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A Roman Catholic church in Buffalo, N.Y., has taken down a "Jesus Had 2 Dads" sign, with the pastor saying he didn't realize it could convey support for same-sex marriage, which the faith opposes.
Saints Columba-Brigid Catholic Church last week put up the sign with the message "Jesus Had 2 Dads and He Turned Out Just Fine," a reference to Jesus being both the son of God and the son of a man, Joseph. The Rev. Roy T. Herberger, the church's pastor, told The Buffalo News the message was one of several he found by Googling "funny church signs," and he decided to use it as a way to support children with stepparents or other nonnuclear family arrangements.
"My only purpose was to say, 'Look, hang in there. People understand what you're going through. Don't give up on yourself,'" he told the News. He said he didn't realize the statement could be interpreted as endorsing same-sex marriage or parenting by gay couples.
Many others, however, did see that meaning in the sign, and they responded with antigay sentiments. "This pro-homosexual sign effectively mocks the Blessed Trinity, mocks the Hypostatic Union, mocks the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph -- some of the most sacred components of our Catholic Faith," wrote John Vennari on the Catholic Family News website.
Also, several people left negative comments about the sign in the guest book on the parish's website, calling it "an abomination," "blasphemous," "heretical," "an outrageous mockery of the Catholic faith," the Buffalo paper reports.
And Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo received calls from around the world protesting the message, he told the paper. "As soon as I learned of this sign, I took immediate action to have it removed," he said in a prepared statement. "The pastor of SS. Columba-Brigid Parish told me that the '2 Dads' were meant to refer to a child who has both a father and stepfather. There are several children in his parish who have both a father and stepfather. However, given the potential for the meaning of this message to be misunderstood and even perceived in a heretical way, it was immediately removed."
Some of Herberger's parishioners supported the sign's message. "I think it's great," Petra Fontanez told The Buffalo News. "That's actually what I like from this church." She recalled not feeling accepted by the Catholic faith when she was a single mother with children by two different fathers.
Herberger recently gave a sermon encouraging acceptance of all loving relationships, and the signage appeared to be an extension of that, said Margaret McGrath, a member of the church's parish council and director of its Family Resource and Advocacy Center. Father Roy is the true spirit of the Catholic Church," she told the paper. "He is Pope Francis among us."