WASHINGTON, D.C., April 19, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A homosexual couple's attempt to get a Catholic priest fired from his job at George Washington University backfired spectacularly as the local archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, came to the priest's defense on Sunday.
Damian Legacy and Blake Bergen spearheaded the campaign to have Fr. Greg Shaffer removed from the college's Newman Center, because the priest quoted the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the topic of homosexuality. They also sought to have the university’s Student Association defund the Newman Center.
Cardinal Wuerl celebrated Mass at GWU's St. Stephen's Church to show his support for the priest.
“In a particular way, I want to offer a word of support and encouragement to your chaplain, Father Greg Shaffer,” Cardinal Wuerl said. “All of us have come here this evening for two purposes: to celebrate Mass and to stand in solidarity with a good priest.”
Far from being ashamed of the faithful priest, the cardinal offered, “I often use Father Shaffer and you students of the Newman Center as examples of the New Evangelization.”
“There are those who claim that voices for the Gospel should be silenced, that we should be silenced. There are those who say there is no room for any other view but their own,” he said. “We are not talking about ancient history and faraway lands. We are talking about our own lived experience in our country.”
He placed this attempt at censorship in the context of America's long history of anti-Catholicism, from colonial days to the Know Nothing Party and the Ku Klux Klan.
“The idea that the pastor of a parish today – or the chaplain of a religious community and campus ministry today – should simply be silenced because he faithfully announces the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that he should not be allowed to engage in dialogue with our culture, even in a place that is dedicated to the free and diverse expression of ideas – may seem somewhat radical today,” he said, “but you have to remember there have always been those who try to force their totalitarian views on all of us.”
The attack on Fr. Shaffer for upholding the Biblical position on homosexual activity created a backlash among Catholics across the country.
“Two students, neither of whom is Catholic (one belongs to some faux Catholic entity and the other is an agnostic Jew), are not only attempting to oust Father Shaffer,” said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said, “they are seeking to effectively neuter the very purpose of the Newman Center, which is to serve Catholics.”
Donohue, who had been critical, sent an e-mail on Monday announcing he had been encouraged by words from GWU's provost, Dr. Steven Lerman, before a meeting of the Faculty Senate.
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“Moreover, it was announced that the Student Association has awarded the Newman Center an increase in funding for the next academic year,” Donohue noted with satisfaction.
Students who knew Fr. Shaffer created a website, The Chaplain We Know, to publicize his selfless ministry, recounting how he would meet at any hour, drive long distances to comfort students, and helped Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
Cardinal Wuerl thanked those who came to the Mass for standing up for the integrity of his priesthood and his right to present Christian values in the marketplace of ideas.
“Thank you for standing up for the freedom to speak our faith, and thank you for standing up for your chaplain,” he said.