PHOENIX, May 6, 2004 ( – The new Bishop of the Diocese of Phoenix, Thomas J. Olmsted, has set one of the most impressive US Catholic religious leadership records in recent times.  He has deftly addressed issues of prominent concern and has used potential setbacks to his advantage.  Olmsted’s official installation as the new Bishop of Phoenix took place only in mid-December.  He wasted no time in asserting his leadership, clamping down on the most overt church abuses without delay.  By March one priest who flouted church law by co-celebrating a Mass with a non-Catholic minister was suspended pending the results of an investigation into the matter.  Showing unusual episcopal administrative prowess and backbone he put his own team into the key points of the diocesan bureaucracy, a move essential to good governance and going forward with a common vision.  Beyond staff changes in the top positions in the chancery, the diocesan spokesperson and diocesan newspaper editor are also new to their jobs and ready to go forward with the new vision.

He has kept his actions transparent providing even press releases on most measures.  Early in his teaching ministry, using his weekly column in the diocesan paper, Bishop Olmsted warned Catholic politicians to kick the “Catholic but . . .” syndrome.  The Bishop answered the common politician’s line, “I am a Catholic politician but I don’t let my Catholicism impact on how I vote or what legislation I promote”, with these words of Jesus: (Mt 7:26-27), “Everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

  Prior to his statements Olmsted taught by concrete personal example.  On Christmas Eve, his first official non-liturgical action was to join pro-lifers praying outside an abortuary.  Recently he sent private letters asking eight Catholic priests to withdraw their signatures from a document contradicting church teaching on homosexuality.  When those letters became public and at least one of the priests continued in open rebellion, Bishop Olmsted used the incident as a teaching opportunity.

Yesterday, the diocesan website carried the first of three articles by the Bishop addressing the subject of homosexuality.  The bishop used plain, easy to understand language to present the church’s teaching on the topic.  “The blessing of a chaste life: The call to holiness of homosexual persons,” he wrote, notes that “Chastity will always involve abstinence for those who are not married. Other virtues are also needed but chastity stands front and center for persons with a homosexual inclination. This is because homosexual acts are always wrong, always the opposite of holiness.”  In the column, the Bishop stresses, “A key distinction, then, is needed when considering homosexuality, namely between the homosexual tendency on the one hand and homosexual acts on the other. Those who engage in homosexual acts commit serious sin . . . (but) persons who have homosexual inclinations but do not act on them are not guilty of sin. In fact, with God’s grace and good intentions, they can grow in virtue and make great progress along the path to perfection, the goal to which the Lord Jesus has called us all.”  He appealed to Catholics of all stripes by on the one hand reaching out personally to victims of clergy sexual abuse and on the other hand reintroducing the Latin (Tridentine) Mass into the diocese for those Catholics who desire that option.  See Bishop Olmstead’s first column on homosexuality:   See related coverage:  How the New Bishop of Phoenix Spent His Christmas Eve – Praying Outside an Abortuary Phoenix Bishop Says it’s Time to Kick the Pro-abortion Catholic Politician’s ‘But’   New Phoenix Bishop Orders Priests to Disassociate from Gay Document