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Oakland Priest Protests the Church Exclusion of Marginalized: Women, Abuse Survivors, Gays

When the California Catholic Daily objects to something in the news, I often find it’s a good reason to track down the source. In this case, their outrage was at an opinion piece in the Oakland Tribune by a local priest, Fr Tim Stier, who has placed himself in what he calls “voluntary exile”, protesting weekly outside the Oakland cathedral at the failures of the church, and its treatment of marginalized groups. CCD thinks this is a scandal. I am impressed at the courage and sacrifice of this prophetic witness against the real scandal, the failure of the Church to take seriously the Gospel message of inclusion for all.

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 Persons.”

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 down?”

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.

(Read the full article at Oakland Tribune)

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