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Catholic Priest Debates Church Rule

By Edgar Linares, NewsRadio 830 WCCO

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) -- Rev. Mike Tegeder of St. Edward Catholic Church in Bloomington disagrees with a 2004 church rule that bars lay preaching. It's a rule that recently got him in hot water.

"I'm just trying to use the gifts of my staff and give people a break from listening to me," said Tegeder.

Lay preaching is when a non-clergy member delivers a sermon or homily to the congregation. On Jan. 23, he let Heidi Busse take the pulpit and deliver the homily.

"She's extremely qualified, she does a great job, people love her," said Tegeder.

Busse is in charge of adult faith education at St. Edward and has a master's degree in theology. WCCO attempted to speak with Busse but she wasn't available for comment.

Soon after the sermon, Tegeder received a phone call from Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt, reminding him of the policy established in 2004 by the Roman Catholic Church.

"I know one parishioner wrote to the Archbishop, and he's written about other things too, which I appreciate. I need critique and feedback. I wish he would have come to me first," said Tegeder.

Tegeder says he has a big parish with 2,300 households and a lay staff. He says among his staff he has seven people with the equivalent degree of a Catholic priest.

"I have one retired priest who helps me out, mainly on weekends," said Tegeder.

Tegeder says there shouldn't be a rule against lay preaching because he feels his congregation can benefit from it.

"If somebody has a wonderful message to share, hold it up! People are energized by that. ... There are other parishes that use and continue to use lay preachers on a regular basis," said Tegeder. He says he doesn't regularly use them at St. Edward.

WCCO tried to reach church leaders at the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul for reaction, but they did not want to comment. Tegeder believes the reason this incident was amplified could be because a woman delivered the homily.

"The funny thing is they make these rules over in Rome," said Tegeder. "You go to Rome and go to a church, you can shoot a canon through it and you're not going to hit anyone. Nobody goes to church over there. And yet they tell us what to do when we're fairly successful. I have a fairly strong congregation. I think they should come over here and learn a few things."

He added that in the United States everything is black and white.

"If you have a rule it's either can you do it, or can't you do it. Over in Rome, well, we have this rule but you're the pastor, you know the flock. You have to apply it. They have all these rules but they have all these exceptions. If you talk to an Italian cardinal, I don't think he'd make a big deal about it," said Tegeder.

Tegeder plans to continue using Busse to perform other services outside of mass. He also believes Nienstedt should focus on more pressing issues happening in the clergy.

"I think the church has a lot of other responsibilities they should be focused on. One of our priests was arrested for criminal sexual behavior. Last fall, one of our priests was arrested for exposing himself to an undercover agent in a public park in St. Paul. These are things I'm concerned about. And the Archbishop should be taking care of that and find out why we're not attracting healthier people into the ministry," said Tegeder.

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