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Bishops Banning Bishops

We suspect that this is another indication of a more hopeful future for the American episcopacy — at the very least it belongs in the did-I-read-that-correctly category: Recently, two bishops in two separate dioceses prevented brother bishops from making public appearances on Catholic property in their dioceses. Yes, you read that correctly. A lone bishop banning a brother bishop is a rarity in this day and age. Frankly, it just isn’t done. For two of them to take such similar courses of action is inconceivable.

Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, was slated to speak in the Diocese of Marquette (in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) at a conference sponsored by Marquette Citizens for Peace and Justice. According to episcopal protocol, when one bishop comes into another bishop’s diocese to preach, celebrate the sacraments, or otherwise make a public appearance, he is expected to notify the local diocesan bishop — in effect, requesting his permission. It is necessary for the visiting bishop to be in harmony, so to speak, with the local bishop. In a perfect world, one bishop would not be contradicting the local shepherd.

Bishop Gumbleton didn’t bother to contact Mar­quette’s Bishop Alexander K. Sample about his anticipated visit. In fact, Bishop Sample only learned of Gumbleton’s plan to be the keynote speaker at the Peace and Justice conference when the event was advertised. According to Bishop Sample, when he discovered the plan he sent a private note to Bishop Gumbleton in Detroit, informing him that His Excellency is unwelcome in the Diocese of Marquette — no, not because Bishop Sample doesn’t believe in peace and justice, but because of Bishop Gum­bleton’s longtime status as a prince of episcopal heterodoxy. Consecrated a bishop at the absurdly young age of 39 by liberal icon John Francis Cardinal Dearden, Gum­bleton is well known for his advocacy of women’s ordination to the priesthood and as a figurehead for the “gay rights” movement in the Catholic Church.

It appears that once Bishop Gumbleton received the letter from Bishop Sample, the sponsoring group in Marquette rushed off to local media outlets to cry foul, hurling shrill denunciations that painted their shepherd as a medieval autocrat. According to a report in the local daily, The Mining Journal (Oct. 9), members of Citizens for Peace and Social Justice said they were “appalled, sad and frustrated” by Bishop Sample’s decision. “We’re really confused about it,” said Darlene Dreisbach, a member of the Marquette peace organization. “Doesn’t that seem like the Middle Ages?”

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