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From the Ashes

Over the past week, Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix has made some waves.

He had issued the decision – to ban abortion and gay-marriage supporting politicians from speaking at Catholic institutions – last December, but it surfaced again this past week, as described in this linked article.

A clarification appeared at LifeSite news:

One Arizona online news source ran the Republic article with the headline, “Bishop’s ban targets Napolitano.” The paper then reported that last week some members of a group of poverty activists voluntarily bowed out of a memorial service for homeless people in a Phoenix Catholic church on the grounds that their views on abortion clashed with the Catholic teaching.


Representatives of the diocese of Phoenix have said that the Arizona Republic’s characterization of the story as a case of an ‘archconservative’ Catholic bishop issuing “edicts” to suppress freedom of speech is unfair. The paper further confused the issue, says Ron Johnson, Executive Director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, by giving the impression that there was a double standard at work in which only public figures were “targeted.”

Johnson said in an interview with, “There’s no double standard. The prohibition does not apply to those who may privately disagree or hold a confused position. The point is not to ‘target’ anyone. So if you are a public figure whose support for abortion is a matter of public record, we have to prevent confusion or misunderstanding about what the Church teaches.”


In a follow-up email, Johnson said, “The clear inference from this headline seems to reduce the importance of Bishop Olmsted’s policy to a mere personal attack.”

In December 2004, Bishop Olmsted wrote a letter to priests stating that those public figures who supported the killing of unborn children by abortion and the normalization of sexual immorality must not be given a public forum in Phoenix parishes or other Catholic institutions. It was a follow-up of the decision taken the previous June by the entire US Conference of Catholic Bishops to have individual bishops implement measures to protect the Church from misrepresentations of its teachings.

“Bishop Olmsted’s policy on politicians supporting abortion is not a personal attack directed at any single person,” said Johnson, “but primarily an effort to protect the Church from being used by politicians at odds with core Church teachings.”


Of course, the op-eds and letters  have come fast, furiously and with, oh so much "sadness:"

like this one:

Olmsted’s right to speak to Catholics on matters of faith and morals does not extend to abrogating our rights to free speech and association. I hope our non-Catholic brothers and sisters will continue to work with us to further the issues on which we agree.

this one:


As a well-educated Catholic, I am both saddened and embarrassed by Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted’s speaking ban against Gov. Janet Napolitano and others he is unable to influence.

The bishop mistakes his calling to teach the church’s flocks as a mandate for the mind control of Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

this one:

"My way or the highway" isn’t exactly the kind of sentiment you’d expect to see on a holy card. But the church has every right to be that way, as we’ve said.

But when things on which people differ prevent them from getting together to talk about things on which they agree, it doesn’t seem like much of a victory for anyone involved.

Bishop Olmsted’s unwelcome mat does, however, illustrate the wisdom of keeping church and state distinctly separate.

Comments read comments(21)
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David R.

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:05 am

From the readers’ reactions you think that Bishop Olmstead had somehow instructed the National Guard to go and tape people’s mouths shut! Is Bishop Olmstead an arm of the state restricting free speech?
So right to free speech includes the right to force Catholic institutions to welcome people who support what the Church considers the killing of millions of innocents?
The “well-educated Catholic” may be educated, but it is not in Catholicism.

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Der Tommissar

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:08 am

I wish Bishop Olmstead was in Santa Fe. With the drought we’ve had for the past 8 years (which finally seems to be breaking) we sure could use those people crying a river over here.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 10:10 am

As a well educated Catholic, I, of course, know more than the Church and her bishops. Follow me.

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Mary Kay

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:15 am

Mind control??? Rather wobbly minds if someone else clearly setting limits results in mind control.
Free speech apparently means everything except Catholics being consistent with Catholic doctrine.
Three cheers for Bishop Ohlmstead.

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Paul Pfaffenberger

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:18 am

Hopefully Bishop Olmsted will be a Cardinal one day, so its time everyone learned to spell his name …
No “A” – though he does get an “A” in being bishop of the diocese.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 10:22 am

what’s wrong with the third letter? They recognize that as a nongovernmental organization unaffiliated with the state the Church has every right to do this, whereas if it were an established religion this would be far more disturbing.

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Anastasia Beaverhausen

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:24 am

Until a Bishop censures a politician for “unjust discrimination” against homosexuals, all of this is just so much bigotry and bullshit.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 10:30 am

Wasn’t one of Jesus’ core messages, “My way or the highway?”
As in, “No one gets to the Father except through me” and “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”?

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posted August 12, 2005 at 10:42 am

I am so grateful that Olmsted is our bishop now. (I’m also a little peeved at him that he has transferred my pastor up to SS. Simon & Jude, but I’ll get over that.) Olmsted is just what Phoenix needs.

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Matt C. Abbott

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:55 am

Good for Olmsted!

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posted August 12, 2005 at 11:03 am

Kudos to Bishop Olmsted. Let’s hope others follow suit.

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Father Ethan

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:10 am

This is unbelievable: “Olmsted’s right to speak to Catholics on matters of faith and morals does not extend to abrogating our rights to free speech and association.”
Yeah right! They can rent a room at their local Mickey D’s and disagree with the Church, but they can’t do it on parish property. I’m getting tired of people imposing a twisted form of American democracy on the bishops. Just because the U.S. Constitution gives you the right to freedom of speech, it doesn’t state that the Church has to let you do it on parish property.

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Sydney Carton

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:21 am

Father Ethan,
A better way to state it would be: Freedom of speech doesn’t mean I have to give you a microphone.

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reluctant penitent

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:25 am

It’s good to see that Anastasia took time out of her busy schedule of divine office, rosary and eucharistic adoration to grace us with her elegant language. Just an example of the hostility that greets all Bishops who proclaim the faith with resolve.
Thank God for Bishop Olmste and let us pray that all Bishops are inspired by his example.

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Dale Price

posted August 12, 2005 at 11:25 am

You have a constitutional right to call me a meddlesome theocrat…but not in my living room.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 1:06 pm

“primarily an effort to protect the Church from being used by politicians at odds with core Church teachings”
The core teachings of the Church are that Jesus is the Christ, and through Him God offers man salvation. Proscriptions against abortion and homosexuality are necessary conclusions of the core teachings, but secondary.
The ban the Bishop has instituted is his right and duty. Unfortunately, his policy will be misconstrued by the public at large because it will be used as a political weapon by those both inside and outside the Church.

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c matt

posted August 12, 2005 at 2:09 pm

Heck, I’m just shocked that two of the three snippets you posted at least recognize the Church has right to speak to the faithful on these issues.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 3:05 pm

Judging from the sad comments of the “educated” Catholics of Phoenix, I think I understand what Benedict XVI meant when (as Cardinal Ratzinger) he said that the future Church will “get smaller.” These people are clueless about the role and responsibilities of a bishop.

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posted August 12, 2005 at 6:50 pm

Bishop Olmsted has been such a great gift to our diocese. I hope most Catholics here realize what a good man he is. The Arizona Republic ran an editorial today condemning him.
How dare anyone challenge the media’s sacred cow, abortion? Not enough bishops in the US have the courage to stand up and be counted – fortunately, we FINALLY have one here in Phoenix!

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Anastasia Beaverhausen

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:03 pm

I wonder if any of Olmsteads followers have bothered to consider the damage done by denying ALL domestic partner benefits and obligationos. Is this supposed to teach anyone a lesson in morality? The lesson this denial does teach is that Catholic bigotry toward gay people encourages a culture of death. This deniel does so first by denying rights and priveleges which lengthen life; it says that some lives are less valued. Secondly, it denies the meaning of the Incarnation by saying that gay people must live their lives alone even in dying; this is an explicit denial that God shared in the lives and sufferings of all humankind. Thirdly, it incites despair in gay people putting them in peril of Eternal death.

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The Hidden Life

posted August 12, 2005 at 10:34 pm

Anastasia, What “rights and privileges” (that lengthen life?) are you talking about? I don’t get it. Are you arguing that everyone should have exactly what they want, no matter what it is or whether or not it is good for their soul, for fear that denying them their heart’s desire would lead to despair (and thus “putting them in peril of Eternal Death”)? I don’t quite buy it.
While I am no socialist, I do think the government should provide basic health care for all, rather than having this endless argument over who qualifies as spouse, domestic partner, etc. Everyone should have access to quality health care, you are right, but not because of an immoral relationship. I think you would do better to fight for basic health care for all rather than special rights for those in homosexual relationships.
After all, what about the single person that has no health care at all? Should that person be forced to marry or find a same-sex partner to get help? That seems a greater problem to me.
However, if you want to argue that same-sex relationships are on par with traditional marriages (spiritually, sacramentally), then that’s a different kettle of fish. Not even close.

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