Bishop of Fresno John Steinbock has removed and suspended from the priesthood a pastor who told parishioners to oppose Proposition 8 and declared himself to be a homosexual. The bishop’s letter to the priest charged him with contradicting the teaching of the Catholic Church and bringing scandal to the parish and to the whole Church.
Proposition 8 is a ballot measure for California which, if passed, will amend the state Constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman. The California Supreme Court had imposed same-sex marriage on the state in a May decision.
On October 5 Father Geoffrey Farrow, who until recently pastored the St. Paul Newman Center in Fresno, told parishioners he opposed the marriage initiative after his homily at the 11 a.m. Mass, the California Catholic Daily reports. In a television interview before the Mass on KFSN-TV in Fresno, the priest admitted his own homosexuality.
When news of Fr. Farrow´s stance reached Bishop Steinbock, he took away the priest’s diocesan salary and health benefits, telling him not to return to the Newman Center or any other parish in the diocese he had previously served.
“Your statement contradicted the teaching of the Catholic Church and has brought scandal to your parish community as well as the whole Church," Bishop Steinbock said in a letter to the priest, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Father Farrow responded in an October 9 post to his blog, saying “In all candor, I had anticipated that response which is why I had removed my personal property from the parish house and offices. I bear no personal antimosity (sic) to the bishop for his decision.”
He continued to oppose Proposition 8, writing: “I am however, making good use of my time. I am speaking with various groups and individuals who are working very hard for the ‘NO on Proposition 8’ campaign. I have to tell you, this is a fight for all of us, not just for people in the state of California.”
“If the yes on prop. 8 party wins, they won't stop with robbing gay and lesbian people in California of their right to marry,” he continued, claiming the initiative’s backers would target domestic partnership laws, adoption laws, and employment protection laws.
“Essentially, they would like gay and lesbian people to have no rights at all and simply to not exist,” he claimed.
The Los Angeles Times reports that Bishop Steinbock had already ordered Father Farrow against “using the Internet as a means of continuing your conflict with the Church's teaching.”
The 50-year-old Father Farrow was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Fresno in 1985. He has served as an Air Force reservist as chaplain at Edwards Air Force Base.
On Sunday a letter from Bishop Steinbock reiterating the Church’s support for Proposition 8 was read at Sunday morning Masses at the St. Paul Newman Center. According to the California Catholic Daily, some applauded the letter and others walked out.