Priest Is Excommunicated over Ordination of Woman

By Michael Clancy
Arizona Republic
September 17, 2010

The Catholic bishop of Phoenix has excommunicated another priest.

The Rev. Vernon Meyer, who had submitted his resignation to the bishop earlier this summer, becomes at least the fifth priest to be ousted from the church under Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted. He was not defrocked, which is a separate penalty.

Meyer was penalized because of his participation in the ordination of Elaine Groppenbacher in Tempe last month.

Olmsted said on the diocese website, "Actions such as these are extremely serious and carry with them profoundly harmful consequences for the salvation of the souls participating in this attempted ordination."

Meyer, 58, is a longtime pastor and educator in the diocese. He most recently served at St. Patrick's Church in Scottsdale.

He founded the Arizona Center for Theological Studies, which offers religious-studies classes.

Meyer said he never doubted his vocation until Olmsted came to Phoenix.

One of the bishop's initial actions was to order nine priests to recant their support of a statement supporting gay rights within churches. Meyer said he removed his name from the statement but began to question the bishop's actions.

Meyer follows Dale Fushek, Chris Carpenter, Mark Dippre and Gene Young among priests who have been thrown out of the church. They left the church for various reasons and joined other groups.

Excommunication bans a person from participating in church life, including the sacraments. Church leaders say it is a remedial step aimed at bringing the violator back into the fold.

Olmsted has gained a nationwide reputation for his excommunications, notably that of a Catholic nun, Sister Margaret McBride, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix. He said McBride participated in an abortion of a seriously ill woman with a life-threatening pregnancy.

Meyer said his letter of excommunication arrived on Saturday but he did not open it until Tuesday, the day he became pastor of Sun Lakes United Church of Christ.


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