Father Bob Bussen of St. Mary’s Church has taught Park City well | ParkRecord.com

Father Bob Bussen of St. Mary’s Church has taught Park City well

Park City takes pride, not only in its reputation as a world-class resort, but also in its extraordinary community spirit. One of the benchmarks of that spirit is tolerance and, arguably, the most vocal guardian of that value for more than a decade has been Monsignor Robert "Bob" Bussen of St. Mary of Assumption Catholic Church.

As comfortable on the ski slopes and among the town’s powerbrokers as he is ministering to immigrant laborers, "Father Bob" has, at times, chastised local residents for excluding or ignoring various segments of the community. He has championed health care for the uninsured, raised awareness about the plight of Park City’s immigrants and, most recently, encouraged his parish to establish a mass for its gay constituents.

Parkites have sometimes resisted Bussen’s nagging, but the overriding sentiment is that his spiritual leadership has been a beacon for the entire community, Catholic or not. So when St. Mary’s announced its decision to welcome the gay community, most residents paid scant attention.

But Bussen’s current cause has drawn attention to an issue that is causing turmoil among Catholics around the world and apparently even among some members of St. Mary’s. Far beyond Park City’s borders, the Catholic Church is wrestling with contradictory interpretations of its doctrine about homosexuals, whether they can enter the seminary, whether they are to be embraced for who they are, or whether they should be made to change their orientation. Bussen is among those urging Catholics to review the church’s age-old biases and to adopt an interpretation that does not discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, activists on all sides of that debate are looking for ways to dramatize their views and, due to recent publicity and the broad reach of the Internet, word of Bussen’s mass and his progressive approach has drawn international attention.

That spotlight, though uninvited and somewhat uncomfortable, offers Park City a perfect opportunity to demonstrate what it has learned from its revered mentor — that this community is above all, inclusive, tolerant, generous and deeply loyal to its self-appointed conscience, Father Bob Bussen.

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