“It’s not the work of Jesus Christ,”
he tells the National Catholic Reporter.
Tom Roberts has interviewed Pastor Mike Tegeder of St. Edward’s Catholic Church in Bloomington for an October 5 article in the National Catholic Reporter. Tegeder (pictured at right) has been a vocal critic of the Minnesota bishops’ anti-gay marriage campaign – one that involved the mailing of a DVD to 400,000 Catholic households throughout the state. Tegeder’s criticism of the campaign and of Archbishop Nienstedt's role in it reached a mainstream audience when he had a letter-to-the-editor published October 2 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“Catholics have very diverse opinions about this issue,” he wrote. “The bishops themselves are not united on how to approach this new reality of gays and lesbians claiming a right to have their own families publicly recognized with corresponding rights and responsibilities.” To support this view, Tegeder notes that: “the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, the main author of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and friend of the pope, [has] publicly stated that the church needs to look differently at committed same-sex relationships. His fellow Austrian bishops concurred. These are thinking, serious church leaders. They listen.”
Following is an excerpt from Robert’s article.
. . . In an interview Oct. 4 with NCR, Tegeder said he had received overwhelmingly positive response to his letter, but had not yet received any reaction from Nienstedt.
Asked if he feared reprisal, he recalled that he'd already been threatened by the archbishop “with excommunication and interdict” for installing a cremation garden at the church. When he was called on the carpet, he said, he was able to produce documentation that showed his parish had complied with all of the diocesan and state regulations. He said he’s heard nothing further. “You have to know how to defend yourself,” he said, “because a lot of what we’re being told we have to follow just isn’t true.”
He also referred to Paul’s instruction to Timothy to be “strong, loving and wise.” While being strong “in our convictions, including our conviction about marriage,” said Tegeder, “we also have to be wise and loving.” It is those last two qualities, he said, that he finds “so missing in this DVD campaign.”
. . . What struck him [about the campaign], he said, “is that there were no names in it. It’s all ideology, all a theoretical viewpoint.”
He couldn’t help thinking, he said, of the two gay men in a long, committed relationship, who have adopted two boys “out of a hell hole of a Russian orphanage” and recently spent thousands to help one of their sons overcome a learning disability.” One’s view of the issue, he said, changes profoundly when you get to know people’s names and their circumstances.
“In this very difficult world where there are many divisive issues, we’ve got to begin getting to know each others’ names. We’re all up in arms about something that is about love, about people trying to find some happiness in this very difficult world. I’ve been to the mountain. I laughed when he sent that letter threatening excommunication and interdict,” Tegeder said.
“If he throws me out I can walk away from this with my head up … I love ministry. I wake up at 5 every day and stay busy until midnight. I love it. I’m energized by the opportunities.” But some things just need to be said, he remarked.
“This man is leading us in the wrong direction,” on this issue, he said of Nienstedt. “We have to call it for what it is – it’s bullying behavior. It’s not the work of Jesus Christ. It’s not the work of Jesus Christ.”
On the matter of obedience, he quoted from a book that he’s reading by Msgr. Dennis Murphy, A View from the Trenches: Ups and Downs of Today’s Parish Priest: “One dimension of this obedience that has become clearer in recent years is that there is more to this promise than a pledge or a commitment made only to a bishop. It encompasses obedience commitment to the church, and especially to the church understood as the people of the diocese within which the priest serves.”
“That says it all,” said Tegeder.
To read Roberts’ article in its entirety, click here.
Image: Michael J. Bayly.