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Haitian adoption leads to priest's ouster.

Fort Wayne bishop cites different views

FORT WAYNE, Ind. - The forced resignation of a Catholic pastor here has left him without a parish, the parishioners up in arms, and the local bishop with little to say about it all.

Fr. Richard Stieglitz stepped down last month as pastor of Queen of Angels in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese. He and Bishop John M. D'Arcy are at odds because Stieglitz, against D'Arcy's will, wants to retain his role as father to four adopted young Haitian men.

The bishop said in a written statement that the resignation was at his request. "The reason for this request is because of a significant difference between Father Stieglitz and myself concerning the legal adoption of four young men," D'Arcy said. The bishop has refused further comment, "because of the confidential nature of this matter."

At the end of the statement, he announced the appointment of another pastor.

D'Acy, according to Stieglitz, doesn't believe that adoption fits the celibate lifestyle of a Catholic priest. The diocese tried but failed to get the adoptions reversed and the parent-child relationship terminated through the court system, Stieglitz said.

A priest for the past 20 years, Stieglitz insists that his intentions are honorable, and he mainly wanted to provide the young men with an opportunity for a better education. In Haiti, Stieglitz explained, social and political corruption makes it nearly impossible for someone without money or social connections to get an education. "In my conscious mind, I was helping a poor community by adopting these young men. ... I don't see this and priesthood being incompatible."

Stieglitz said he is still considered "a priest in good standing with the diocese" and his resignation means simply that be no longer is assigned to a church.

"Every priest has to make choices," Stieglitz said. "Whatever you emphasize, whether it's a soup kitchen or a youth program, something else has to take second place or third place." The adoption, he contended, did not detract from his role as a pastor.

Father and sons

Queen of Angels forged a sister relationship with St. Clare Church in Portau-Prince, Haiti's capital more than four years ago. Through that sister-parish relationship, Stieglitz met his adopted sons.

Since September 1992, Stieglitz has been the legal father of Marc Calixte, 21; Marc-Elie Dugue, 22; Pierre Gustave Kerlegrand, 23; and Jacques Calixte, 24. Three of the men attend Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and live in dormitories there; a fourth attends a technical college in Fort Wayne.

The men lived in the Queen of Angels rectory until January of this year. At that time, Stieglitz said, D'Arcy's new rule went into effect. The diocesan-wide policy forbids long-term overnight guests in rectories unless they are immediate family, other clergy or housekeepers.

"The bishop wouldn't recognize them as my family," Stieglitz said, even though he considered his adopted sons immediate family. As a result, Stieglitz moved the men out of the parish rectory earlier this year and into a house he bought. He got a teacher at Queen of Angels to move in as a housemother.

Since then there have been some new additions to the household: Marc Calixte's younger brother, Alan, 15, now lives in the house and is attending a nearby Catholic high school. Kerlegrand's younger brother, Jonas, 22, moved into the house last month and for now is attending an English-learning school.

For now, Stieglitz has moved out of the rectory and plans to live in his house after the housemother has found another residence.

He is trying to support his household on salary now less than what he received as a pastor. "I was already stretching it as far as it could go," he said. "I will probably look to family and friends for assistance."

Outrage and sadness

Stieglitz is not the first Catholic priest to adopt.

Perhaps among the most noted was Chicago priest Fr. George Clements, who adopted four youths. The movie, The Father Clements Story," celebrated his efforts.

Stieglitz is not the first in the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese either; in the 1800s another priest adopted three children who later became priests.

"It's a matter of what bishops will allow in their diocese," Stieglitz said.

The reaction within Queen of Angels Parish has been outrage and sadness. Stieglitz has received emotional support even from parishioners who quarreled with him over decisions he made as pastor, be said.

The parish has launched a petition drive in support of Stieglitz, parishioner Christine Arnold said. Parishioners have delivered signatures, she said, to the "appropriate people," but Arnold would not elaborate for fear of jeopardizing anything that "might be in the works for Fr. Stieglitz."

Jacque McCrady, the housemother and a sixth-grade teacher, said the young men don't discuss the matter much.

"At first they thought it was their fault," she said. "Now they know it's the bishop who has the problem. ... They're worried about being sent back to Haiti. They're worried about where (Stieglitz) is going to get the money to send them to school."

McCrady doubts that the parishioners' efforts will be successful. She said, "The bishop has made up his mind."
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Title Annotation:Fr. Richard Stieglitz
Author:Lemmon, Michele
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Biography
Date:Oct 15, 1993
Words:855
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