Two San Francisco parishes invite questionable speakers for Lenten Vespers services

Most Holy Redeemer Parish in San Francisco is continuing its custom of inviting controversial guests to speak during various liturgical seasons, even after being rebuffed late last year by Archbishop George Niederauer over its choices.

Archbishop Niederauer telephoned Most Holy Redeemer pastor Fr. Steve Meriwether before the first of a series of Advent Vespers services scheduled to begin on Nov. 30, 2011 and asked him to cancel the planned appearances. Included on the list of ‘disinvited’ speakers were retired Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles, who, shortly after his retirement announced he was homosexual, left his wife of 42 years, moved to San Francisco and “married” a man; the Rev. Jane Spahr, a well-known homosexual activist and retired Presbyterian minister repeatedly rebuked by her church for performing same-sex “marriages;” and Rev. Roland Stringfellow, an ordained minister of the Metropolitan Community Church who served as a “community grand marshal” at San Francisco’s 2011 “LGBT Pride Parade.”

While Fr. Meriwether has apparently been on leave since early December, in his absence the parish continues its custom of inviting controversial speakers, this time for its Lenten Vespers Services.

On March 21, Brian Cahill, former executive director of San Francisco’s Catholic Charities, is scheduled to speak at one of the parish’s Lenten Vespers Services. Since his retirement, Cahill has worked as an occasional columnist for the National Catholic Reporter and Catholic San Francisco. His most recent column, published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 21, attacked every bishop in the United Sates over their opposition to the Obama Administration’s contraception mandate.

In a May 2011 commentary for the National Catholic Reporter, Cahill harshly criticized several bishops – including Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa and Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone. That commentary ran under the headline, “Why let bishops drive us from church we love?” In it, Cahill wrote, “The U.S. bishops have set the tone with their continued denial of the wholesale rejection of church teaching on contraception; their clumsy, heavy-handed, ineffective attempt to influence national health care legislation; their opposition to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians; and their condemnation of the work of theologian St. Joseph Sr. Elizabeth Johnson without even meeting with her.”

In a March 13, 2011 opinion piece published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Cahill revealed that he voted against Proposition 8 and gave $1000 to the unsuccessful campaign to defeat it.

Cahill served as executive director of Catholic Charities for the archdiocese from 2000-2008. Under his leadership, Catholic Charities merged with the archdiocese’s Catholic Youth Organization in 2003 to become Catholic Charities CYO, the name it still uses today. The organization facilitated adoptions of children by homosexual couples during Cahill’s tenure as executive director.

Cahill is not the only controversial speaker invited to MHR’s Lenten Vespers Services. This Saturday, the parish is scheduled to hear from Barry Zeve, who will speak on “How it takes a good Jew within to make a good Christian throughout.” Zeve, an open homosexual, is identified in the MHR bulletin as a “religious author and poet.” One of his books of poetry is called Becoming. On the webpage for the book, the description reads: “Barry Zeve went to Israel in 2008 to marry himself at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, taking himself for better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death he does part.”

And Most Holy Redeemer is not alone among San Francisco parishes making strange choices for Lenten guest speakers. Saint John of God Parish in San Francisco’s Sunset district, one of three San Francisco parishes represented at the 2011 “Gay Pride” parade, is offering a series of Lenten lectures with the theme, “Fifty Years Since the Beginning of Vatican II: Where We Come From and Where We May be Going.” Two of the five speakers are not even Catholics, nor does the parish explain how the subject relates to Lent.

The March 9 speaker at Saint John of God is Mother Lizette Larson-Miller, an Episcopal priest and professor of Liturgy at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. The St. John of God flyer tells us that she “… will trace where we’ve come in fifty years regarding liturgy.”

The March 2 speaker at Saint John of God was the openly homosexual Rev. Vincent Pizzuto. In 2007, Pizzuto was ordained a priest in the Celtic Christian Church, an ecclesial body not recognized by Rome. As CalCatholic reported in 2008: “In a discussion, ‘Is it Ethical to be Catholic? – Queer Perspectives,’ given at Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco in 2006, Pizzuto said that ethical questions have ‘driven faithful Catholics beyond the confines of the Roman church where they might more faithfully live out their catholic faith elsewhere. And I count myself among them.’” Pizzuto is also a Professor of Theology at the University of San Francisco. St. John of God’s Lenten Vespers flyer said that Pizzuto “will give suggestions about where the Roman Catholic Church might be heading in the next fifty years.”

On Dec. 27, 2011 CalCatholic reported: Pizzuto “… described efforts to change the Church’s teachings as a ‘battle very much under way,’ and said that ‘the Bible, as we understand it really does not address current issues… what we need to change is not so much the scriptures, which of course we cannot change, but the interpretation that has been given to them. And that’s going to take a lot of theologically and biblically interpretive work to move us forward.’”

Other Lenten Vespers speakers at Saint John of God include Sr. Mariana Farina, C.S.C., Professor of Theology and Philosophy from the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley; Sr. Mary Ann Donovan, SC, Professor of Historical Theology and Spirituality from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley; and Jorge Aquino, Professor of Catholic Social Thought from the University of San Francisco.


Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 3:34 AM By Maryanne Leonard
When I was a child, people outside of the Church tried to make me feel embarrassed to be a Catholic, but I knew of no reason to feel anything but joy for everything I knew and discovered about our wonderful Church. As an adult, I continue to be both shocked and dismayed by the public actions of those who identify themselves as Catholic and am unable to defend the actions of those my Protestant friends see as heretics. From within our Church, forces of evil have developed that do cause me embarrassment to announce myself as Catholic, and those evil forces shroud the wondrous good of Catholic Christianity in the eyes of the world. How sad that the very Church that should be seen as a beacon of light and salvation to the suffering world is often seen as a den of iniquity, insanity, and shame. Let’s take back our Church before Satan putrifies the one Holy Roman Catholic Church we all love. It is irreplaceable, my friends.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:32 AM By SoCal
The Bishops are silent on this scandal and yet speak out boldly onatters of prudential judgement! How can we help those who are supposed to be Shepards of Christs flock to see how much damage they are doing by this?

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:37 AM By Sonja
Some believe they can do what they like. The times of today will not, cannot change the truth. Praying for strong leaders and followers.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:50 AM By jp
Maybe Cahill is a penance?!

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:54 AM By OneoftheSheep
“Pizzuot”…a new word meaning utterly confused and deluded. As in the phrase, I am totally Pizzuoted.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 6:54 AM By InformedAndFree
How much longer will the Bishop tolerate this behavior? Which is more scandalous: the fact that Holy Redeemer continues to flip the bird to church teaching or that nothing has been done to stop it?

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 7:13 AM By Dan
Gee, what a big surprise!

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 7:28 AM By St. Christopher
The Vatican and local ordinary are not helpless here. They need to clean house now. Fire, not transfer, offending pastors and priests — the Church does not need them and they bring scandal to all Catholics. Next, begin the long process of re-education. Too many Catholics have been malformed over prior decades. There will be much opposition, as now CA Catholics believe in many things that do not represent Church teachings. They must be told the truth, told it directly and often, and by clergy and religious that believe it and live it. Homosexuals are the most important group to evangelize. These are precious souls, too, and have been pandered to by perhaps well-meaning clergy, but whose souls have suffered for their awful treatment by the Church. They must be told the truth — repent and be saved. This is a true test for the Catholic Church. And, if the Catholic Churches lose people, OK, that is the punishment for mistreating the Gospel and Catholic Tradition. True Catholics will return and in larger, and more faithful, numbers. Without this, the Church in CA becomes no longer Catholic.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 8:10 AM By JMJ
Thank you again Maryanne for speaking the truth. When someone asks me my faith, I always say that I am a Roman Catholic as I don’t want to be associated with late pope Ted Kennedy and his church. Bishops, please don’t be so concerned about Iran as the real threat is in California at places that pretend to be catholic. +JMJ+

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 8:54 AM By MD
I wish Archbishop Niederauer would step in and stop this nonsense. It is so dangerous to allow people who have rogue agendas into Catholic parishes. By allowing the likes of someone promoting rogue agendas, it is a sign of approval and cannot be permitted. A parish cannot allow people to teach people immoral behavior and has a moral obligation to provide the Truth of God as presented in the CCC. God Love You.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 9:28 AM By Catherine
SoCal asks such a very good question, “How can we help those who are supposed to be Shepherds of Christ’s flock to see how much damage they are doing?” First of all we pray for them and then we should always remind them of what St. John Chrysostom said, #1. “Poor human reason, when it trusts itself, substituting the strangest absurdities for the highest divine concepts.” and #2. “The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.” … The moral of those two quotes are this…..While we are all living and breathing on this earth, it is never too late to show heroic courage and good example to others. How can we do this? We can do this by upholding and defending the Magisterial Teachings of the Catholic Church with *faithful actions* and not just words. May God Bless Bishop Robert Vasa for his heroic example!

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 10:07 AM By Patrick
Were I the Archbishop, I would close the parish and sell the land.

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 10:16 AM By Laurette Elsberry
Occasionally it is good to simply repeat the words of St. Paul in the New Testament, Romans 1, 24-28 “…God delivered them in their lusts to unclean practices; they engaged in the mutual degradation of their bodies, these men who exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped the creature instead of the Creator….. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural and the men gave up natural intercourse with women and burned with lust for one another. Men did shameful things things with men, and thus received in their own persons the penalty for their perversity.” Amen!

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 3:23 PM By Delilah
Well done Maryanne Leonard. You see, I am a convert. I was a Catholic wanna be from the age of 7. I now proudly say that I am a Roman Catholic and that I believe all of what the Church teaches and believes. If only ALL of our bishops would do the same. Pax

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 3:48 PM By John
Loved this quote from Cardinal George recently: “There have always been those whose personal faith is not adequate to the faith of the church.”

Posted Thursday, March 08, 2012 4:18 PM By Dana
Patrick, your disgust is totally understandable but if such a thing were to happen (like in earlier situations where nuns absconded with $millions worth of property) satan wins. What would probably make the most sense is to bring in a priest with the convictions and strength of Savonarola and then back up all his decisions 100%. We need someone who will put the fear of the Lord back in the black hearts of those who mock the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 6:41 AM By Janek
Let’s see, Traditional Latin Mass bad, loyalty to the Holy Father bad, Gregorian chant bad, kneeling bad, communion rails bad, mantillas bad, proper attire bad, silence in church bad, F.S.S.P. bad, Institute of Christ the King bad, high altars bad, following Church teachings bad. 40 years ago all of this would have been the norm for ALL ROMAN CATHOLICS, now we are the weirdos. Funny what one “Council” of misunderstanding did to The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 11:45 AM By Charles bold
Sounds like most holy redeemer and st john god have some interesting speakers. Always healthy to hear other people opinions. As far as gay speakers are concerned. Why not. there are many gay catholics including priests. they are gods children also. charles bold

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 1:08 PM By Larry
“Always healthy to hear other people opinions.” Perhaps, then, they’d like to hear from Rick Santorum some fine evening, eh Mr. Bold?

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 2:47 PM By PETE
Charles. The Church exists to help everyone get to Heaven for eternity. Please read your “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” regarding homosexuality # 2357 – 59. Then read the Bible: Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10. Homosexual Acts send people to hell, so this would be at opposite purposes with the Catholic Church. Also you do not Love your Neighbor if you want him/her to go to hell. All sexual activity (outside of marriage between one man and one woman) is a MORTAL SIN.

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 3:03 PM By Anne T.
If it is so healthy Charles Bold why has there been and still is an epedemic of STDs and AIDS in San Francisco? Think about what you are saying. As for me I will listen to the teachings of the Church on sexuality.

Posted Friday, March 09, 2012 6:35 PM By Ski Ven
Filth can never be healthy.