the Newman Center for 12 years. It was a wonderful place for someone newly out of their parents’ house and was a solid rock for me through grad school. How sad that it’s becoming a place for teaching intolerance. Is this what Christ wanted the Church to become? I heard that they’re taking over the church/school I went to for grade school in downtown Phoenix too.

  • Rev. Michael J. Newman says:

    I am retired after twenty-five years in Campus Ministry. The Newman Center in Tempe has been an example for many of us. If the author of the article states the truth, I believe that the Bishop is thumbing his nose at most of his fellow bishops. There are some pretty serious accusations being made — I suggest that a canon lawyer look into the allegations and if they are slander, something should be done.
    The Dominicans have shown many of us a tremendous example of what campus ministry should be. I learned much from them. Of course, the bishop knows best (I know very few bishops know anything about campus ministry) or really don’t care. Now that the Dominicans have done all the work at building a new facility, I knew that he would dismiss them after they did his work… God bless the Dominicans!

  • John says:


    Don’t let the mainstream media (i.e. this poorly cited article, and hundreds of others like it) break your spirits. Catholics need to unite in the love of Christ, not gossip in hearsay!

    Gob Bless!

  • Scelata says:

    Lawngriffiths, that is a serious charge you make — can you give some evidence to support your claim, some instances of Bishop Olmsted’s “intolerance toward gays” and their ” legitimate place in the church”?

    Everything I have read or seen of him indicates that he loves those who are afflicted with homosexuality.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  • Ron N. says:

    Finally! Fr. Fred and his heresies are out of the ASU Newman Center! I went to the Newman Center for three years (due to proximity) and couldn’t believe some of the things he said in his homilies. I would be shocked at how a Catholic priest would make such perverse claims and teach such repulsive dogmas! Bishop Olmsted is truly an honorable man who is cleaning up the filth that has been corrupting the Church faithful here in Tempe. May the Great Lord Bless You, Bishop! Look here you evil spirits, you have lost!

  • Rob B. says:

    This message is to Ron N…how can you say that Fr. Fred was committing heresy? Shame on you. I’ve known Father Fred since I was 17 years old and started going to the Newman Center at the University of Arizona. In the 15 years that I’ve known him, I’ve only known him to be kind, thoughtful, friendly, open, and a man who genuinely embraced everybody. He helped me through some difficult times during college and was always there to listen. His homilies made me think about my life and choose to live a better one. None of what he said in church could be categorized as heresy. Shame on you for saying such things. And, pray tell, if you did not like the homilies that he wrote and said at church every Sunday, then why did you continue to go there for three years? You cite proximity…you must not care too much about what goes on in church if you only choose one due to its geographic location. You could have easily gone somewhere else, yet you chose to sit through Fr. Fred’s “heresies”? I don’t believe you for a second. Never in my life have I heard Fr. Fred utter a “perverse claime” nor teach a “repulsive dogma”.

    As far as the bishop and the church is concerned…did Jesus not preach that we should reach out to those who were different from us? Did he not preach that we should have more understanding and love in our hearts? Did he not preach that we should “love thy enemy” (since that is what many of you claim homosexuals are…). Did he not preach to open your hearts and souls to His love? Those of you who have closed hearts and souls will never recognize the Lord’s true message…that we are all the same, we are ALL His children, regardless of our sexual preferences, creeds, race, beliefs. And logic dictates that if God created man in his image, this means ALL men and women. Homosexuals don’t CHOOSE to be gay…they are born that way. So if they are born that way, then that was the way God made them…and God Bless them.

  • Carl R says:

    I think it is high time Bishop Olmsted gets over his own internalized homophobia and stops penalizing others for his own self-loathing. I mean come on, can’t anyone with a hint of gaydar after seeing his swishiness and hearing his liispy voice not figure out the truth? I can’t wait for the day he is outed.

  • James C. says:

    So being “inclusive” in the Catholic Church means saying it is OK for a man to have sex with a man and a woman to have sex with a woman? St. Dominic must be turning in his grave that his spiritual sons would betray their faith in the Church and the Bible. Welcoming and affirming someone’s dignity as a human being is one thing. Excusing objective sexual sins is another. Shame on the Dominicans of the ASU Aquinas Newman Center. Shame!

  • concerned catholic says:

    It is about time that a Bishop stood up.

    Fr. Fred Lucci, I have know for so many years. I find him to be so immature. I told him that a peer minister at a Newman Center I went to was violating my boundaries and his response was “Who give a s–t.”

    I went to an all boys school and was molested by my peers while in Middle school and high school. These boys ended up gay and involved in groups such as the gay and lesbian group that meets in that parish. Its not homophobia that the Bishop is guilty of, he is just trying to protect people. I have the right to the childhood I could have had as a kid. Such groups only encourage gay kids to molest their peers from my experience.

  • John says:

    Thank you Jesus and thank you bishop! I am so happy about this change

1 Pingbacks »