AS A Catholic priest in voluntary exile from the
Diocese of Oakland since March 15, 2005, I decided a year ago to stand in public
solidarity with those being hurt the most by my church. Every Sunday I stand
outside Christ the Light Cathedral in Oakland with a sign that reads:
“Structural reform now! Include the Excluded: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gay
One recent Sunday a young man approached, read my sign
and said to me: “I have a better wording for your sign: (explitive) the pope.”
Another passerby said to me, “Why reform the Catholic Church? Why not just shut
It’s hard to hear such extreme criticism of the church I love, but in light
of what I know, it is justified. The recent grand jury report out of
Philadelphia resulting in the arrests of four priests and the removal of 24 more
makes clear that the unspeakable crimes against children and youth and their
cover-up by bishops continue unabated.
Philadelphia is not atypical; it just happens to have a courageous district
attorney (a practicing Catholic no less). The Catholic Church is in a state of
collapse due to an institutional culture defined by secrecy, elitism and denial.
When I listen to Catholic bishops of late, I find myself wondering what
planet these men inhabit. The current bishop of the Oakland Diocese, Salvatore
Cordileone, is obsessed with saving California from what he sees as the grave
threat of gay marriage.
He used his influence to raise millions of dollars to get Prop. 8 passed. People
in glass cathedrals should not throw stones. For Bishop Cordileone or any bishop
to pontificate on any topic remotely related to sex amounts to hypocrisy. Surely
the Bishop of Oakland knows that:
- The Oakland Diocese has lawsuits pending against at least two of its former
priests for sexual abuse of minors.
- Within the last five years, the Diocese/people in the pews have paid out
more than $60 million to abuse survivors (a conservative estimate).
- Research shows that half of Catholic bishops and priests are not practicing
celibacy at any given time.
- A high percentage of priests in the Oakland Diocese are closeted gay men
while the Diocese publicly endorses the pseudo science that gay people can
change their sexual orientation through a program called Courage.
- Not one of the 66 percent of U.S. bishops who covered up and secretly
reassigned known abuser priests has yet to be held accountable either by the
church or by civil authorities.
- The rush to canonize Pope John Paul II as a saint without taking time to
evaluate his handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis and cover-up makes a
mockery of the process.
- Were it not for immigrants, the Diocese would be in a state of complete
collapse for lack of interest.
- The Diocese broke its promise to not ask parishioners to help pay the huge
bill on the Cathedral.
Bishop Cordileone would be better off listening to abuse survivors and others
decimated by a structure of authority that is secretive, autocratic and
The arrest last month of Msgr. William J. Lynn, secretary for clergy from
1992 to 2004 in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who, according to grand jury
findings, reassigned known abuser priests to parishes where they abused again,
is a watershed moment in efforts to hold Catholic officials accountable for
their crimes against children and youth.
Please join me and others on Sunday, April 10 outside the Cathedral in
Oakland from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the first anniversary of this weekly
protest for structural reform in solidarity with those who suffer most from
Catholic leadership’s denial and criminality
Tim Stier is a Catholic priest in voluntary exile and is a
resident of Oakland.