I've been hearing great things about Bishop Thomas Gumbleton for awhile now, thanks to my good friend Mike Brady, who has been attending Gumbleton's masses at St. Leo's in Detroit for awhile now. And when I went to St. Leo's myself last summer, I was disappointed to miss out on one of Gumbleton's well-known sermons...I mean, this guy is of the ilk that never fails to inspire me, and to give me hope for the Catholic church (which, if I may be frank, isn't always easy).
"In his last Mass as pastor at the inner-city parish in Detroit where he had served for 23 years, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton told his parishioners that he was forced to step down as pastor because of his lobbying efforts on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, a stance that put him in opposition to his fellow bishops."
Happily, Gumbleton offers a model that resonates. Like Fr. Jim Callan of Rochester, N.Y.'s Spiritus Christi--who was also pushed out of his role as a priest in the church--Gumbleton knows that spirituality isn't just words, or Sunday rituals.
"Bishop Gumbleton, though he never led a diocese, is known nationally in church circles as a liberal maverick. He co-founded the peace ministry Pax Christi and accompanied antiwar delegations to Haiti and Iraq. He broke ranks with church teaching by preaching in favor of acceptance of gay men and lesbians and the ordination of women.
"Last January, he lobbied in favor of a bill in Ohio to extend the statute of limitations and allow victims of sexual abuse to sue the church many years after they were abused. He said he was speaking out because he had been abused by a priest as a teenage seminarian and knew how hard it was to speak publicly even decades later."
I never fail to be shocked when the Church turns against their best men and women. But rather than rail against the Church, I want to express my enormous gratitude to Bishop Gumbleton and those like him, who connect their spirituality with active love for others. And to put out my hope that Gumbleton will follow in the line of the remarkable, gorgeous work and life of Spiritus Christi.