by Jack D’Aurora
In June 2021, when Catholic Archbishop José H. Gomez stated that President Joe Biden should not receive Communion because he is pro-choice, I wrote in an opinion piece, “Every day, someone in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy wakes up and says, ‘What can we do today to show how out of touch we are with our people and lose more of them?’”
Joining the sclerotic hierarchy is Bishop Earl Fernandes. Installed as bishop of the Catholic Diocese on May 31, 2022, he did the equivalent of kicking in the front door of the Newman Center just three weeks later.
On June 21—without ever talking with the Paulists or members of our community—he gave the four Paulist priests, who served at Newman for 66 years, until June 30 to wind up their administration. He later relented and gave them until July 12, and permitted them to celebrate Mass until July 31. But the Paulists had to vacate their diocese-owned home by Aug. 31.
When interviewed by Collen Marshall of NBC4 on July 10, the bishop communicated he wanted to partner with the Paulists, but they declined.What the bishop offered was oppressive.
The Paulists would be allowed to preach and hear confessions, but would require permission before performing weddings and funerals — a one-year arrangement the bishop could terminate at any time.
Remember the famous line from “The Godfather“: I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse?
Bishop Fernandes did just the opposite and made an offer he knew the Paulists could not accept.
His own actions reflect anything but an open attitude.
In his interview, the bishop referred to our members — some 800 Ohio State students and 600 residents of greater Columbus — as children who are upset with parental discipline. Which of these members is a child, and how is it the bishop imagines himself to be a parent?
Bishop Fernandes’ actions speak of arrogance, an aptitude for spinning facts, a profound lack of consideration for his people, and a condescending attitude. But you have to give him one thing: He has provided us with a shining example of how not be to be an effective leader.
Newman Center will now likely be less inclusive. Based on the document given the Paulists, Newman will endeavor to attract conservative groups such as FOCUS and Opus Dei. FOCUS advocates that gay individuals live chaste lives, and Opus Dei states that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”
The bishop has written that even priests who merely offer support to gays are to be dismissed.
And the bishop is a proponent of celebrating the Mass in Latin. Nothing like going nearly 60 years back in time to the days of pre-Vatican II.
The diocese communicated to the Dispatch that “Out of respect for the Paulists’ privacy in the final masses with the community on July 30 and 31st, no media will be permitted inside the center or on the property.”
The Paulists would have welcomed the media.
It’s the bishop who didn’t want publicity for a standing room-only Mass, where tears were shed, and Ken Watkins, pastor of the adjacent University Baptist Church, applauded the Paulists, saying, “Newman Center has been the starship of campus ministry.”
I will no longer attend Mass at Newman, and though a cradle Catholic, I may join a different faith tradition.
If only the Catholic hierarchy would jettison its hubris and constricted thinking and focus on the gospel’s simple message of humility and inclusion.
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