Local Priest Banned from Mass

Support for women in church leads to actionFr. Jack McClure

 

 

For 15 months, Father Jack McClure served as pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Church in the Castro, but now because of his political activities, he will no longer be able to preside over Mass.

 

On July 1, Father Matt Link took over and McClure’s role then transitioned to that of parochial vicar, helping out as a part-time priest on weekends and other occasions.

 

Father McClure, who is 70 years old, has a history of valued pastoral service in many Catholic parishes primarily in the Midwest, as a priest of the Precious Blood order. After he retired he welcomed the opportunity to come to San Francisco and work at Most Holy Redeemer within the San Francisco archdiocese. His current contract was due to expire at the end of June 2016, and he resigned in mid-September because moving to another residence meant he would not be available as needed at MHR.

 

Overall in the 15 months that Fr. Jack was at Most Holy Redeemer, “I was always so busy I didn’t leave the neighborhood much. Everything was pretty close, radiating out from 18th and Castro, which I saw as the downtown of the Castro.”

 

Given all this, how did it come about that he was told by the archdiocese in mid-September that he could not celebrate mass at MHR after August 27, and that he felt silenced?

 

While at MHR he had gotten to know a professional woman who had taken a year’s leave from her corporate work to volunteer at the Wijngaards Institute, a nonprofit that furthers the understanding of the value of the work of women in the ministry.

 

She asked McClure if he would consider sitting on a panel called “Breaking the Silence” that was part of an upcoming conference in Philadelphia. The sponsor was Women’s Ordination Worldwide (WOW), an international network of groups whose mission is to see Catholic women admitted to all ordained ministries in the Church. Fr. Jack would participate as “a male ordained person, minister and priest in the Roman Catholic tradition.” After much prayer, McClure decided to participate.

 

Afterwards he concluded that he was glad he went. It was very educational, he says, and “one of the most engaging conferences I’ve ever attended.” Woman of other faiths talked about their experiences as women in leadership, how some had experienced discrimination and violence at the hands of inappropriate power-based church organizations, and others experienced non-acceptance at church.

 

As reported in the National Catholic Reporter, two days after appearing at the conference he was told that he could no longer celebrate Mass at Most Holy Redeemer beyond the end of August. Word had come down from the secretary for San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone.

 

“I’ve learned a whole lot about myself in this process. I’ve had the most wonderful 15 months to live in the Castro and to serve at Most Holy Redeemer parish. I am so grateful to Archbishop Cordileone for this opportunity,” Fr. Jack said. “It may have been a rough ending as some have said, but it was an opportunity for me to come back and enter into the life of my religious community at a little slower pace.”

 

“I think that the thing I’ve learned the most is that without having had a word said to me, or without my really having said a word to anybody else, I’m truly silenced because people think I am. It hasn’t been proclaimed that I’m silenced by anybody that I know of,” he said. “I’ve simply heard that I can’t go back to Most Holy Redeemer.”

 

Fr. Jack says he enjoyed working with the staff at MHR: “They’re wonderful people and very active in the life of the Castro.”

 

He also relished the small town atmosphere of the Castro, likening it to the small Midwest communities where he grew up. Moreover, “the diverse population coming to the church has just been a blessing, with great acceptance, love and welcome right there in the middle of the Castro.”

 

Fr. Jack hopes the best for the church, even if his role has diminished since supporting the conference for women in positions of authority.

 

“I thought I went to the conference to participate in a dialogue in the spirit of Pope Francis and to say that I believe dialogue is really important. And obviously it is,” he said. “I’m certainly not wanting to do anything unkind for my church. I want to support our moving forward as the best church that we can be.”

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