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


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