EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Father Gary Meier, In His Own Words

May 28, 2013

Father Gary Meier

Father Gary Meier

Last week, we reported on the story of Fr. Gary Meier, a St. Louis archdiocese priest who came out as gay by publishing a memoir, Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest. 

Since that post, Fr. Gary has published a reflection on HuffingtonPost.com, which explains his decision to come out at this time.  He has also appeared on HuffPost Live.  

In addition, Bondings 2.0 asked Fr. Gary to answer questions about his experience, and he has responded affirmatively.  The exclusive interview follows.

The Interview:  Father Gary Meier

What is different about your life now that you are known publicly as a gay priest?

Being known as a gay priest is not that much different than when I wasn’t known as such.  What’s different is the response I’m getting from all over.  My story has gone viral on the Huffington Post and the attention that story created is different for sure.  I’ve been hearing from people all over who have been suffering in silence and who feel rejected.  They feel betrayed by a church they have supported for years – a church that will not support them – it is so incredibly sad.    

How did you come to the decision about coming out? Why did you decide to do this at this particular point in your life?

The decision to come out was made through years of prayer, spiritual direction and reflection.  It was not an easy or short process.  Why now?  As I told a reporter recently, “Why not now?”  Saint Catherine of Siena once said, “Speak the truth as if you had a thousand voices.  It is silence that kills the world.”  So, why not now?  I do feel some shame and embarrassment that I didn’t speak sooner.

How have fellow priests responded to your decision? How have lay people responded?

Both lay people and priests have been incredibly supportive of my decisions and actions.  It is amazing.  In the first few days, I received more than a hundred communications – all of which were supportive with the exception of two – just two!  That’s insane!  I realize that this has only just begun, but I didn’t expect such an outpouring of support.  The emails and communications that have come to me directly have been overwhelmingly supportive. 

 What has been the biggest surprise or most unexpected thing to happen to you since making your announcement?

The fact that this story is viral on the Huffington Post has surprised me.  But to me, that simply affirms that because our church is unwilling to have a discussion about this topic, when someone starts a conversation, people want to be heard.  The other surprise has been some of the emails I’ve gotten.  The atmosphere of silence and shame that our church has created regarding homosexuality is bigger than I thought and the pain we have caused is real.

What can lay people do to help more gay priests come out of the closet?

Let them know they are loved and supported.  It has been truly a blessing to have had so many lay people I’ve ministered to in the past 15 years be so incredibly supportive.  We don’t have to make this journey alone.  There are lots of people who will support us and stand with us.

Do you expect any retribution to come from your announcement?

I keep getting the question, “what do you expect?”  And to be honest with you, I don’t have any expectations.  I know I am not willing to ‘recant’ my position or my beliefs.  I suppose we have to wait and see.

If you had the opportunity to advise the pope about gay priests, what would you tell him?

We are here!  We’ve always been here and it’s time to for a new understanding regarding homosexuality and what it means to love and to be loved.

How do you think our church would change if more gay priests came out? How do you think your personal ministry will change?

The church will dramatically change if every gay priest came out.  But I’ve also come to understand that coming out as ‘gay’ is one thing.  Coming out as gay and pro-gay is another.  While I don’t know where my personal ministry is going to take me, I do know that advocacy for the LGBT community will be part of it. 

Do you plan to be more involved with Catholic LGBT issues?

Yes

How can people get a copy of your book?

You can find the book on amazon.com and kindle.  You can also borrow the book through kindle.  Or, go to my website www.fathergary.com and click on the amazon logo. Or click the following link: http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Voices-Reflections-Catholic-Priest/dp/1484106792/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369340840&sr=8-1&keywords=gary+meier .

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Another Church Musician Is Let Go Because He Is Gay

May 22, 2013

In what seems to be developing into a national trend, another church worker has been forced out of his job when it was learned that he is gay. (A list of recent incidents involving LGBT people being dismissed from church jobs is below my signature at the end of this blog post.)

Nick Johns

Nick Johns

Nick Johns, who was organist at St. Brigid Church, Alpharetta, Georgia, said that the pastor, Fr. Joshua Allen, suspended him after a parishioner made complaints based on items viewed on Johns’ private Facebook page.

The GA Voice reports:

“ ‘One of the parishioners there was trolling on my Facebook and brought in a couple of pictures of me and my fiance and maybe some of the things I was saying in support of marriage equality,’ Johns said.”

In the news story, and on a blog post that Johns put up to let family, friends, and parishioners know what happened, the musician explains that under the former pastor, his orientation was not a problem:

“Johns came out in 2011, while he was working with another church, he said. When he was hired at Saint Brigid, he was determined to be open about his sexual orientation. But his openness may have cost him his job.

“A meeting with the man who hired him, Monsignor David Talley, followed to discuss his personal Facebook page.

“ ‘We had a meeting to talk about it and he was saying he didn’t care that I was gay because one of his childhood best friends turned out to be gay and they’re still best friends. We were talking about making my profile private. I didn’t know it wasn’t private. I made it private and that was the end of it for a long time,’ Johns told GA Voice.”

When Johns appealed the suspension, he had a meeting with the pastor, and he was given a choice to either be fired or to resign.  He resigned, explaining:

“I’m trying to find another organist position and I figured it would be easier if I wasn’t fired from my previous job.”

Since the dismissal, a new pastor has been appointed for the parish:

“Since Johns’ suspension, Saint Brigid has hired a full-time replacement pastor, meaning the man who fired him is no longer in charge. But Johns doesn’t think he would go back, even under the new leadership.”

When I think of all the LGBT people employed by the Catholic Church in the U.S., most of whom minister while keeping their sexual orientations secret, I can’t help but  see this policy of firing pastoral workers as anything but the institution shooting itself in the foot.  Yes,  it is true that these are discriminatory acts against LGBT people.  Because they are discriminatory, such acts are to be condemned.

At the same time, it strikes me as self-defeating for the institutional church to keep damaging itself by firing competent ministers.  The institutional homophobia is clouding good judgement.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Recent stories of LGBT people dismissed from church positions:

April 17, 2012: Lesbian Teacher Fired for Listing Her Partner’s Name in Her Mother’s Obituary

April 4, 2012: Long Island Gay Catholic Expelled from Parish Ministries for Marrying

January 9, 2013: Transgender Teacher Sues Catholic School Over Firing

September 25, 2012: Fired New Zealand Teacher’s Final and Most Powerful Lesson

August 22, 2012: Catholic John Doe Fears for His Church Job Because of Marriage Equality Contribution

June 28, 2012: Fired Minnesota Catholic School Teacher Calls for Dialogue on Marriage Equality

May 5, 2012:  Excluding Lesbian and Gay Church Workers from Employment

April 29, 2012:  “Whodunit” Surrounds Decision to Disinvite Gay Alum from Commencement

March 1, 2012: Is It Possible to Find Hope in This Week’s Painful News?

February 12, 2012:  Church Music Director Fired For Marrying His Partner of 23 Years


QUOTE TO NOTE: Vatican Official on Civil Unions

May 14, 2013

computer_key_Quotation_MarksArchbishop Vincent Paglia, the head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on the Family, was recently interviewed by National Catholic Reporter’s  John Allen, who asked the prelate to clarify his recent statements which supported civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.  Though some commentators felt that Paglia had retracted his support,  his comments in the Allen interview indicate that he continues to back civil unions. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

“ALLEN: Speaking of private law, you recently created a small media frenzy by suggesting that nations could find “private law solutions” to protect the rights of unmarried couples, potentially including gays and lesbians. In some quarters, that was seen as softening the Vatican’s line on gay marriage at a time when bishops in various countries are trying to resist a push for it. Did you learn anything from that episode?

“PAGLIA: Yes, that I have to be more careful in how I talk about these things, and more aware that words can be derailed. You may think they’re going to take you to the station, but in reality they can carry you to the edge of a cliff! But to make clear to you what I actually meant at the time, I proposed what the church has maintained: it is a matter of [protecting] individual rights. Facing the explosion in various forms of living together today, I simply called on states to find solutions which help people and avoid abuses.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


“Love Is Never a Sin. God is Love.”

February 22, 2013

Three days ago, we posted about Bishop Charles Scicluna of Malta expressing respect for the love of gay and lesbian couples.  Thanks to one of our readers, today we are able to provide video of an interview with Bishop Scicluna.  Though he clearly does not endorse marriage for gay and lesbian couples, he does show a pastoral sensitivity to the human relationships of same-gender couples that few bishops exhibit.   Towards the end of the interview, he explains the hierarchy’s use of the term “disorder” to describe sexual orientation.  Again, while his definition is not overwhelmingly positive, he does remove from the term any connotation of stigma and mental illness.  He also categorically states that people should not use the word “evil” to talk about gay and lesbian people.

Perhaps his most affirming sentences of the interview:  “Love is never a sin.  God is love.”

You can view the short interview here:

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Who Does Your Marriage Influence?

September 26, 2012

 

Kevin Fisher-Paulson

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has instituted a series of radio advertisements promoting marriage.  Part of the advertisements’ message asked married couples how many people are influenced by their marriages.

In a commentary on KQED radio, Kevin Fisher-Paulson, who is a captain with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, felt that this is exactly the type of question that needs to be asked:

“You know what? They got this right. Lots of people are affected by my marriage.

“I’m not talking about Catholic marriage, where 40 percent end in divorce. I’m talking about my own gay marriage.”

Kevin, who married his partner, Brian, in California in 2008 during the short period of time when marriage equality existed in the state, provided an interesting answer to the question:

“Brian and I got married, without blessing of either church or law, 25 years ago this month. And in those years, we have fostered medically at risk triplets, nursed friends dying of AIDS, helped friends detox from heroin, taken in rescue dogs and adopted drug-exposed, multi-racial foster children. None of my or Brian’s brothers is still with his first wife, but Brian and I have stood together, for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health. And that has affected the way that our friends look at gay men and their ability to commit.”

Kevin, like many Catholics, hopes for the day when both state and church recognize the commitments of lesbian and gay couples.  He states:

“In the meantime, my husband and I attend Most Holy Redeemer, that gay-friendly church in the Castro, so the rest of the Church can see how many people are affected by our marriage.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 


NEWS NOTES: January 20, 2011

January 20, 2012

Here are links to some items you might find of interest:

1) FOLLOW-UP TO RECENT POSTS:

a) We posted earlier this week about Catholic University students protesting   a campus visit by Cardinal George.   MetroWeekly.com, a Washington, DC, gay newspaper, has provided further detail about the action in a story entitled “Protesting Through Prayer:  Catholic University’s LGBT students, allies protest Cardinal George’s comments on homosexuality.”

b) Yesterday we posted about Fr. Mike Tegeder, “A Priest of Integrity,” who is speaking out for marriage equality in Minnesota, despite a gag order on priests from the archbishop.  Tom Roberts, editor of The National Catholic Reporter, supports Fr. Tegeder in his column, “Despite threat, pastor holds his ground over marriage amendment.”

2)  The website OpposingViews.com offers a column: “Most Catholics Support Same-Sex Marriage, While Church Stifles Dissent.”

3) As background for Maryland’s debate about marriage equality, The Washington Blade, D.C.’s gay newspaper,  interviews Delegate Peter Murphy, an openly gay man who identifies as Catholic:  “Md. gay delegate speaks out on marriage, family.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


NEWS NOTES: January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012

Here are links to some articles you might find of interest:

1) If you ever get into a discussion about whether lesbian/gay couples make good parents, you probably should read “Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says” by Stephanie Pappas on HuffingtonPost.com.  This information can come in handy when the topic of Catholic adoption agencies forbidding lesbian/gay couples to be parents comes up.

2) Waymon Hudson looks forward to Chicago’s Gay Pride parade, not in spite of but because of, the recent flap over Cardinal George’s insensitive comments.  Read “Gays and Catholics: It’s about leadership” on RedEyeChicago.com.

3) “Religious Leaders Debut New Tactic on Marriage” by Chuck Colbert on MetroWeekly.com examines the recent anti-equality statement signed by four Catholic bishops, and reactions to it.

4) In Canada, the debate about what to name gay-straight alliances in state-funded Catholic schools has reached part of a decision as “Board says no to ‘gay-straight alliances.’ “  Teri Pecoskie reports on the controversial decision on TheSpec.com.

5) DignityUSA’s Marianne Duddy-Burke is interviewed on a local radio show about the pope’s recent anti-marriage equality statement.  For excerpts and to listen to an audio file of the interview, visit “Gay Catholic Group Responds to Pope’s Homophobic Comments” on HuffingtonPost.com

6) Why are politically conservative evangelicals backing the overtly Catholic Rick Santorum in the Republican presidential candidates’ race?  Is it just because of his opposition to marriage equality?  Mary C. Curtis tries to tease out this puzzler in “Rick Santorum endorsement: An evangelical-Catholic truce or marriage of convenience?” on WashingtonPost.com’s blog, “She The People.”

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


When Courage Fails

January 5, 2012

A recent news report that the Archdiocese of Hartford will be instituting a “Courage” support group for lesbian and gay people has me reflecting on the approach that Courage takes to LGBT ministry.

Courage is a national organization with local chapters.  It was founded in 1980 by Fr. John Harvey, OSFS; its main purpose is to help lesbian and gay people maintain a celibate life, in accordance with magisterial teaching.

There are many reasons why people have objected to Courage groups.  Some say that the ministry’s approach treats homosexuality as a psychological defect.  Others object that Courage often uses a 12-step spirituality approach to homosexuality, thus treating it as something akin to an addiction.  Some point out that Courage groups have often veered off into the areas of reparative therapy or conversion ministry (i.e., trying to change one’s orientation to heterosexual) even though this approach was never sanctioned by Fr. Harvey. Still others observe that Courage does not take a positive attitude toward committed, loving sexual relationships.

The main problem I see with the Courage ministry is that it primarily views lesbian/gay people in terms of sexual activity.  This approach does not consider lesbian/gay people as whole people, but narrowly defines them in terms of sex.

Lesbian/Gay people are so much more than their sexuality, and ministry with them should address the totality of their lives.  For example, lesbian/gay people  have often suffered alienation, marginalization, and oppression, and these factors need to be addressed, too.  They are also people who have come to a remarkable and wondrous discovery about themselves that is very different from the majority of the population–a difference which should be celebrated.  Lesbian/Gay people may have experienced harsh messages from church authorities which may have affected their relationship with God which may need healing.  Most importantly, lesbian/Gay people have spiritual gifts which they long to bring to the church community, so ministry with them could focus on opportunities for them to share these gifts.

In short, a ministry which primarily focuses on the possibility of sexual activity is a very stunted ministry.    It is a model of ministry which ignores a great deal about the human person and how they can be integrated into a community.

Because of their emphasis on celibacy, Courage’s leaders often claim that they are fully in accord with magisterial teaching.  Not so.  In the Vatican’s “Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” pastoral ministers are reminded

“The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, can hardly be adequately described by a reductionist reference to his or her sexual orientation.”

Courage’s emphasis on sexual behavior violates this principle by reducing people not only to their sexual orientation, but reducing them even further to consider them in terms of possible sexual activity.  This kind of thinking violates another important pastoral principle, articulated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their letter, Always Our Children:

“Do not presume that all homosexual persons are sexually active.”

Many parishes and faith communities have adopted a more integrated approach to lesbian/gay ministry than Courage does.  New Ways Ministry maintains  lists of  these gay-friendly parishes and gay-friendly Catholic college campuses which follow this healthy and holy path of outreach. Models of ministry which consider the totality of  the life of  lesbian/gay people offer a better, more effective invitation to life in the Christian community than the Courage model offers.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


The Best of 2011: The Year in Review, Part 2

December 31, 2011

Yesterday, we posted “The Worst of 2011,” listing the worst of the negative LGBT Catholic news from the past year.  As promised, today we offer the “The Best of 2011″ for the same topic.

As you will see when you compare these lists, the “best” outweigh the “worst,” making 2011 a pretty good year for LGBT Catholics and those who support them.

The Best of 2011 in LGBT Catholic News

1)  According to a Public Religion Research Institute report, the majority of  U.S. Catholics support justice and equality initiatives for LGBT people, including legal rights for lesbian/gay committed couples.

2) Marriage equality becomes law in New York, the largest state yet to make marriage legal for lesbian/gay couples.  Passage of the law is credited to Catholic Governor Andrew Cuomo, who strongly supported the bill despite strong opposition from the state’s Catholic hierarchy.

3) Equally Blessed, a coalition of four Catholic organizations that work for LGBT justice and equality (Call To Action, DignityUSA, Fortunate Families, New Ways Ministry), sponsors the first-ever Congressional briefing on Catholic support for LGBT issues.  Scores of congressional staffers attend the event on Capitol Hill, Washington, DC.

4) Bishop Joseph Sullivan of Brooklyn, NY, publishes an op-ed essay in the Buffalo News on Catholic outreach to LGBT  people.

5) The “More Than A Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church” conference series is held four different college campuses, two of them Catholic:  Fordham University, Union Theological Seminary, Yale University, Fairfield University.

6) Georgetown University’s LGBTQ Resource Center receives a $1 million donation from former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his wife, Chandler.

7) The students at DePaul University, the largest Catholic university in the nation, elect their first openly gay student body president, Anthony Alfano.

8) When a Boston-area parish elementary school bars admission to the child of a lesbian couple, the Boston archdiocese overturns this decision and institutes a non-discrimination policy.

9) Marquette University institutes domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff.

10) A report on the sexual abuse crisis from John Jay College states that gay priests were not the cause of the crisis, and that homosexuality is not linked to pedophilia.

11) The Los Angeles Archdiocese celebrates 25 years of its Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Catholics program.

12) The Bishops of England and Wales support civil partnership laws for lesbian/gay couples.

13) Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo, Mexico, vows to continue his LGBT outreach after he was called to the Vatican to discuss his program.

14) Though marriage equality does not pass in Maryland, the bill is introduced by Catholic Senator Robert Garagiola, is supported by numerous Catholic legislators and the Catholic Governor Martin O’Malley.  When it is announced that the bill will be introduced again in the next session, O’Malley plans to work harder for its passage.

15)  DignityUSA hosts its biennial convention, featuring television personality Phil Donahue as a speaker.

16) New Ways Ministry publishes a new book, Marriage Equality: A Positive of  Catholic Approach, and quickly runs out of its first printing.   New Ways also sponsors a conference day in Maryland on marriage equality.  Later in the year, New Ways Ministry institutes a blog to cover LGBT Catholic news, Bondings 2.0  (you’re reading it now!)

Some analysis

2011 may well be seen as a turning point year in the Catholic LGBT movement due to the many positive things that have occurred.

A definite trend to watch is how much positive movement there is on Catholic college campuses in this area.  As we know, young people are much more inclined to accept LGBT people, so campuses are responding in the same spirit.

Another trend I notice is that politicians, even Catholic ones, no longer fear the wrath of the hierarchy on issues like marriage equality.  One reason for this is probably that political leaders are becoming aware that Catholic are more positive on LGBT issues.  Another reason that is true for Catholic politicians, though, is that they are starting to support marriage equality because of their Catholic faith, not in spite of it.  Many of their statements use Catholic social justice teaching to back up their pro-marriage equality positions.

Yesterday I pointed out that all the items on the “worst” list involved bishops.  What I noticed as I put together this “best” list is that bishops figure prominently in some of these events, signaling that there is hope for change in the hierarchy of the Catholic church.

What do you think?  Did we miss some positive events that you thought worthy of the list?  Do you notice any other trends in the past year?

Here are some other year-end round-ups that, while not on LGBT  Catholic issues, might be of interest:

Advocate.com: 14 Reasons That Made 2011 Great for Trans People

New York Times Blog: In California, 2011 Was a Good Year for Causes of Gays

HuffingtonPost.com: Pro-LGBT Christian Voices Take Center Stage in 2011: The Top 10 (though I have to wonder why, given the wealth of stories listed above, that no Catholic story made this list)

WashingtonPost.com On Faith Blog: The 11 Most Important Religion and Politics Findings of 2011

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


Homeless for the Holidays

December 17, 2011

“LGBT kids are eight times more likely than straight youth to be homeless,” said Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.

Siciliano is quoted in a story on abcnews.go.com entitled “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Kids Struggle on the Streets.”

The statistics in the ABC-TV report boggle the mind:

“Resources for homeless LGBT youth are scarce and shelters are at capacity, especially in New York City where the Ali Forney Center estimates 3,800 youth are homeless, about 1,600 of them LGBT. But they have only 250 beds for youth . . ., and state and city funding has been drying up.”

“About 20 to 40 percent of youth who leave home . . . to live on the streets identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.”

“In one study, 26 percent of teens who came out to their parents were told they must leave home. Others said they were physically, sexually or emotionally abused. The task force added that LGBT youth also reported that they are threatened, belittled and abused at shelters, not only by other residents, but by staff, as well. “

Can you send a donation to a homeless shelter that works with LGBT youth?  Can you get your parish, or some committee or group in your parish, to raise funds for such a place? The report says that besides the Ali Forney Center in New York, there are only two other such shelters:  the Ruth Ellis Center, Detroit, and the Jeff Griffith Center, part of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. While these are the only shelters, many other cities offer services and programs for homeless LGBT youth.  The Ali Forney Center’s website provides a list of resources around the country.

If you want to do something locally and no shelter exists in your area, you can donate to an LGBT youth support program near you.  All major cities, and even most smaller ones, have such a place which helps to prevent young people from ending up in perilous situations.

We’re coming close to Christmas, a time when giving to charities that work with youth is an especially meaningful thing to do.  If we want our church to change, we have to start the change on the grassroots level.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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