Although a Swiss bishop has asked a Catholic pastor to resign from his parish, after learning that the priest had blessed a lesbian couple, the parishioners of the community are supporting the cleric.
According to Gay Star News:
“Wendelin Bucheli, a priest in the municipality of Bürglen in the west of Switzerland, gave his blessings to a lesbian couple in October 2014 after discussing it with other members of the clergy.
Bucheli gave careful consideration to the action, and decided that blessing a couple was the right thing to do:
” ‘There was no considerable difference between this blessing and a wedding ceremony,’ the priest told Swiss newspaper Urner Wochenblatt, speaking about the occasion last October.
“Bucheli said he carefully considered his options before discussing the matter with a Jesuit priest.
“His main question was: ‘Can I give this blessing in the name of God and would it be his will?’, to which, so Bucheli, the answer was yes.
” ‘These days people give blessings to animals, cars and even weapons,’ he said, ‘why shouldn’t you give your blessing to a couple deciding to walk through life with God by their side?’ “
Not surprisingly, the local bishop did not approve of the action:
“Vitus Huonder, bishop of the diocese of Chur where Bucheli currently works, did not agree with the priest’s actions.
“He spoke to the priest and the bishop of Bucheli’s home diocese of Lausanne, Huonder said they want the pro-gay religious leader gone by summer at the latest and returned to his former pasture.
“Huonder’s spokesman Guiseppe Gracia told the Urner Wochenblatt: ‘His actions created attention, even across state borders, and angered many believers.’
“He claimed Bucheli’s actions could have ‘clouded the church’s teachings on marriage and family.’ “
But parishioners have come to the priest’s defense, organizing a petition, which, in a few days, has garnered over 3,000 signatures. TheLocal.ch reported on the community’s response:
“ ‘We stand behind priest Bucheli,’ Peter Vorwerk, vice-president of the parish council is quoted as saying.
“Christianity is based on charity so it is difficult to understand why the church should deny someone the blessing of God, he said.”
Fr. Bucheli has declared his intention not to resign:
“Bucheli defended his blessing of the lesbians and said he would not submit his resignation.
“He said it was his jobs as a ‘shepherd’ to address the weak, the injured and the marginalized, he said in an interview with the Nueue Urner Zeitung published on Wednesday.
“In a joint press release issued by the priest and the parish council, Bucheli reiterated that he wanted to stay in the village.
“ ‘I feel comfortable in Bürglen,’ he said.
“ ‘My work is not finished and I see no reason to leave the community at this time.’ “
In a somewhat related story, a Claretian priest in California, has resigned from the priesthood because he can no longer accept official Catholic teaching on LGBT and women’s issues.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Father Richard Estrada, a longtime immigrants’ rights advocate, has moved to the Episcopal Church, and said he could no longer tolerate the Roman Catholic practices regarding these minorities:
“For decades, Estrada saw the pain of gay and lesbian parishioners who were ashamed of their sexuality, and of women who he felt were treated as second-class citizens. He saw the Catholic Church evolving on those issues, but the changes felt too slow.
” ‘I saw a lot of people who were struggling,’ he said. ‘I just felt like I don’t fit anymore. Maybe I’ve grown, or shrunk or whatever, but I just don’t fit. And I haven’t fit. So let’s be honest.’ “
As we continue to pray for change in the Roman Catholic Church on LGBT issues, let’s remember especially our priests who speak out and act for equality and justice.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry