Most balanced article: Thank you for a well-written, relatively "low-drama" article regarding the problems at Cathedral of Hope ("Fallen Angel," by J.D. Sparks, December 4). I, too, am a former member who stopped attending when it became clear to me that Michael's goal was to separate from Metropolitan Community Church. To date, yours is the best-researched and most balanced article I've seen.
Nothing abusive: I just finished reading "Fallen Angel" and am reminded again of why I shun the Dallas Observer--it is simply a much thicker version of the weekly tabloids found at the supermarket. Even without knowing the full details of what has truly transpired at Cathedral of Hope, I found gaps of logic in your writing where you would contradict yourself from one paragraph to the next. The people you interviewed are known to have long-standing issues with Cathedral of Hope. The quotes from these people didn't sound like the words of those with a simple grievance but the words of people who, though they may have spent years serving the church, are simply very bitter now for reasons known only to themselves. You do your very best to paint the Reverend Piazza as evil and verbally abusive at all times but consider the actual e-mail excerpts you included in your article--which show to me someone who simply wants to help his people. I found nothing verbally abusive about them. You make it sound horrible that a service would be meticulously planned out, but we see evidence of this same behavior in churches all across this nation. You mention almost nothing of the excitement and the joy that have been readily apparent since the Reverend Piazza's return on November 2. In short, I read this article because as a member of Cathedral of Hope I was curious, but after finishing the article I am happy to say I still have one less thing to do each week--read the Dallas Observer!
Condemned: Why in the world haven't there been charges brought against this man for fraud, misappropriation of funds and harassment? What's it going to take to see this man condemned for his actions? "God only knows," huh?
Death spiral: Thank you for this in-depth look at the Cathedral of Hope death spiral. I dared to challenge Piazza back in '98 when he had the first vote to shoot for affiliation with the United Church of Christ. Michael always said that CoH was no different from any other mainline denomination, and this has been validated, unfortunately.
Mark K. Bentley
Christian compassion: You and your crack team of "reporters" (and I use that term lightly) have produced the most stupid story I have ever read. First off, these things have already been hashed out in the Voice, so this is very old news. Furthermore, I don't give a damn what my pastor does sexually in his free time. As long as no one gets hurt, they are of age and they are not pressured, it doesn't matter what Piazza has done sexually. Even more, if you were gay, you would understand this, which makes your story extremely homophobic and bordering on gay bashing.
Also, where did you get the idea that Lillie Brock was a "beloved" pastor of our church? She is basically considered the spawn of hell as far as we at CoH are concerned. Terry Frey and her "dark period" after her brother died? PLEASE. Terry doesn't have a compassionate bone in her body. Two people here that you've made out to be saints who aren't even close to attaining the kingdom of heaven. So which of them are you friends with, seriously? This is not a case of investigative journalism. This is basically plagiarism from information already published by the Voice from someone who is friends with one of the dykes involved in harassing the members of Cathedral of Hope. Why don't you go get a job at the Enquirer? Seems that your reporting and journalism skills would fit better there.
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Power corrupts: Over the last decade and a half, I attended the Cathedral of Hope on and off. It was part of my religious "cocktail" of Catholicism, Native American spirituality, paganism, etc. This story is not new, but it is no less tragic for the good people who were members of this once vibrant church. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I feel most sorry for the many friends I made at CoH who really wanted a faith family. It was so healing to be at a place that did not preach self-hatred. This is like the betrayal many former Catholics feel over the "church" to which we dedicated our lives. Sounds like God used the Tower of Babel solution to stop Mike Piazza's ambition of building the first cathedral of the 21st century. I can relate to being screwed by a "church" that presents a compassionate face to the world but is led by a pack of wolves in sheep's clothing.
Ruben J. Rocha
San Rafael, California