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Fresno Diocese works to replace fired priest who opposed Prop. 8
By Ron Orozco
The Fresno Bee
Officials at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno said it will take six to eight weeks to name a new pastor at St. Paul Newman Center to replace the Rev. Geoffrey Farrow, who was removed from his post Thursday.
Bishop John T. Steinbock relieved Farrow of his duties after the priest’s startling comments to members of his northeast Fresno parish at an Oct. 5 Mass.
Farrow told worshippers that he opposed Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot to overturn a state Supreme Court ruling this year that allowed same-sex marriage. Thc Catholic Church supports Prop. 8, which would preserve the traditional definition of marriage in the state constitution as a union between a man and a woman.
On Monday, diocesan communications director Jesse Avila said Steinbock will work as “expeditiously as circumstances allow because the bishop doesn’t like a parish to be without a priest.”
Diocesan procedure calls for Steinbock to consult a personnel committee before making a decision. The committee consists of priests who hold senior positions in the diocese and are familiar with the effect of reassignments on parishes.
“It has a ripple effect,” Avila said.
While working to find a replacement, the diocese has appointed John Supino as interim parish administrator of St. Paul. Supino has served as deacon at the parish since January 2003. He has been a member there since 1963.
On Sunday, the diocese’s vicar general, Monsignor Myron Cotta, celebrated Mass at St. Paul. Supino gave the homily. Then, Cotta added commentary of the homily. As a deacon, Supino is limited in the duties he can perform; while not a priest, he can assist a priest in pastoral and administrative duties.
“I can’t be considered a priest, but I am an administrator,” he said.
On Sunday, Supino said, he read a letter written by Steinbock that said Farrow’s comments had contradicted the teachings of the Catholic Church and had brought scandal to the parish, as well as the Catholic church. Supino also said Steinbock’s letter admonished Farrow against using the Internet as a means of continuing a conflict with the Catholic Church’s teaching. Supino said copies of Steinbock’s letter were given to parishioners.
Before the Oct. 5 Mass, Farrow told a KFSN (Channel 30) reporter that he was gay. He packed up his belongings and left the parish after the Mass.
In addition to losing his parish, the priest was stripped of his salary and benefits and ordered to stay away from the church communities that he served.
Efforts by The Bee to reach Farrow on Monday were unsuccessful. An attorney representing Farrow, Stanley J. Teixeira, declined to comment Monday.
In a story in the Los Angeles Times on Monday, Farrow said he revealed his sexual orientation only to close friends and family. “This was a secret I was going to take to my grave,” he said.
That changed, he told the Times, when he received a June 30 pastoral letter from Steinbock’s office condemning the state Supreme Court’s ruling. The story said the bishop compared the court’s action to efforts by Nazi Germany and the communist regimes in Russia and China to alter family arrangements. Farrow said the letter prompted him to make a public stand.
“Let us pray for our Christian marriages and our Christian families, and for our children who will be subjected to brainwashing in our public school system regarding this matter,” Steinbock wrote.
Parishioners at St. Paul Newman Center who knew of Farrow’s firing had mixed responses Monday.
Dan Griffin, 60, of Prather, said he didn’t know Farrow very well but respected him as a priest.
“I don’t think his statement [on Prop. 8] changed my opinion,” said Griffin, who declined to reveal how he stands on the proposition. “I think he is a sincere person. He had issues he had to face. I would have done it more personally. I still respect the man.”
Dora Jensen, 80, a retired federal government worker who also spent six years in the Air Force, said Farrow shouldn’t have commented against Prop. 8 without first talking to Steinbock.
“You have a chain of command,” she said. “I will continue to go to church there because that is my parish, but [Farrow] could’ve done things that would’ve protected himself and protected the Catholic community.”
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