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  Corona Pastor Quits over Priest Shortage

By Joe Gutierrez
Press Enterprise
August 19, 1993

Too many sheep and not enough shepherds, so Father Bob is leaving his Corona flock.

The Rev. Robert "Father Bob" Buchanan submitted his resignation last month as pastor of St. Edward's Catholic Church because there are not enough priests to say Mass and he has been forced to cut back the number of Masses celebrated on Sunday.

Buchanan, 53, said the shortage of priests stems from the Diocese of San Bernardino's support of the Vatican's rigid stance on prohibiting priests to marry and not allowing women into the priesthood.

"The present practice of the church's magisterium against women and married men has a higher priority than the Eucharistic sacrifice. I do not believe this corresponds to Catholic Doctrine of Theology," Buchanan wrote in his July 8 letter of resignation to Bishop Phillip J. Straling. The (Catholic) Church is too preoccupied with discipline instead of doctrine such as the celebration of the Mass, Buchanan said yesterday. He said his parish, the largest in the diocese, has grown from about 7,000 members in 1985 when he arrived to about 17,000 today, while the number of priests has declined.

Straling, who is the head of the diocese that serves Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is on sabbatical and unavailable for comment.

A diocese spokesman, the Rev. Howard Lincoln, said yesterday, "The diocese has not received a formal letter of resignation from Father Buchanan. He did write of his concerns.

"Father Buchanan, God bless him, has done yeoman work as pastor of the largest parish in the diocese. He is a gifted and dedicated priest. His status at St. Edwards and at the diocese will be reviewed by Bishop Gerald Barnes, who is the auxiliary bishop. They have met and will meet again. " As an example of his concerns, Buchanan said that last Sunday 10 of the 12 church services celebrated at St. Edwards and St. Mary Magdalene in El Cerrito were Masses. The other two were Scripture readings and the sacrament of Communion done by lay members of St.

Edward's.

Parishioners at those two services were unable to participate in a Mass because there was no priest to offer the Eucharist wafer and wine to God for blessing, Buchanan said.

"I cannot provide that essential element to our people on a regular basis," Buchanan said.

To minister to the 17,000 parishioners, including about 4,700 attending Saturday night and Sunday services, Buchanan and his staff work as a team. Gone are the days when each parishioner was known by first name.

Currently, there is one other full-time priest and two part-time priests who help out at the church.

Although Buchanan supports religious groups that advocate allowing priests to wed and women into the priesthood, he said he is not an activist. He said only a minority of priests share his view, though a larger segment of the Catholic community would like to see a more open priesthood.

"We certainly know the first pope (St. Peter) was married.

Jesus didn't have a problem with that," Buchanan said. "There might be disputes about that being a doctrinal issue, but no one would argue about celibacy issues. Priests were married for the first 400 years of the church. " Buchanan said the church adopted celibacy for its priests in the 12th century but only in the Roman Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church, which with the Roman Catholic Church were part of an undivided Christendom until 1054, allows married men to become priests.

He said the question is most often raised by women who work for the parish, women concerned with women's rights and younger parishioners. He said the changes are not as big a concern for older parishioners.

He said it will be difficult to find a replacement because of St. Edward's diverse population. There is a large segment of Spanish-speaking parishioners and a growing number of Asians.

Buchanan said he will probably leave at the beginning of 1994.

He plans to study at the University of Notre Dame for four months, take a vacation and then he hopes to return to the diocese as pastor of a smaller church.

 
 

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