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Archbishop To Discipline Priest For Attending Dissident Conference
June 14, 2011 -- Detroit Free Press,by Niraj Warikoo

Archbishop Vigneron's Warned Laity and Priest Not To Attend Event

Saying there were significant abuses at a mass held Sunday by liberal Catholics,Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron will commission a "careful and thorough review"of the services led by a local Catholic priest,a church spokesman said.

Defying Vigneron's orders,the Rev. Bob Wurm,78,a retired Catholic priest from Ferndale,presided over a mass at Cobo Center attended by about 1,500 Catholics. Most of them were liberals seeking to reform the church.

They were in Detroit for a conference led by the American Catholic Council,an umbrella group of 30 liberal Catholic organizations.

In a stern letter sent to clergy before the conference,Vigneron said that any priest or deacon who took part in the planned mass could face punishment and be defrocked. He said the conference would feature speakers who contradict Catholic doctrine and would not conduct a proper mass.

But that didn't stop Wurm from leading the mass. And dozens of additional Catholic priests from metro Detroit attended.

"There were several,serious liturgical abuses at that service,"said Ned McGrath,spokesman for the Archdiocese of Detroit. "There will be -has to be -a careful and thorough review."

It's too early to say what exact punishment Wurm might face,McGrath said. Catholics at the conference defended their events,saying they are in accordance with the laws and values of Catholicism.

"He didn't violate canon law,"John Hushon of Florida,a lead organizer of the conference,said of Wurm. "We went right down the straight and narrow."

Wurm said he's not worried about any disciplinary action. "I don't see that happening,"he said.

The conference drew about 2,000 liberal Catholics who want laypeople to have more say in church decision making. Many also want discussions about women,gay and married priests,and greater accountability on the issue of child abuse by priests.

They said the conference energized them to go back to individual parishes to fight for change.

"I'm disturbed by what's taking place,"said Robert Livingston,72,of Berkley. "The church is going backwards. It's more feudal."

Also this weekend,a group of conservative Catholics held a rival conference in Livonia,where speakers spoke against abortion,contraception and gay rights.


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