Monday, May 21, 2007

Raleigh noticing Bishop Burbidge

~from the Raleigh News Observer: Bishop crusades quickly on social issues

At a meeting of the priest's council recently, Roman Catholic Bishop Michael F. Burbidge informed its members he intended to be active in public affairs. To the 25 gathered priests gathered, it was no big revelation.

Since assuming office in August, the bishop has been the company man, speaking out on nearly every Catholic social teaching there is. The speed with which he has prepared responses to issues such as embryonic stem cell research and immigration reform has heads turning.

And it marks a dramatic change from his predecessor, Bishop F. Joseph Gossman, who also spoke out on issues of the day but took his time to weigh in.

In the past two weeks alone, Burbidge dispatched his assistant to the state legislature to oppose a bill on end-of-life care. The bishop is concerned it might lead to euthanasia. He also came out in opposition to a bill that would expand sex education in the public schools beyond an abstinence-only curriculum. And today, he is holding a news conference to talk about immigration reform. Burbidge said people have a human right to immigrate and provide for their families.

"He looks at the issues in a more organized way than our Southern ways have been," said Sister Joan Jurski, the coordinator of the diocese's peace and justice office.

Catholics say Burbidge, who hails from Philadelphia, is more energetic than his predecessor, who was 76 when he retired.

Burbidge turns 50 next month; he works out daily.

Others say his willingness to speak out is part of his Philadelphia heritage. Coming from a large urban archdiocese that represents many of the city's residents, Burbidge is part of a tradition of bishops who wield power and influence over politics.

But Burbidge is also convinced that speaking out on issues of concern to Catholics is a big part of his role as bishop.

"I have a responsibility to inform our people of issues that will have an impact on public life," he said. "I don't want to sit by as a spectator. I want to be an active voice."...

...Priests and others say times have changed.

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