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A New Outing Website

Jim Burroway

November 18th, 2009

What Mike Rogers has been doing with closeted gay politicians who work against the gay community, Phil Attey wants to do to gay priests

Every Sunday, for generations, hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian American Catholic youth are told in church, they need to be ashamed of who they are and are deemed to live loveless lives as social and religious abominations.   The emotional, psychological and spiritual pain inflicted on them by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is more damaging than any level of physical or sexual child abuse that is quickly condemned in our society.  

More shameful is that this abuse is being inflicted by men, many of whom are gay themselves, leading  closeted lives of self-persecution and quiet desperation.

Most shameful, is that many of these priests, while remaining silent, lead dual lives filled with romantic and sexual relationships.

There’s a fine line between legitimate investigation and waging a public vigilante campaign. Rogers carefully collects testimony and eyewitness accounts, checks details, demands corroboration, and then only goes public once he know he’s on solid ground (he does have legal liability to consider) and is dealing with a politician who us actively working or voting against the LGBT community. In my opinion, that’s the difference between conducting an honest investigation of corruption and dishonesty versus waging a public vigilante campaign. If I hope this web site facilitates the former and not the latter, and that’s what it appears to be set up to do.

But if it ends up outing gay priests without regard to what they preach or whether they act against the LGBT community, then that would be a problem because the Vatican is already working that beat.

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Ben in Oakland
November 18th, 2009 | LINK

regarding the link “working that beat”… something I wrote to the Chrnicle on That Very Subject in 2000.

Dear editor:

I read the front page article, “AIDS said to kill hundreds of priests”, first with interest, and then with growing anger. There is too much in it to let it pass as just another “foibles of the church” article.

According to the article, “hundreds of Roman Catholic priests across the country are dying from AIDS related illnesses, and the cause is often concealed on their death certificates. (This) has forced the..church to acknowledge that a significant number of its clergy are gay…(They) cited the case of Bishop Moore, (who) died in a hospice of an AIDS-related illness. His death certificate attributed the death to unknown natural causes and listed his occupation as laborer in the manufacturing industry… Some priests believe that the Church has scared priests into silence by treating homosexuality as an abomination and the breaking of celibacy vows as shameful.”

Let us examine first the moral, and then the theological implications, of this story.

1) The priests who have gotten HIV from sex, whether from women or from men, have broken solemn vows regarding chastity and celibacy which they made, if not to God, at least in God’s name. In that they didn’t stop this behavior, but hid it until AIDS made it impossible to hide any longer, they have lied about it to the church and to the people. Those priests having sex with men are demonstrating that they have within them what the Pope has been pleased to call “intrinsic moral evil.” And they knew it. Liars and hypocrites.

I realize that they are only human, but to see the church’s capacity to forgive it’s own for being “only human”, especially when it’s to the advantage of the church to do so, but to condemn gay people, especially the secular and non-Christian, continually for the same offense, is sickening. The example of the former Archbishop of Santa Rosa, who had a consensual (his word!) affair with a priest, is a very clear example of this. But that is only the beginning.

2) The Church is aware that a significant portion of its clergy is gay, and has hidden this fact. (Father John McNeill stated it publicly some 20 years ago, and I remember articles in the local papers on that subject). What staggering hypocrisy! And of course, someone had to collude with the authorities to falsify a death certificate, which I believe is a criminal offense. It’s also a lie, and hypocrisy.

3) Of course priests are not speaking out about it, but it probably has more to do with fear of losing their jobs and the place they have in the community than it does with the church’s official attitude. That’s called being in the closet, something that many gay people have to suffer every day, courtesy of the Church. I’m sure that one could find 500 gay priests. And what if they were to stand up and say to the Pope: “You’ve got 500 ordained queers standing here”. We might start having a really serious, honest discussion about homosexuality in religion and in our society. But they won’t. They’ll just go along with the program, like good Germans. What enormous hypocrisy, monumental dishonesty, and a total lack of integrity. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” Indeed!

Those are just the moral implications of this. The theological implications are truly momentous. Per the article, the Church knows that a significant number of its priesthood is homosexual, a condition it no longer considers morally neutral, and that a significant percentage of those priests are sexually active. The Pope calls homosexuality an intrinsic moral evil, something mostly immutable and inherent. This is not filching pennies from the collection basket.

1) These people who have intrinsic moral evil– and I don’t believe any other sin has ever achieved that status, flying as it does in the face of everything I have ever read about the nature of sin and free will– are handling the Blood and Body of Jesus with the Church’s knowledge and blessing. They are also dispensing the other sacraments, especially the sacrament of marriage, which the Church feels is not a gift from God to all of his children, but only the ones the church has decided are worthy of it.

2) One does not become a priest by seeing the Holy Recruiter down at the mall, thinking that it looks like a good job, and filling out an application. To become a priest one must have a vocation, literally a calling to God, which is a charisma, a gift from God. Without this, one CANNOT be a priest. The church goes through a lengthy process to ascertain that candidates do have a genuine vocation, because many do not. The candidate must go through a tremendous amount of religious and psychological evaluation. And only after that may they be ordained.

We must conclude then that God is calling gay men to the priesthood, that they must have a favored place in church and society. Apparently, God does not share the church’s view on homosexuality, as the Church itself is certifying that these people have the gift from God. To then condemn gay people as intrinsically, morally disordered, and not worthy to receive the sacrament of marriage to another of God’s children, is either rank hypocrisy or stupefying blindness. Their certification process, which leads to ordination, is clearly meaningless, because either it cannot recognize God’s clear message, or it is completely bogus. To claim any authority, let alone a place as the sole interpreter of what God wants for humans, especially gay people, is ludicrous.

3) Ordination is a sacrament. I believe that a priest can only be ordained by a bishop. A bishop is further up in the Church hierarchy, and is thus closer to the Fount. (The Pope is officially God’s Viceroy on Earth, about as high as you can go). So, a gay bishop, who can only be ordained by another bishop? What is God saying here? A bishop, acting on God’s will, is conferring a sacrament, a sign of God’s love, on someone who is intrinsically, morally, evil and disordered, according to the church. And let’s not get into this stuff about momentary lapses and fallible human beings. A gift from God is not a fallibility. Being gay has not ever been a momentary lapse, which even the Church admits. Either the Church’s process is unable to distinguish God’s clear will, or the Church hasn’t a clue of what God’s will is. Or maybe the Church really doesn’t have much to do with God at all, but just represents itself.

To grant this authority to either the monumentally clueless or the monumentally hypocritical makes no sense. It makes me ask how this organization came to be the moral judge of anything. Jesus said nothing about homosexuality. But, he did say on numerous occasions that one should not sit in judgment of others.

As the Buddhists put it, if you think you know, you haven’t a clue.

Pender
November 18th, 2009 | LINK

Threethoughts.

First, there is some degree of associative guilt. If you are a Catholic priest, then you pass the plate that funds anti-gay initiatives and propaganda no matter what you preach. You lend legitimacy to and gather funds for an organization that seems to be drifting ever closer to a hate group.

Second, the Church relies on gay people becoming priests. Throughout history, a huge proportion of its clergy have been repressed gay men; who would be more likely to sign up for a life of enforced celibacy than a man whose only romantic desires were (at the time) illegal and unanimously condemned? I think the Church sees the widespread acceptance and normalization of gay men as the death knell to its clergy recruitment efforts, at least in the form that it recognizes. If you out all the gay priests, the Church either has to back down from some of its anti-gay demonization or lose a lot of its staff.

Third, the right to privacy is not an objective law of the universe like gravity. Instead, it is a social bargain: in exchange for not dragging your uncomfortable secrets into the sunlight, you agree not to do the same to mine. We honor it because, in general, the world is a more pleasant place than if we did not honor it. But can anyone honestly claim that the closet makes the world a better place? More starkly, can anyone imagine arguing that allowing anti-gay bigots or their enablers to remain closeted makes the world a better place? For that reason, I don’t think public figures have a right to privacy about whether they are gay, and I think the argument is even stronger for priests (and Mormons, and socially conservative politicians, and people who gave money to Prop 8, etc.). Out them all. Break down the closet.

Ben in Oakland
November 18th, 2009 | LINK

Pender– you’re quite correct. I have long maintained that the problem is not the religious right, the problem is the closet.

Emily K
November 18th, 2009 | LINK

We have to remember also that “Side B” Christians DO exist. There are some gays that truly feel called to celibacy, and engage in this calling responsibly. I believe that there are even priests who are somewhat “out” about their same sex attractions – but clearly, they do not act upon them. A website “outing” these people would be rendered moot; someone owning their “sin” shouldn’t be met with punishment anyway (since “we are all sinners” according to Christian doctrine).

Robert Lentz is a noted iconographer and the creator of several icons significant to the queer community. A Franciscan Friar, he was forced to leave his monastery during the height of the sex abuse scandals – because he was honest about his sexual orientation. His icon of Ss. Sergius and Bacchus is especially great; and he’s made one for Harvey Milk too. See, not all gay priests are evil.

Mike Airhart, TWO
November 18th, 2009 | LINK

Phil Attey is an exceptionally principled activist — even more so than Mike Rogers, imho.

While I don’t support the outing of all closeted gay Catholic priests everywhere, I do in Washington.

That region’s priests have had decades’ worth of opportunities offered to them to either come out or to take constructive and truthful action in defense of LGBT Catholics specifically and sexual-minority families generally.

Those who have not already acted otherwise, are actively supporting the archbishop’s persecution campaign.

In other cities, few opportunities have been offered to closeted clergy, and therefore ought to be given chances to do right, prior to any effort to expose alleged hypocrisy.

johnathan
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

I do take exception to Phil Attey’s assertion that “the emotional, psychological and spiritual pain inflicted on [hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Catholic youth] by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is more damaging than any level of physical or sexual child abuse that is quickly condemned in our society.”

Each individual has a unique experience with the pains — physical, psychological, spiritual, etc. — which he or she encounters during a lifetime, and Phil Attey is not in the position to weigh or compare/contrast the experience / “amount” of one person’s pain versus another.

This is not to minimize the pain of hegemonic heterosexism, rampant homophobia, and sexism rife within the Catholic Church. These pains are very present, and very real for many, many people within the church, as well as for many people who consider themselves “recovering Catholics” — myself included. At the same time, Phil Attey would do well to consider those individuals who underwent actual sexual abuse: are their pains really not just as damaging. I do not believe these people should be passed off in the interest of LGBT advocacy.

Sorry if I am rambling — it is 5:00am. Time for bed.

ZRAinSWVA
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

The Catholic church does not condemn the ‘orientation’, but rather the sexual act. Therefore, the priesthood is actually a seemingly logical vocation, provided that one can maintain the vow of celibacy.

I know, because that was how my father counseled me.

Frankly, the sacrifice that is entailed in devoting oneself to that vocation–while knowing it means never experiencing the closeness of a loving, sexual relationship–is huge, and I’m actually surprised that so many are truly successful with maintaining their vows.

I’m truly torn on this issue.

On the one hand, I have to admire the spiritual strength of those who are successful in maintaining their vows, gay or not. Even though I cannot condone their preaching that I should strive to maintain a similar state of purity, I don’t think this warrants outing them.

On the other hand, if they are not maintaining their vows–especially if repeated–then, yes, they are liars and morally corrupt. I would hope they would have the moral strength to recognize their failure and leave the priesthood. If not, they should be outed.

How tortured they must be, all the time.

The untold story to-date, though, is the number of lesbians who are nuns. I know two ex-nuns who are lesbian, and I just have to wonder how many more are hiding in the closets of the nunneries.

Ben in Oakland
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

There was a book aobut 20 years ago concerning lesbian nuns. Caused a major furor, not becuase it wasn’t true, but becuase it opened a closet door. Can’t remmeber the title– Breaking the silence?– but probably not.

Richard W. Fitch
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

Ben – You’ve got the right title: Lesbian Nuns, Breaking the Silence. (1986) by Rosemary Curb.

Pender
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

ZRAinSWVA: You’re incorrect under current Church doctrine. According to today’s Church, being gay is an “intrinsic disorder” whether or not you act on it, and merely having the attraction is enough in theory to be barred from the priesthood. There was a time when Benedict was talking about how he wanted to retain psychiatrists to root out the gay clergy applicants so they could be disqualified. The psychiatrists wouldn’t play ball, but it shows you where Benedict’s heart is on the matter.

ZRAinSWVA
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

Pender, you are correct. As a recovering Catholic, I haven’t kept current with changes in Catholic doctrine, and my dad’s counsel occurred many years ago. The offending directive from those who claim divine authority can be found here

William
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

I must agree with Johnathan that it’s reckless to claim that “the emotional, psychological and spiritual pain inflicted on [hundreds of thousands of gay and lesbian Catholic youth] by Catholic priests and our church hierarchy is MORE damaging than any level of physical or sexual child abuse that is quickly condemned in our society.”

What I would say, however, is that both homophobic and paedophilic abuse are liable to have very similar effects on the lives of those who are subjected to them, causing psychological and emotional injuries from which it may take many years to recover. The homophobic and the paedophilic abuser have much in common; indeed, they can even be the same person.

I do believe that there are many gay Roman Catholic priests who ought not to be priests, but who feel trapped in the priesthood, and I feel extremely sorry for them. I understand how this can happen, and I think that the benighted teaching of the RC Church on both celibacy and homosexuality is largely, if not wholly, to blame.

Let’s look at it this way. You’re a gay Catholic adolescent. As you enter puberty you realise that the interest in, and attraction to, the other sex which your peers are displaying is something that simply isn’t happening to you. Oh well, you tell yourself, I must be a late developer, and you wait patiently for so-called “normal” feelings to develop. They don’t. Instead, you find that all the people who erotically attract you are people of your own sex. You had never expected this! You try to ignore it. You start to have sexual dreams, as all adolescent boys do; but all your dreams are about other guys. You may try to kill these attractions by devoting an increasing amount of time to prayer, attending Mass, saying the rosary etc. You go to Confession more frequently. It doesn’t make any difference.

By the time you get into your late teens you start to think more seriously about your future. Your church teaches that your homosexual orientation is “an intrinsically disordered condition” and that any physical expression of it, no matter what the circumstances, is a sin, so if you can’t change your sexuality to make it fit your faith – and you almost certainly can’t, despite the claims of some fringe psychiatrists and of the “ex-gay” cults – then you have to spend the rest of your life with no prospect of a legitimate loving sexual relationship with anyone – a bleak prospect indeed. Life seems to have no purpose. But you can give your lonely life a purpose, as you mistakenly think, by becoming a Catholic priest. In fact, isn’t it obvious that that must be what God is calling you to do? What nobler calling could there be? And since you’ll be celibate, you won’t have to deal with your sexuality at all. Furthermore, if God is really calling you to the priesthood, then clearly you can’t really have this “intrinsically disordered condition” after all, so you can just bury the “issue” for good. But it’s an illusion. It’s rather like shoving an unpaid bill away in a drawer and hoping that it won’t come again.

The above is, I’m sure, a fair summary of the process by which some (or many?) gay Catholic men who have no vocation to the priesthood manage to convince themselves that they do have one.

I understand about this because once, years ago, I started thinking along those lines myself. I just thank God that I didn’t think along them for very long.

Pender
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

I agree with that narrative wholeheartedly, William. But exposing what you described with facts, to the public, would be the best thing we could possibly do for people in that position in the future.

William
November 19th, 2009 | LINK

Yes, Pender, but that’s easier said than done. Exposing the facts to the public may be straightforward enough, but the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church doesn’t want to listen and won’t.

Actually, I think that the Vatican is itself unintentionally providing a solution to the problem, as far as the future is concerned, with its present policies. As someone on another blog put it:

“Removing gay priests a) does nothing to prevent pedophiles from entering the clergy and b) knocks out a wide base of men who might actually be guilted into it.”

The RC bishops have lost much of their credibility by the exposure of their cover-up, over many decades, of sexual abuse by clergy. This means that more and more gay Catholics will think twice about letting the Church hierarchy dictate to them about how they should live their lives. This, combined with the attempt, in so far as it is successful, to ban gays from the priesthood, should mean that increasingly fewer gay Catholics will be “guilted into it”, as the blogger put it.

I might mention that a boyhood friend of mine did actually try the priesthood years ago as a means of copping out of being gay, but he was expelled from the seminary. It was only decades later that I found out what had led him to enter the seminary and why he had been expelled. I think that he had a lucky escape. I’m sure that he thinks so too.

Barbara
November 24th, 2009 | LINK

Individuals who describe themselves as gay are not yelled at from the pulpit every Sunday. The faithful are told that any sexual act outside of marriage is a non-no. Marriage is between a man and a woman for reasons that are well known to Catholics. It’s not something a human being, pope or not, has the power to change.
Any priest in DC who comes out in favor of gay marriage in DC is going to be assumed to have done so in response to blackmail. He’s outing himself
If he stops engaging in homosexual conduct and avoids being outed or he continues and gets outed by Attey. Being outed by Attey gets him sympathy from the Archdioces and his parishoners.

Timothy Kincaid
November 24th, 2009 | LINK

Barbara,

“Individuals who describe themselves as gay”

Huh?

What are you saying here, Barbara? What are “individuals who describe themselves as gay”?

Are you trying to say, as many anti-gay activists do, that gay people really aren’t gay, they just think they are?

You do realize that this evidence of animus and bias only makes what you have to say seem lacking in credibility, don’t you?

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