BERKELEY, CA, April 7, 2014 ( – Oakland Bishop Michael Barber, Pope Francis’ first U.S. episcopal appointment, has drawn ire from Catholic progressives after replacing the priests serving the University of California at Berkeley campus, one of whom is “openly homosexual.”

Newman Hall Holy Spirit Church, which functions as the parish church for Catholic students at the university, has been led by its pastor, Fr. Bernard Campbell, for the past seven years. Fr. Bill Edens, a self-identified homosexual, has served as student chaplain for the last five. Both are members of the Paulist order, which normally appoints priests at the parish.

Barber explained in a letter to the parish that he had intervened in the regular process because he wants to “totally reinvigorate our evangelization efforts for the University Community at Cal Berkeley,” and “reinvigorate and expand our mission ‘to the periphery.’”


Fr. Campbell described the bishop’s decision as a “sad moment” in a statement to parishioners.

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The National Catholic Reporter, a newspaper devoted to opposing Church teaching that has been condemned by its local bishop in Kansas City, says the bishop’s action has “caused great puzzlement” among members of the parish.

The bishop “does not know the community. He has spent no time with us,” Jean Molesky-Poz, a religious studies teacher at Santa Clara University, told the paper.

The National Catholic Reporter says the parish is “known for its vibrant embrace of the Second Vatican Council's reforms.”

The Paulist Order has been serving the parish for just over a century. Bishop Barber had originally requested the Paulists as a whole withdraw from the parish but later altered his instruction. The priests who will be replacing Campbell and Edens are also Paulists and Barber later stated he was impressed by them.

The parish has groups that cater to homosexual students and non-students, as well as some other non-traditional ministries, such as a dance ministry and Taize prayer. Several parishioners have spoken about liturgical abuses present at the church’s Masses, which has also been put forth as an explanation for the pastoral change. In his statement the bishop only indicated that the worship space required renovation.

A further sign of acrimony was apparent in Fr. Campbell’s declaration that it was “blatantly false” that the bishop had had “a number of discussions with the Newman Holy Spirit parish priests” before making his decision, in contradiction to what a spokesman for the diocese had claimed.