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PUERTO RICO: Bishop Fires Orthodox Priest

PUERTO RICO BISHOP FIRES ORTHODOX PRIEST

Special Report

By David W. Virtue

PONCE, PR (8/5/2004)--An Anglo-Catholic priest and hospital chaplain in the Diocese of Puerto Rico of The Episcopal Church, has been fired by the bishop for holding to orthodox biblical views on the issue of homosexual practice.

The Rev Luis Morales, 55, a Forward in Faith priest in the Diocese, has been terminated by revisionist Bishop David A. Alvarez and relieved of his job as a chaplain to St Luke's II Episcopal Hospital in the city of Ponce, Puerto Rico. He has not been immediately inhibited or deposed but expects the bishop to proceed in that direction.

"I am not surprised at what this bishop has done. He is no lover of the gospel, and he hates people who are orthodox," he told Virtuosity. "I rejoice in my martyrdom." The priest said he was fired on July 23 and is now on vacation but will not return September 1.

Fr. Morales said the problems began after the Minneapolis General Convention and later with the Robinson consecration. "I met with Bishop Alvarez in private and told him I was going to distance myself from his positions on sexuality. I held a press conference with the knowledge of the bishop to state my position. We corresponded back and forth."

The priest was rector of Holy Trinity in Ponce, the island's first and oldest Episcopal Church. The parish church was built in 1869.

"I, along with the vestry resigned after one year because the bishop made a decision regarding the parochial school contrary to what the parish and vestry agreed upon with him. The bishop then offered me a position as hospital chaplain at St. Luke's Memorial Hospital 2."

Fr. Morales said that some 30 parishioners from Holy Trinity followed him and started
attending the chapel at the hospital, but the bishop would not recognize them, so fearing they would have no spiritual oversight the priest decided to ask for spiritual help from the Anglican Mission in America.

"I have not personally joined the AMIA but when Bishop Alvarez found out that the group wanted to become part of the Anglican Mission, he sent two letters telling them they could not worship in the chapel. When I shared that information with the people they stopped going to the chapel and came together as a more structured group. I saw it as my
pastoral responsibility to turn them over to a priest who would take care of them," he told Virtuosity.

Holy Trinity which once had about 100 members has since dropped to less than 35 active members, said Morales.

"The bishop is painting it all as personal and wants to portray himself as the victim and we are persecuting him, but it is not true."

Fr. Morales turned to his old friend the Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris and Dean Humberto Nieves. Dr. Paris had already been stripped of his priesthood and deposed by Bishop Alvarez for writing a book condemning the revisionist arguments supporting the ordination of practicing homosexuals.

The priest said that Dean Nieves had resigned to be part of the AMIA, but the bishop would not accept his resignation, but he decided to join and worship under the protection of the Anglican Mission anyway.

"I wrote to the bishop and told him that I had turned the 30 worshippers over to the AMIA and if you want to get rid of me you can get rid of me from the hospital."

"I had earlier asked the bishop for DEPO but he flatly refused and said these people could not apply because they were not an official congregation. He then said they could not use the Chapel anymore. I was devastated by the bishop's action. It was unnecessarily vindictive."

Fr. Morales said the group decided to leave and join the AMIA and made a formal request to Bishop Alexander M. Greene, who oversees their mission which is run by the Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Dr Paris who was forcibly deposed and is now with the Anglican Mission.

Bishop Greene then delegated the pastoral oversight of the group in Ponce to the Rev Paris, who is now pastoring the new Anglican Mission of St Peter & St Paul, with the Deacon Humberto Nieves.

"Bishop Alvarez has stated in meetings with his clergy that sexual intercourse between men and men and women with women must not be viewed as a sin. One of his more recent arguments for his revisionist positions is that no Ecumenical Council has ever censured homosexual practice."

Bishop Alvarez has also been very vocal through the media in Puerto Rico, promoting support for homosexual practices and has lobbied the local legislature to promote laws that will favor gay couples and civil unions, Paris told Virtuosity.

"To date he has deposed three priests, inhibited another, and will fire from work and pay any priest that does not bend to his 'hermeneutics'. In a nutshell his pastoral program can be described as promotion of the gay agenda and a heavy hand against the orthodox in his diocese," said Paris in a phone call to Virtuosity.

Bishop Alvarez was the only bishop in ECUSA's Province IX that voted in favor of the V. Gene Robinson consecration and confirmation.

Interviewed on the Morales firing, Dr. Paris, who is also a Psychologist and Professor at the University of Puerto Rico, told Virtuosity; "This is a clear picture of what is really going on in the ECUSA. On one side you have Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and his assistants working hard to project an image of the Church that is struggling to promote reconciliation and understanding amongst its different groups; on the other hand, revisionists in ECUSA are discreetly suffocating any and all dissident points of view that
tries to promote orthodox positions or any type of faith founded on Scripture."

Dr. Paris said there were many in the Anglican Communion, especially in Puerto Rico who are sincerely waiting on the Lambeth Commission to provide alternative communion structures to resolving their problem. "St. Paul addressed the issues when he talked about light and darkness not having fellowship with one other," said Paris.

The situation in The Episcopal Church cannot go on forever, there will be a day of reckoning, he said.

In October 2003, three priests including the Rev. Dr. Dennis Paris, the Rev. Dr. Manuel A. Rivera assistant priest of the Spanish speaking congregation at the cathedral church of St. John Baptist and the Rev. Pedro Balleste, a senior cleric in the diocese were all inhibited by the bishop. Dr. Paris and Rev. Balleste were deposed. Fr. Balleste is currently assisting Dr. Paris with the two AMIA missions.

END

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