Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

May 5, 2007

Bishop Olmsted - Winner or Loser?

Last month, Edwina Gately, a well-known Catholic speaker and writer, was scheduled for an address to a group of nuns at a Franciscan Renewal Center on "Feminine Dimensions of God". The local bishop, Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, AZ, sent word that he would have her talk tape-recorded for his scrutiny. Gately refused on legal and personal grounds. The bishop then prohibited the Franciscans from hosting the speaker. She was cancelled but quickly rescheduled at a nearby Protestant church.

What had Bishop Olmsted accomplished? He had characterized himself as an opponent of open and honest discussion. Many of the Catholic faithful were shocked and embarrassed before the general public by this behavior of their bishop, apparently showing his lack of confidence in the persuasive power of Catholic positions and his need to take recourse to the mailed fist of authority - a technique that went out of vogue with the Inquisition and the spiked ball and chain.

Our US bishops engage in conferences and dialogues with the Anglicans, the Methodists, the Evangelicals and others. Can we not similarly discuss issues, neuralgic and otherwise, among we Catholics ourselves? With the CTA? the VOTF? "We Are Church"? Do many bishops feel that they somehow "own" the Catholics in their domain; that the voices of the Catholic faithful must simply be echo chambers of the bishop's voice? That bishops cannot learn from others? Their track record in recent years suggests that they could, indeed, learn from others.

A final accomplishment of Bishop Olmsted: he created a wider audience for Ms. Gately by moving her to a Protestant church, receiving great attention from the Phoenix press!


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