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Bishop Martin de Porres: Akron native to head independent Catholic Church in California






Activists target California mayor for comments on sinfulness of homosexual acts
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Mayor Osby Davis

.- A California mayor’s comments saying that homosexuals are committing sin that will keep them out of heaven have caused uproar among activists. While the mayor also explained that he loves his close friends who are gay, some activists have called for him to resign and want the city to advance homosexual goals.

In a Nov. 16 interview with the New York Times, Mayor Osby Davis of Vallejo, California discussed issues of religion and politics in the Bay Area city of 120,000 people, the California Catholic Daily reports.

Discussion turned to the school board candidate Bishop Lou A. Bordisso, an openly homosexual prelate in the American Catholic Church, a church not in communion with Rome.

The mayor reported that Bordisso was “striking out at the faith-based community” and indicated that they should not be involved in the school.

Mayor Davis said that Christians have the right to ask a candidate whether he is going to attempt to bring a “gay and lesbian agenda” into the curriculum.

Asked by the New York Times whether there are some faith communities “where gay people are not welcome,” Davis replied that God loves “anyone who is gay and anyone who is not gay.”

“The sins that keep you out of heaven are not the just those sins of being gay, those are sins of lying, murdering, unforgiving, all kinds of sins… So when you look at someone who is gay, you see them as someone Christ died for and you look at them as if they are in fact committing sin and that sin will keep them out of heaven.”

In the mayor’s view, a Christian doesn’t hate the person but rather the sin they commit.

“And you continue to love the person, and you hope one day the person will see the error in their ways,” he continued.

No sin is greater than any other, he opined, saying he has “very close friends who are gay.”

“I don’t believe that their lifestyle is correct but that’s a decision that they have to make. I don’t stop loving them because they’re gay. They have to make a decision on their own. If I present something to them and they don’t want to receive it, okay that’s well and good. That’s not going to stop me from loving them.”

The pro-family organization Capitol Resource Institute (CRI) reported that the mayor's city, Vallejo, is divided in its reaction to the statement.

“Some have called for the removal of the mayor, the appointment of an openly gay individual to the Vallejo Human Relations Commission, and official recognition of an LGBT Pride month,” CRI said.

The group reported that many of the demands charge that the mayor’s statements violate church-state separation.

“And much of the criticism begins with the accusation that the religious community in general is motivated by hate,” the CRI added.

Kevin Snider, chief counsel to the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), said his organization is monitoring the situation.

Snider remarked that though it may be “unwise” for an elected official to discuss his religious beliefs with a New York Times reporter, it “certainly is not illegal.”

“It is troubling that so many believe that there is such a restriction on protected speech,” he added.

The PJI has expressed concerned about the “numerous attacks” on the Vallejo religious community in newspaper letters, e-mails and public forums at City Council meetings.

As many as 500 people took part in a protest at Vallejo City Hall on Dec. 2. Some supported the mayor while others opposed him.

The CRI said the uproar was a “teachable moment” for leaders of the Vallejo faith community.

Snider also saw hypocrisy in the reactions to Mayor Davis’ comments.

“Some are asking that Vallejo formally celebrate their views on sexuality while punishing the mayor for stating his views on sexuality. They seem to be saying, ‘we’re out of the closet, now Christians need to go into the closet,” he commented.

Mayor Davis and homosexual city council member Michael Wilson issued a joint statement rebuking the “rumors of hate” being circulated on the basis of the New York Times article. The statement professed their unity in efforts to build consensus and confront “hatred and division.”

The New York Times


Faith and Tolerance Collide in Vallejo

Published: November 20, 2009
Drive through Vallejo and you will see a once-proud Navy town clearly down on its luck. A motel room goes for $30.99 a night, including HBO. Closed businesses proliferate; those that remain often have temporary vinyl signs held up by string, indicating a tentative investment in the future.

The problems plaguing this community are among the most daunting to face any municipality: the city has declared bankruptcy, its schools are in state receivership and a court battle threatens to strip firefighters of expensive salaries and benefits.

But there is concern that, as the city tries to find the way out of this financial abyss, it is falling into another that is perhaps more pernicious — its political system increasingly reflects the influence of evangelical churches. This influence, many say, has been gained by condoning intolerance of the city’s growing gay community.

“There’s definitely a disconnect between the faith community and the gay community,” said Marc Garman, editor of The Vallejo Independent Bulletin, an online town crier.

There has been a gay migration to Vallejo from San Francisco in the past decade, lured by inexpensive home ownership and opulent Victorians ripe for renovation. The newcomers found tolerance here, but now there are signs of a push back.

Earlier this year, the Vallejo school district settled a lawsuit after an openly gay high school student said she was harassed by staff and told she was going “to hell.” She was awarded $25,000, and schools were forced to adopt antidiscrimination policies.

Gay candidates for public office say they have been singled out for defeat by a coalition of local churches calling itself the “faith community.” In 2007 and 2009 the group hosted “faith forums” that included gay candidates, but not in other contests.

An openly gay priest who was a school board candidate, the Rev. Lou Bordisso, said he heard murmurs and laughter at a forum this fall. A moderator asked if he wanted to put a gay and lesbian curriculum in schools. Father Bordisso is an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of California in the American Catholic Church (a sect not under Vatican control). “They have a hidden agenda to impose their particular version of Christianity on the citizens of Vallejo,” he said.

Comments posted on Mr. Garman’s Web site described the forum as “homophobic” and “horrid.” An openly gay mayoral candidate, Gary Cloutier, attended such a forum in 2007. Mr. Cloutier said introductions referred to him as “a gay.” Then, he said, “I was asked if I would bring the Folsom Street Fair to Vallejo.” The question referred to San Francisco’s notorious public display of sexuality.

Mr. Cloutier said the political climate changed six years ago when he was serving as a member of the City Council. Evangelicals began forming prayer circles outside the Council chambers. “ I was disturbed because they called America a Christian nation,” he said.

Both men eventually lost their races. Mr. Cloutier was defeated — by only two votes — by Osby Davis, a devout Assemblies of God follower. “I don’t know what the fear is about considering Vallejo as a city of God,” Mayor Davis said. If believed, he said, “that God created heaven and earth and everything that’s in it, and that God is sovereign, then you believe that he is already a part of this community and this is already his city; and so what’s the big deal?”

Mr. Davis thought the question asked about the Folsom Street Fair was “really, really unfair.” But his faith does inform the way he sees gay people. “They’re committing sin and that sin will keep them out of heaven,” he said. “But you don’t hate the person. You hate the sin that they commit.”

Told his outspoken religious passion might rattle some, he said: “That means that they have a problem, and not me. I’m just as passionate about my faith as someone is about the Oakland Raiders football team. No one says a word when someone rides down the street with their body all painted up yelling, ‘Go Raiders!’ If I start yelling, ‘Go Jesus! Praise God!’ someone gets upset.”

Stephanie Gomes, a City Council member, has “a very strong feeling about the separation of church and state.” Her recent, successful campaign focused on economic problems. Ms. Gomes is concerned about the political tone. “We became so diverse,” she said, “and I wonder if some people felt threatened by that.”

Scott James is an Emmy-winning television journalist and novelist who lives in San Francisco.


Going their own way: Independent Catholic churches at home in the world

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American Catholic priest, the Rev. Martin Griffin of St. John the Beloved’s parish is also the principal of San Pasqual High School. <br><small><B>JOHN KOSTER </B> For the North County Times </small> <br><A HREF=" JOHN KOSTER For the North County Times / American Catholic priest, the Rev. Martin Griffin of St. John the Beloved’s parish is also the principal of San Pasqual High School. " target="new">Order a copy of this photo</A> <!— <br><A HREF="XXXX ">More of this story</A> —> <br> <A HREF="" target="new">Visit our Photo Gallery</A> <br> <hr width="250">

Martin Griffin was born an Episcopalian; he spent his high school and college years studying Roman Catholicism because he "felt a call to the priesthood," and he became a Franciscan friar after college.

But Griffin "didn't feel at home" in the Roman Catholic Church, and chose to leave it in 1998.

Instead, he joined the American Catholic Church, one of many independent Catholic or "Old Catholic" churches in the United States that are not part of the Roman Catholic Church. By some estimates there are more than 200,000 independent Catholics in the United States alone, compared with 77 million Roman Catholic Church members.

Like other moderate and independent Catholic churches, the American Catholic Church tries to be inclusive, diverse and "pastorally sensitive to the needs of the people," said Lou Bordisso, presiding bishop of the California Diocese for the American Catholic Church, who ordained Griffin this summer as Father de Porres.

"I didn't feel the (Roman Catholic) communal life was strong enough to meet my emotional, social and spiritual needs," said Griffin, who is the principal at San Pasqual High School in Escondido. He researched other churches for years before choosing the American Catholic Church.

Griffin, of Chula Vista, said independent Catholic churches respect the pope, but don't believe in papal infallibility, which means the Pope can't err when defining the church's moral and religious beliefs. However, they do practice the same seven sacraments as Roman Catholics, and believe in the apostolic succession of bishops.

Clerical celibacy is optional among independent Catholics, and married people may be ordained, according to the Web site for Independent Catholic Churches International ( Also, contraception is treated as a matter of personal conscience between husband and wife.

Bordisso, of Vallejo, said he considers the American Catholic Church to be "interdependent" with Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, as well as other religions.

"I think interdependency is the whole business of having a working relationship, and having a pastoral outreach and mutual respect for each other," he said.

Women may be ordained as priests in the American Catholic Church, and the clergy often work "secular jobs" while they serve the church. Bordisso is a family and relationship clinician.

For Griffin, life as an independent Catholic priest is enjoyable. He works with high school students during the week and is associate rector to about 20 parishioners on the weekend. He works for St. John the Beloved, a part of the moderate Catholic Church of America, another independent Catholic Church. Since Griffin is American Catholic, but San Diego County doesn't have a church, he received special permission from Bordisso.

Griffin said he was drawn to becoming an American Catholic priest because the church focuses on "salvation and not condemnation."

"Our belief is that we aren't called to judge, but we are called to bring the gospel to those who want to receive the sacraments of the church," he said.

Bishop Thomas Abel is presiding bishop over St. John the Beloved in Hillcrest and All Saints Parish in Carlsbad, both part of the Catholic Church of America. "We typically attract individuals who have felt sidelined or not a part of the Roman Catholic Church," Abel said.

"They should not be sidelined with the church, but should be drawn in so that they can live out their sacraments," he said.

Abel said the Catholic Church of America is smaller than the American Catholic Church, but they share similar beliefs.

"We can love people who are hurt and broken, and we try to minister to them," he said. "We think that the power of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is so strong and loving that it has that saving grace."

Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego, declined to comment on the independent Catholic churches in order to "avoid controversy."

Julie Byrne is the Msgr. Thomas J. Hartman Chair in Catholic Studies at Hofstra University in New York. She has studied independent Catholic churches for five years and is working on a book called "The Other Catholic Church." According to Byrne, there isn't an organization in the United States that oversees all of the independent Catholic churches, and they aren't as well known as the Roman Catholic Church.

She estimates that at least 230,000 people in the United States are independent Catholics, compared with 77 million Roman Catholics. However, "in Europe, the 'Old Catholic' church is known well," she said.

She said independent Catholic churches are difficult to characterize, because their beliefs range from liberal to conservative.

"It would be really hard to sum up how the different churches break down in terms of commonality," Byrne said.

"Old Catholic" churches have been in the United States since the beginning of the 20th century, she said. Their roots stem from the first Vatican Council in 1869-70, if not earlier. After Vatican I, some Catholic leaders broke from Rome over the papal infallibility doctrine.

"In my education about Catholicism, the Roman Catholic Church supposedly never split," author Byrne said. "There have actually been lots and lots of groups that started."

She said the "hot spots" for independent Catholic churches in the U.S. include California, Chicago, Texas, Florida and New Mexico. She also said there are more than 150 separate jurisdictions of independent Catholic churches.

Rebecca Moore, chairman of San Diego State University's Department of Religious Studies, said many people have joined independent Catholic churches because they disagreed with "certain parts of their (Roman Catholic) teachings."

"What we see today is people are more willing to step out of Mother Church, so to speak, for reasons of their conscience," she said. "People are concerned about issues of exclusion in terms of not just membership, but inclusiveness of the clergy."

Janine Stock, who is now a Catholic Church of America priest for the All Saints parish in Carlsbad, said she left the Roman Catholic Church because she felt a calling -- "something that tugs at you, pulls you, calls you" -- for the priesthood. However, Roman Catholic women are prohibited from pursuing this calling.

"When you are a child, you don't know you have those boundaries," she said, adding that she felt it was very difficult to have a "barrier placed in front of you, and an artificial one at that."

She said she has trouble finding the words to describe how it felt to be ordained as a priest in the Catholic Church of America in November 2004.

"I can't even tell you what was going on through my heart the first time I gave Communion to someone," she said. "There is not a feeling like it."

She said she likes the inclusiveness of the independent Catholic church.

"Everybody has a voice, because we believe the theology and the dogma has already been described in the creed," she said.

All Saints Parish: The Rev. Janine Stock. Sunday Mass at 5 p.m. at Pilgrim United Church of Christ, 2020 Chestnut Ave., Carlsbad.

St. John the Beloved Cathedral: Bishop Tom Abel, the Rev. Thomas Beckman, the Rev. Martin De Porres Griffin. Sunday Mass at 11:30 a.m. at the chapel of University Christian Church, 3900 Cleveland Ave., Hillcrest, San Diego.

For more on parishes of the Catholic Church of America in San Diego County, see: or call (619) 400-3902.

Sheep and Goats - San Diego Reader - Places of Worship Reviewed
By Matthew Lickona
Published April 19, 2007

St. John the Beloved Cathedral, Hillcrest

Denomination: The Catholic Church of America

Address: 3900 Cleveland Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-400-3902
Founded locally: July 2006
Senior pastor: Thomas Beckman
Congregation size: 25
Staff size: 3
Sunday school enrollment: not yet
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: about $100
Singles program: no
Dress: casual
Diversity: majority Caucasian, some African American and Pacific Islander
Sunday worship: 11:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour

"I've been to some places that consider themselves liberal and accepting," said one congregant at St. John the Beloved. Those qualities were important to him because he was both gay and divorced. "But for them, 'liberal and accepting' meant the priest was in a Hawaiian shirt and there was dancing on the altar." Not here. Here, the theology would allow for both gay and female clergy, but there would be no priests in Hawaiian shirts. The setting was humble: a small, octagonal chapel at University Christian Church ("examples of true, radical hospitality," said Rector Thomas Beckman). Two small stained-glass windows, depicting what might have been smoke and flame, joined a cross, a mid-century portrait of Jesus, and a Monet landscape as the room's principal adornment. But other elements seemed more ornate and more typically (even traditionally) Catholic. The embroidered trim on the altar cloth, matching both the tapestry surrounding the cross on the wall and the detail work on Father Martin de Porres Griffin's vestments. Two pots of Easter lilies, placed beside two tall candlesticks before the altar. Just off to the left, a silver crucifix on a pole. A modest brass tabernacle, huddled in a corner beside a richly detailed Paschal candle. And when the acolytes entered the church during the entrance hymn, they wore black cassocks covered by white albs. "Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia/ All on earth with angels say, Alleluia." Still, it wasn't all old-school Catholicism. Of necessity, piano took the place of an organ, and the arrangements for the liturgical music had a modern, folksy feel. The sign of peace enjoyed a privileged status: nearly everybody wished the peace of Christ to nearly everybody else, often through an embrace instead of the more typical handshake. And there were two noticeable variations from standard Catholic liturgy: "For us and our salvation" replaced "For us men and our salvation" in the Creed, and the Eucharistic prayer did not include a prayer for the pope.

The Gospel told the story of Jesus visiting the disciples after His resurrection, appearing in their midst even though "the doors were locked," and saying "Peace be with you." In his homily, Griffin said, "Many times, the doors of our hearts are locked, but Jesus enters anyway, and He says, 'Peace be with you.' He breathed on them His holy spirit, and...there is safety in that place. The disciples feel safe in the care and the presence of Jesus."

Except for Thomas. "We hear about Thomas not being present in the community when Jesus came the first time; Thomas saying, 'I won't believe unless I can physically see and touch my Savior.' How often am I in that place, saying, 'Lord, you can do these things, but I don't truly believe in my heart. I need to see.' What would have helped Thomas in that situation is the community.... Faith is centered in every one of our hearts, but we need others to help us see, to help us believe.... As Christians who believe in the resurrection of Christ, but who have not seen, we are called to continue to see Christ each day, to receive His peace and bring that peace to others, that they may believe. These are all signs that Christ is truly present and active in our world."

During the intercessory prayers, the acolyte prayed "that the Church's life in Christ continue to invite nonbelievers to come to belief."

At the end of Mass, Rector Beckman, recently released from the hospital, took a moment to address the congregation. "I wanted to tell you...what a great deal this community has meant to me in my healing process, how very much I love you and how very much I believe in the work that we are doing. This gathering is a testimony to the living love that proceeds from God."

Just before the final blessing, Griffin mentioned that the church was selling polo shirts sporting the diocesan emblem. One congregant leaned over and murmured a joke to his neighbor: "Do any of them come with Roman collars?"

What happens when we die?

"We'll reach that place of glory," said Griffin, "and Jesus will -- as in the Gospel today -- He'll say, 'Peace be with you. Welcome to the place I have prepared for you.'"

-- Matthew Lickona

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