SAN ANTONIO – A Roman Catholic priest who removed the U.S. flag from in front his church was ordered to put it back up by the archbishop, who said anti-war views shouldn't be forced on the public.
Archbishop Patrick Flores issued his order after receiving inquiries about what some Our Lady of Grace congregants say the Rev. John Mannion's latest display of anti-United States sentiment.
Church members say that Mannion often criticized America during sermons and kept the flag at half-staff. Last week, he simply removed it from the church in La Coste, 20 miles southwest of San Antonio.
"I have advised Father Mannion that the American flag must be restored at full height to its usual place of honor immediately," Flores said Thursday.
"While I respect Father Mannion's passion for the dignity of all life and his right to his personal position on the war, nothing is accomplished by using the flag to force that view on those who are suffering the pain and uncertainty of knowing that America's men and women of the armed forces are in harm's way," Flores said.
Mannion, who has led the church since 2001, declined comment.
While Pope John Paul II is strongly opposed to the war, there have been other incidents of U.S. churches taking steps to rein in the anti-war efforts of their staffs.
Earlier this week, the Portland, Ore., archdiocese fired its 12-year peace and justice director after repeatedly warning the man to curtail his anti-war activism.
An archdiocese spokesman said Frank Fromherz was laid off because of budget cuts. But Fromherz, 49, said archdiocese officials told him he was fired because he violated his role as an "agent" for the archbishop and his views.
Fromherz had clashed with Archbishop John G. Vlazny over the war. For example, Fromherz sent an e-mail to hundreds of Catholics and others that encouraged anti-war protests and called on "the international criminal court to indict and prosecute our own President (Bush) as a war criminal."
Vlazny, meanwhile, recently told 350,000 Catholics to emphasize prayer, saying "divisiveness is not at all helpful."
In Des Moines, Iowa, pacifist priest Frank Cordaro said he has been uninvited from speaking at a memorial service and a parish mission.
"Being a pacifist between wars is like being a vegetarian between meals," he said.