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Gay Catholics Saddened at Church's Enforcement of Mandatory Retirement of Progressive Bishop

Contact Information: 

Sam Sinnett, President 
314 477-5798 (cell)

The leaders of DignityUSA reacted sadly to the impending removal of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit from active ministry. DignityUSA President Sam Sinnett stated: “Bishop Gumbleton has been one of the most powerful—and now nearly unique—voices for justice and inclusion in our Church for many years, particularly on behalf of the victims of sexual abuse by clergy, the poor, women in the Church, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In addition, he has been a tireless advocate for peace in Iraq and elsewhere.

Looking forward to his 77th birthday in January, Bishop Gumbleton is past the Vatican-mandated retirement age of 75 for active clergy. Sinnett stated: “We are aware of Bishop Gumbleton's request that there be no public demonstrations or disruptions by the media surrounding his departure, and especially because of our great respect and love for him we intend to honor that request fully. However, Bishop Gumbleton's mandatory retirement raises issues that extend beyond his own situation and that of his parish to affect the entire Catholic Church, and we feel compelled to speak about them as a matter of justice.

Sinnett continued: "In particular, the Vatican frequently asks more conservative bishops to stay on and continue ministering well into their retirement years. Indeed, Pope Benedict XVI himself is 80 years old and according to the Vatican's own rule should have retired five years ago. Bishop Gumbleton specifically requested a retirement waiver from Rome in 2005, citing his sound mental and physical condition as reasons to continue his effective ministry. In contrast to its accommodation of bishops who seemingly put obedience to the Vatican over the call of the Holy Spirit, Rome enforces mandatory retirement for more progressive bishops. With severe priest shortages and faith communities without clergy, the decision to remove this faithful bishop at this time is unconscionable and mean-spirited."

Sinnett added: “Bishop Gumbleton has consistently been a courageous and prophetic figure within our Church, powerfully articulating Jesus’ Gospel message of love, forgiveness and inclusion at a time when most of our bishops have shamefully abdicated this essential responsibility of their office. If justice were truly operating within our Church as a worldly institution, he would have been elevated to one of its highest positions of power, rather than being pushed to the margins. Yet, like Jesus, he has chosen the higher road of working directly among the people, many of them economically and socially disadvantaged."

Sinnett concluded: “We offer Bishop Gumbleton our complete support and solidarity. We pray that he will continue to minister to God’s people, to publicly proclaim the Gospel message and to speak out on the vital issues confronting the Catholic Church. We also offer Bishop Gumbleton’s soon-to-be former parishioners at St. Leo’s in Detroit our best wishes as they continue to pursue his vision of an inclusive church, and we thank them for providing Bishop Gumbleton with a loving home for 23 years.”

DignityUSA is the nation's foremost organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics, their families, friends and supporters. Founded in 1969, it is an independent nonprofit organization with members and chapters across the country.DignityUSA works for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the Church and Society. www.dignityusa.org