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Catholic Voice
  August 8, 2011   •   VOL. 49, NO. 14   •   Oakland, CA
Bishop's Column

Para leer la columna en español, “click” aquí
(To read this column in Spanish, click here.)

Beacon of social justice will continue its work

In light of the good deal of attention that has been given to the situation at St. Joseph the Worker parish over these past several weeks, I would like to dedicate my column in this issue of The Catholic Voice to offering some reflections on the matter.

I find that, in general, our people love their priests. Invariably I receive comments of esteem and appreciation by parishioners for their priests when I visit the parishes, especially comments admonishing me not to move them! Nonetheless, it is not uncommon for a bishop to receive complaints from some parishioners about their pastors, and the Diocese of Oakland is no exception.

Although such complaints usually come from a minority of parishioners, that does not necessarily mean their concerns are without merit. Our standard procedure is to bring these concerns to the pastor’s attention, hear his point of view and work to resolve whatever legitimate concerns have been identified. Whenever I have met with a representative group of concerned parishioners, I have found them to be respectful and well reasoned, including when speaking about their pastor. Through it all, I have always tried to affirm the pastor as he is striving to do his best to serve the Church faithfully in his parish despite whatever shortcomings he may have, and offer him support in addressing his parishioners’ concerns.

This is the procedure that has been followed in the case of St. Joseph the Worker. The statement posted on the diocesan website was an attempt to explain what this involved in as much detail as would be appropriate for such a public statement. It was not meant in any way to point fingers, assign blame or impugn anyone’s reputation. To the extent that this may have happened to anyone involved in this matter, and to the extent that the statement may have gone beyond what would be appropriate, I apologize and express my regrets. Specifically with regard to Father George Crespin, neither this statement nor anything else can detract from all he has accomplished on behalf of social justice and education for needy children, especially among Latino families. This has become a legacy of St. Joseph the Worker parish, for which we will always be grateful to him. Concerning things that have been said at the parish, people’s recollections vary as to exactly what was said and when, and how it was interpreted. I appreciate Father Crespin’s affirmation, expressed to me personally, that he never has and never would make a public statement disparaging a fellow priest, and I apologize for an official diocesan statement indicating otherwise.

St. Joseph the Worker has always been a beacon of social justice and community involvement. It is my intention that it remain so. As there are always areas for further growth in any parish, so it is here. I have been in conversation with the current pastor, Father John Direen, and expressed my support to him as he strives to continue this legacy of the parish he now shepherds and to help it develop to ever more effectively proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, bringing all into the saving encounter with him and living the call to ongoing conversion and holiness.

We who are in Church leadership have the obligation to listen to our people in voicing their legitimate concerns. We also have the responsibility to teach the full truth of Jesus Christ as revealed through the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In the cultural climate of our times, to do so with integrity will inevitably cause one to face resistance – resistance on any number of issues across the full spectrum of the Church’s social and moral teachings. For decades now, the priests and people St. Joseph the Worker parish have demonstrated just how true this is.

I therefore wish to encourage all of us — bishop and priests, deacons, religious and lay faithful — to ask God for the grace to heed and respond to the call to ongoing conversion and holiness in our own lives, each according to our own God-given vocation. And please join me in praying for our priests.

(Read the revised diocesan statement.)

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