The St. Columba-Brigid Roman Catholic Church in Buffalo, N.Y., changes its movable-letter sign every two weeks. But the Rev. Roy Herberger’s latest message — “Jesus had 2 dads and he turned out just fine” — didn’t last nearly that long.
“As soon as I learned of this sign, I took immediate action to have it removed,” Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo said in a statement shared with Yahoo Parenting about the message put up last week.
Malone instructed Herberger to remove the lettering on Tuesday following “phone calls from around the world, from callers protesting the contents of the sign,” a diocese spokesperson told the Buffalo News. “The pastor of SS Columba-Brigid Church told me that the “2 Dads” were meant to refer to a child who has both a father and stepfather,” Malone wrote in his statement. “There are several children in his parish who have both a father and stepfather. However, given the potential for the meaning of this message to be misunderstood and even perceived in a heretical way, it was immediately removed.”
Herberger tells Yahoo Parenting that now he “can see why people are upset,” but when he put up the phrase he had no intention of making a statement about supporting same-sex marriage in contradiction of the Catholic Church’s teachings. (In fact, the 73-year-old told the Buffalo News that he’d gotten the phrase from the Internet a few months ago when he searched for “funny church signs.”)
The Rev. Roy Herberger. (Photo: YouTube)
“I only had one purpose,” the pastor explains to Yahoo Parenting. “After 48 years in the church, I see so many kids with stepparents, or even in single-family homes or being raised by grandparents, who feel that they’re not as good as other kids who have a nuclear mother-and-father family. I’ve seen what that does sometimes when they’re comparing themselves to that nuclear family and I wanted to say, ‘Hang in there. You’re good. Things will work out for you.’ I wanted to provide support and understanding for kids in that situation.”
The church leader adds, “I’m not trying to cause problems. I had no trouble taking the sign down.” But many commenters on St. Columba-Brigid’s website still don’t approve of, or accept, Herberger’s explanation. The majority of its 80 messages are critical of the pastor for his actions. “Shame on you,” blast a few writers, while others label Herberger a “disgrace,” call for his resignation, and insist that he did “damage to the Catholic Church,” making an “outrageous mockery of the Catholic faith.”
Catholic Family News even weighed in after posting a story Monday sharing an image of the sign: “With respect, it seems hard to imagine anyone in our time not being aware of what the '2 dads’ term can imply,” reads an update to the original post added on Wednesday, “especially since the pro-homosexual book Heather Has 2 Mommies has been around since 1989.”
Herberger acknowledges that he’s liberal and “that’s caused problems with superconservative traditional people over the years,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. But he still insists that his ‘2 dads’ sign — and his sermons at St. Columba-Brigid (which proclaims on its website that “our doors are wide open to people from all backgrounds”) — aren’t about agitation. “They are a challenge to be more open to the teachings of Christ … his openness, his acceptance, his love,” the pastor says. “That sometimes gets covered over by church traditions, rules, and regulations.”
Photo: St. Columba-Brigid Roman Catholic Church
Herberger calls the idea that his sign promoted an agenda “ridiculous” and adds that the members of his community didn’t doubt its intention. “They know me, I’ve been here 17 years,” says Herberger. “And I haven’t had any complaints from parishioners over this. It’s just the other people who see it online.”
Nevertheless, with future sign selections the pastor admits he’ll be “much more thoughtful” and consider “How can someone misinterpret this?” And he’s happy to report that there are no complaints over his current sign — “Walmart isn’t the only saving place. Welcome” — yet.
Top photo: Catholic Family News