The pastor of a
Mesa, Ariz., church has quit in protest of the Roman
Catholic Church's tougher stand against gays in the
priesthood. The Reverend Leonard Walker's departure
comes before the Vatican's formal release of a
document expressly barring gay men from entering seminaries.
"This new Vatican document says we're not fit to
serve," Walker said. "How could I, with any integrity,
continue to serve when they take this kind of hostile
and aggressive position?" said Walker, who is gay.
Walker said his own sexuality is not the issue.
Instead, he said, it is the dignity of the many gays
who have worked in and continue to responsibly serve
the church. "In my 31 years as a priest, the church
has always had a position against homosexuality and that
kind of stuff, but it never got this assertive, this
aggressive," Walker said.
Even if the new policy focuses on screening
males who apply to Catholic seminaries and not gays
already serving, Walker said he couldn't stay silent
as the policy takes effect.
The Vatican document, whose contents were first
revealed more than a week ago, says that "the church,
while profoundly respecting the persons in question,
cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those
who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual
tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture."
Diocesan spokeswoman Mary Jo West said Walker
never broached the issue in a letter to the chancery
in mid November in which he said he "wanted to
resign for personal reasons, to take time away from his
ministry for personal discernment." Walker said he is
officially taking a leave of absence from diocesan
work but resigning as pastor of Queen of Peace
Catholic Church, whose congregation includes about
1,200 families. He said he plans to begin work at a hospice.