Thursday, October 23, 2008
GAY CATHOLIC WEDDING
Old Catholic Church embraces marriage equality - even for its priests
by Ethan Jacobs
Thursday Oct 23, 2008
Archbishop Bruce Simpson...and his partner, Jack Bixler...will be married in Massachusetts after living as a couple for 35 years.
Given the Roman Catholic Church’s strong advocacy against same-sex marriage in Massachusetts, the news that a Catholic archbishop and a priest will be marrying their respective partners of more than 30 years at a Catholic service in Milton later this month is sure to raise eyebrows at first. Yet Archbishop Bruce Simpson, head of the Benedictine Order of St. John the Beloved, and Father Bernard Sheffield, a member of the order and a priest based out of Port St. Lucie, Florida, are not conventional Catholics in any sense.
The order belongs to the Old Catholic Church, an off shoot of the Roman Catholic Church that split off from Rome in the late 1800s over opposition to the doctrine of papal infallibility and other doctrinal matters. Bishops within the Old Catholic Church have the authority to govern their own jurisdictions, and within the Benedictine Order of St. John same-sex couples have just as much right as their heterosexual counterparts to a church wedding. Simpson, who lives in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and Sheffield will marry their partners at Milton’s Holy Family Catholic Community, which also falls under the Benedictine order, on Oct. 29.
Simpson, who has penned a column on religious issues for The Advocate and other publications and who authored the 2004 book The Gay Face of God, said there are several practical reasons that he and his partner of 35 years, Jack Bixler, are coming to Massachusetts to be married, but he also hopes his wedding will send a message and serve as a counterpoint to the Roman Catholic Church’s advocacy against marriage equality....
Simpson and Sheffield originally planned their visit to Holy Family Catholic Community, which formed three years ago as part of the Brazilian Catholic Church and shifted to become part of the Old Catholic Church and the order last year, to learn about the congregation’s missionary work and help the church’s pastor, Father Peter Miller, develop a plan to shore up the church’s finances. Holy Family does not own its own church; it meets at the Church of Our Savior in Milton, an Episcopal church. After learning about the repeal of the 1913 law Simpson decided to take advantage of Massachusetts’s marriage laws while he was in town, and Sheffield decided to do the same.
Miller said members of Holy Family, Church of Our Savior, and the public are invited to attend the weddings, which begin at 11 a.m. on Oct. 29. He said he is proud to be able to perform the marriage ceremony for his order’s archbishop.
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We have a very progressive Holy Family Catholic Community here. I was a frustrated member for many years. It's Roman Catholic. The pastor, and two of the priests who served together at the parish, have all been credibly accused of sexual abuse. Hmmmmm.