Abercrombie thinks outside the collar

We always knew that Gov. Neil Abercrombie would likely be full of more surprises than previous Hawai‘i governors, and he demonstrated it with his appointment of the Rev. Marc Alexander as his homelessness coordinator.

Alexander, who is stepping down from the No. 2 position in the local Catholic church to take the job, has been a prominent voice in the church’s fervent opposition to gay unions, the issue where the sun rises and sets for many of Abercrombie’s core supporters in the Democratic Party.

It’ll be interesting to see if they’re willing to look past single-issue passions and see what Abercrombie does — that Alexander’s background and skill set, especially in strategic planning, may make him uniquely qualified to tackle one of Hawai‘i’s most painful and stubborn problems.

Who knows what to read into the rather ungracious reaction from Hawai‘i Catholic Bishop Larry Silva that he “was shocked and extremely disappointed by (Alexander’s) decision to withdraw from priestly ministry.”

Helping the homeless seems a noble enough calling.

For Abercrombie, it shows not only that he’s willing to bring diverse talent into his administration, but that he’s succeeding in attracting some unlikely allies to help implement his vision for Hawai‘i.

Update: An initial reaction from the Democrats’ LGBT wing in today’s Star-Advertiser:

“One has to question whether he will be effective in counseling runaway gay youth,” said Jo-Ann Adams, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Hawaii’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender caucus. “Many of the (homeless) people here are thrown out of their homes when their parents find out that they are gay.”

Somehow, that doesn’t strike me as where the heart of the homelessness problem lies.

If you’re not ending the week brain dead enough, I leave you to wrap your mind around this posting I found from Keith Haugen on Facebook:

This year we will experience 4 unusual dates…. 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, 11/11/11 …. NOW go figure this out…. take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it WILL EQUAL TO 111… It works for everyone…

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24 Comments on “Abercrombie thinks outside the collar”

  1. Holly Huber Says:

    Marc Alexander is a divisive figure in our community; he serves on the board of Transformation Hawaii and is a supporter of the discredited Hawaii Family Forum.

    In his powerful position with the Catholic Church, Alexander has never publicly spoken out on behalf of the homeless. His experience is that of a lobbyist for the church, fiercely opposing civil unions and same-sex marriage.

    Alexander has also been a prominent defender of the Catholic Church’s child sex-abuse scandal.

    In my years of political activism, I have frequently witnessed Alexander promoting the church’s opposition to gay rights, death with dignity, abortion, and stem-cell research. But I have never once heard him advocate for the homeless. Not even when the Catholic Church of Hawaii could have intervened to save low-income housing at Kukui Gardens.

  2. Mitch Kahle Says:

    “Who knows what to read into the rather ungracious reaction from Hawai‘i Catholic Bishop Larry Silva that he “was shocked and extremely disappointed by (Alexander’s) decision to withdraw from priestly ministry.”

    Dave, I’ll tell you exactly “what to read into” it, because the Catholic Church is opposed to all forms of divorce and Marc Alexander was literally “married to Jesus” as are all Catholic priests according to cannon law. By leaving the priesthood, ex-Father Alexander is now formally divorced from Jesus. Why do you think all Catholic priests wear a wedding band. A priest’s ordination ceremony is in fact a wedding.

    Don’t believe me, go ask the Bishop!

    And yes, Dave, “Helping the homeless seems a noble enough calling” but why give this responsibility to a person with absolutely ZERO experience or qualification. There are plenty of dedicated professionals in Honolulu, with the expereince and know-how to “coordinate” the State’s homeless projects. And most of these people don’t bring such a large sack of dirty laundry to the table. Alexander has been a seriously divisive player in Hawaii politics for the past 20 years. His appointment is a sap in the face to the women, children, as well as GLBT citizens whom he has so deeply injured and insulted over the years with his actions as the Vicar General (i.e. canonical enforcer) of the Catholic Church ad his lobbying activities for groups like Transformation Hawaii and the tax-cheating Hawaii Family Forum.

  3. Craig Smith Says:

    This appointment is the worst thing the Governor could have done to “help” the houseless problem here in Hawaii.

    I have NEVER heard of Marc doing ANYTHING to help curb this epidemic since I have moved here.

    No where in any of the on-line resumes for this man was there anything that showed he even cared about this problem.

    The houseless are the most vulnerable in our society and to put a person that does not care what others think in this position is disastrous to say the least.

    He has never been a champion for the houseless what makes anyone think he will be now.

  4. Kolea Says:

    Let me start with a disclaimer, so as not to confuse anybody: I am NOT an official spokesman for the Catholic Church!

    Here’s an anecdote to give you a sense of how civil union supporters are reacting to this. I was with a group of people who spent yesterday talking with key legislators about civil unions. Another CU advocate came up to us with the news about Marc Alexander’s appointment. She was livid!

    I asked her how Marc’s views on gay rights might impact his ability to do a good job on the homeless problem. She replied it wasn’t just gay rights. He opposed reproductive rights for women as well.

    I replied that Marc wasn’t being considered to head up Reproductive Services. Nor was he being appointed to the Civil Rights Commission. Maybe he’d be good on the homeless issue. Afterall, the Catholic Church does engage in significant social programs for the needy.

    She had her word, was able to vent and bit and then moved on. After she left, the other four CU lobbyists said they didn’t see a problem with the appointment. Not on its face. And maybe it was better that he would no longer be free to work against gay equality (and other issues).

    Don’t let my inconvenient anecdote persuade you to drop your stereotyped notion of gay rights activists as hysterical single-issue creatures. But since I was present when there was a perfect test of your thesis, I thought I would share it with you and your readers. You are, of course, perfectly free to continue believing what you wish without regard to any actual field testing of your theories.

  5. Kolea Says:

    Here’s where it is important that readers not assume I can speak for the Church. Bishop Larry’s remarks may have struck you as ungracious. But Catholic priests take vows to obey Canon Law. Marc Alexander was the Vicar General, the Bishop’s top assistant in running the diocese. In addition, he was the chief theologian for the diocese, with very advanced training in Catholic orthodoxy and work experience at the Vatican. He is was, the person most responsible to serve in an official as “Defender of the Faith” in our state. While Bishop Larry had the title and final authority, Marc was the top expert in what was acceptable to Catholic orthodoxy.

    When a priest wants to leave the service of the Church, Canon Law requires they file a request for “laicization.” It goes to the Vatican for approval and can take a very long time. Marc is the person who would have enforced this requirement upon any other priest. So if, as it appears, he made this decision without first seeking and receiving official approval, he is, in essence, rejecting the very orthodoxy and discipline he has been dedicated to, with increasing responsibility, for his entire career.

    So I am not sure Bishop Larry’s brief comments are truly “ungracious.” He IS shocked that a man as dedicated to the conservative, orthodox view of Catholic authority would suddenly walk away from it all. And he IS disappointed to lose his second in command in such a fashion.

    If Marc is able to make a dent in our homeless problem, or even demonstrate a sincere and creative attempt, I will be grateful.

    If he wants to explain more fully his sudden abandonment of the priesthood after 25 years, I am sure a lot of people, both in the Church and outside it, would be interested. If he wants to keep it to himself, or “between himself and his God,” I can respect that. But it IS a significant mystery.

  6. Alan R. Spector Says:

    Dave: Kolea offers a fairly nuanced understanding of the reactions within the LGBT community. We don’t speak with one voice. There are many reactions to this and all are valid.

    As has already been mentioned, Alexander is someone who endorses discrimination against the LGBT community. In fact, just last year, Bishop Silva had an op-Ed published in the Star-Advertiser where he admitted that the denial of marriage equality to same-sex couples IS discrimination AND it is justified discrimination. So of course, the emotional reactions experienced by many in the LGBT are valid, appropriate, and should not be trivialized with labels such as single issue. This is a man who has inflicted much emotional and concrete harm on LGBT people.

    Nevertheless, the issue of homelessness is a major social problem in Hawaii. I trust that Gov. Abercrombie knows what he is doing by appointing Alexander. If Alexander can truly make a positive contribution to lessening Hawaii’s housing and homelessness issues, more power to him. But he must remember, homelessness impacts the LGBT community as well. And as Jo-Ann Adams correctly states, homeless youth are disproportionately LGBT. As a servant of the state, unlike the Vatican, Marc will not be able to discriminate. If he does, there are consequences and his religious faith is not a legally valid excuse for discrimination in his new role as a civil servant.

    Finally, this reminds me of a line from Fiddler on the Roof when a man asks the Rabbi if there is a blessing for the Czar. The Rabbi responds, “There is a blessing for everything. May God bless the Czar and keep him far away from us!”

    So in this case, one of the LGBT community’s most effective and powerful opponents has been called out of action just as we are about to begin our new campaign to pass a civil unions bill. The silver lining is that Marc will be “far away.” Baruch HaShem!

  7. Michael Says:

    This is 2/2/22, 2/22/22 much. Bczar
    things will happen.

    “Gee, what’s wrong?”

  8. Capitol -ist/WassupDoc Says:

    Most of the folks who regularly read local political blogs are unaware that I’ve been personally and professionally involved in a wide range of housing, health & human service issues over a very long time. They tend to think of me as an environautic feminist.

    Both my SigOth and I have worked on homelessness issues with several different non-profits since we moved into a house in 1978 where our backyard fence neighbor was the late Rev. Calude Du Teil, the founder of IHS.

    Currently, we volunteer with three service providers by cooking dinners and teaching reading & math literacy skills to homeless individuals and couples who have dependent children.

    I’m also working with three community health centers
    to expand their services here on O`ahu covering more than 60% of its geographical mass.

    I know from first-hand experience that the local Roman Catholic Diocese has gotten involved in these complex issues over the last couple of years. In fact, we are beginning to explore the possibility of working with them on developing affordable workforce & senior multi-family rental housing.

    However, I am not sure that Marc Alexander is the appropriate person to head this exceedingly important state office. But I am willing to listen to him and to see how well he manages this.

    BTW – it’s not clear from either the story, David’s blog, or the comments posted here if Alexander is leaving the priesthood or is it that he is keeping his vows and moving on to another level of service.

  9. Craig Smith Says:

    The number one reason LGBT youth are homeless is because they were THROWN OUT of their house by their parents because of who they are as person.

    They are thrown out at thanks to the garbage people like Marc has preached over the years. So YES his background does play a role.

    Marc also has been heard calling unwed mothers as parasites on our community. So YES that is a problem.

    Marc is a problem not only for the gays but for women and anyone that supports medically accurate sex-education and access to essential health services.

  10. Craig Smith Says:

    Here are some facts to show that YES homeless LGBT youth is at the heart of the problem:

    An alarming number of gay and transgender young people are homeless

    1.6 million to 2.8 million: The estimated number of homeless youth in the United States.

    20 to 40 percent: The portion of the homeless youth population who are gay or transgender, compared to only 5 to 10 percent of the overall youth population.

    320,000 to 400,000: A conservative estimate of the number of gay and transgender youth facing homelessness each year.

    14.4: The average age that lesbian and gay youth in New York become homeless.

    13.5: The average age that transgender youth in New York become homeless.
    Homeless gay and transgender youth see higher rates of abuse and victimization

    graph of homeless lgbt and heterosexual youth who have been sexually assulted58 percent: The portion of homeless gay and transgender youth who have been sexually assaulted, compared to 33 percent of homeless heterosexual youth.

    44 percent: The portion of homeless gay and transgender youth who reported being asked by someone on the street to exchange sex for money, food, drugs, shelter, or clothes, compared to 26 percent of straight homeless youth.
    Rejection and discrimination at home lead to severe personal and social problems

    13: The average age gay and lesbian youth now come out after self-identifying as gay or lesbian as young as ages 5 to 7.

    graph of alcohol abuse62 percent: The portion of homeless gay and transgender youth who experience discrimination from their families, compared to 30 percent of their heterosexual peers.

    42 percent: The portion of homeless gay and transgender youth who abuse alcohol, compared to 27 percent of heterosexual youth.

    62 percent: The portion of homeless gay and transgender youth who attempt suicide, compared to 29 percent of their heterosexual homeless peers.

    8.4 times: How much more likely gay and transgender youth are to attempt suicide if they are rejected by their families in adolescence compared to if they are not rejected by their family. They are also 5.9 times as likely to have experienced depression, 3.4 times as likely to have used illicit drugs, and 3.4 times as likely to have had unprotected sex.

  11. Kolea Says:

    As a result of reading the other comments here, plus Dave’s update to his post where he shares JoAnn Adams comments, I have modified my views somewhat.

    When I asked the gay rights activist how Marc’s bias against gays would impact his work with the homeless, she could not provide an answer. JoAnn’s reminder about LGBT teenagers DOES, in my mind, raise a legitimate concern. It may not disqualify Marc, but he should be asked about his ideas for dealing with teen runaways, particularly with the recognition many of them are gay and, for that matter, many have been sexually abused.

    Some point out Marc’s lack of involvement in homeless (or “houseless” issues). I am skeptical that a degree in social work or psychology would lead to create, holistic solutions to the homeless crisis and am certainly open to the idea that a generalist might be able to tak a fresh approach. I do not prpose people support Marc simply on Neil’s say-so. Senators and members of the public should raise their concerns and listen to Marc’s answers. The Abercrombie may need to SELL this nomination. And that would probably be good thing for many reasons. Including raising the profile of the homelessness issue above the insipid, “let’s drive them from the parks and sidewalks” nonsense which has passed for “policy debate” on the issue up to now.

    I assume Neil’s Communications people are either monitoring the blogs or can easily be directed to this exchange. They should develop a strategy to reach out to those expressing concerns with this nomination early.

    Finally, I think CWD is correct that we may be misunderstanding the extent of Marc’s “resignation.” The official press release from the Catholic Diocese says Marc has decided “to leave the active priestly ministry.” That might be the most they would say even if he is totally quitting, since THEY reserve the right to allow (or deny) a resignation from the priesthood. But it also might simply mean Marc’s break with the Church is less complete than some are concluding. He may be content to remain an inactive priest.

    And Dave might be happy to learn the Bishop concluded his statement by thanking Marc Alexander in his closing paragraph:

    “Father Alexander has served the Diocese of Honolulu with great distinction as a priest for twenty-five years, and has contributed greatly to the Diocese in his last five years as Vicar General. We are grateful for all he has done. Let us pray for him.”

  12. Michael Says:

    I wonder what would be said
    if Governor Abercrombie nominated
    a Buddhist Priest.

  13. David Shapiro Says:

    The one point of agreement seems to be that Alexander did a quite competent job of running one of the largest enterprises in Hawai‘i — the Catholic church. Makes it pretty easy to understand why Abercrombie would be happy to have him sharing some of the heavy lifting. A big part of effective leadership is tapping all of the community’s best resources for the common good.

    I give the governor credit for challenging the rigid thinking of some of you who have supported him that every issue must be viewed through the lens of HB444 and that tolerance cuts only one way.

  14. Jim Loomis Says:

    Here’s a thought: Why don’t we wait and see what kind of a job this guy does before deciding to ride him out of town on a rail. Or not.

  15. hugh clark Says:

    I have known a reasonable number of ex-priests and they all have been significant community contributors and many were excellent educators.

    The gay issues raised by some and anti-Catholic stance of others to the side, I think this choice is an important plank in the ecumenical sense of the new administration.

  16. Mitch Kahle Says:

    It is important for readers to understand that Catholic Charities is a public charity, whereas the Catholic Church is a private church. These two things are not synonymous or otherwise related. Catholic Charities is not legally affiliated with the Catholic Church. Nor is Catholic Charities funded by the Catholic Church. Catholic Charities is funded mostly by government grants. Catholic Charities receives public funds because it is a public charity, required by law to disclose all income and expenses (including salaries for executives and key personnel). The Catholic Church on the other hand is an exclusive, private, and indeed secretive organization, which has refused to disclose any of its finances.

  17. Doug Says:

    To Keith Haugen:

    Your Facebook math finding is less impressive when you consider that in 2012 the result of your formula will be 112 “for everyone!” and in 2013 the result will be 113 “for everyone!” and in 2014 the result will be 114 “for everyone!” … and so on, until 2099.

    % of previous century represented by birth year + birthday celebrated this year = 100 + years since turn of century. Duh.

  18. Kolea Says:


    I am a bit concerned about your closing statement:

    “I think this choice is an important plank in the ecumenical sense of the new administration.”

    Were you really worried that a Democratic administration in Hawaii would suffer from an under-representation of Catholics?

    Should we aim for some ideal “ecumenical” balance in every administration? If we bring in a Catholic Vicar General, do we need to balance that out with a Mormon bishop? A rabbi? Do non-observant Jews count towards the quota or must they be observant to qualify? Do Protestants count as an undifferentiated whole or do both the liberal and conservative strains need equal representation? Dave already exposed all us Democrats as a bunch of crypto-Buddhists, so I am not sure how we can be measured against the quota if we hide our Buddho-phile proclivities.

    But if I can set aside Marc’s conservative Catholic beliefs in assessing his suitability for the job, am I entitled to have concerns if I begin to suspect he may have been appointed, at least in part, because of his standing in the Catholic community as part of a new, church-state partnership along the lines of Bush (and Obama’s) faith-based initiative? Is it fair to ask us to embrace a government bias IN FAVOR of an applicant’s religious affiliation?

  19. Doug Says:

    Kolea, in your 1:14 pm comment you describe this as a “nomination,” and I got the impression that you think the “Homeless Coordinator” is an appointment subject to Senate confirmation.

    Are you sure about that? I’m not.

  20. shaftalley Says:

    is hawaii a favorite spot for the homeless because of the state gov’t.’s generous entitlements and easy qualifying benefits?and the great weather?a lot of people have been flying in from the mainland for sometime now and recently young families from Micronesian federation.i wish the ex-priest the best,but gov’t. agencies tend to waste tax-payers money trying to fight this war on homelessness.although i disagree with C Wassup-doc on her global warming snake-oilism,she is an inspiration and in the trenches walking the walk on other social issues.especially home lessness.

  21. Kolea Says:


    I think you are correct and I have been in error. I do not think this appointment is subject to confirmation.

    Has any news account explained where this position will be located in the administration? What has been the previous practice with “czars” of this sort? Do they report directly to the Guv? Where does their staff come from, their budget?

  22. Doug Says:

    The Google News archive is a bit thin, but as far as I can tell, Kaulana Park worked out of the Governor’s Office (and, as such, was funded from that budget) when he served in this post under the Lingle administration.

  23. Michael Says:

    “Now, there are many, many people in the world,
    but relatively few with whom we interact, and
    even fewer who cause us problems. So, when you
    come across such a chance for practicing patience
    and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude.
    It is rare. Just as having unexpectedly found a
    treasure in your own house, you should be happy
    and grateful to your enemy for providing that
    precious opportunity.”

    ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

  24. hipoli Says:

    I actually anticipate a couple more of these ‘Czar’-type appointments to come out of the Govs office in days or months to come. Probably after he gets his EA that he and the LG are seeking.

    I suggest we all reserve ‘judgement’ (not that Marc Alexander ever did) until he has a chance to do the job for which he is now appointed. Former priest or not, I welcome a person who will have the access to the Gov and will represent him on this and other important issues.

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