Readers of the book Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest knew the 2011 work’s author only as “Anonymous” until last week. Fr. Gary Meier has come out as the author of the book, which is being re-released to include his name.
Hidden Voices is introduced with an explanation of why the author published it in 2011:
“This book is for all those who are being or have been driven away. And that’s not just the gay population; it’s all of those who have accepted a member of their family, all of those who have allied as friends.”
In U.S. Catholic, Fr. Meier spoke about his decision to now go public as a gay priest:
“‘It has been difficult to remain part of a hierarchy that has been so hostile towards homosexuals in recent years… Our church once stood for and represented the radical nature of God’s love for all people. That is not the true today – especially towards the LGBT community – and therefore I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those Catholics who have lost their jobs, have been denied the sacraments, have been excommunicated or who have been made to feel “less than” by their church leaders because of who they love.'”
Fr. Meier is a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, which responded ambiguously in a statement after the priest’s gay and literary identity was made public. The statement called on Fr. Meier to become an example for those who “struggle” with “same-sex attraction.” U.S. Catholic notes this limited acceptance might change as the story spreads:
“Regardless of what the archdiocese says, the floodgates are likely to open and Meier will undoubtedly receive some harsh criticism from many in the church. Some will probably call for him to be dismissed from the priesthood or banned from public ministry.”
Terence Weldon at Queering the Church helpfully sets Fr. Meier’s coming out within the broader context of gay Catholic priests today, and he addresses the archdiocese’s urging for him to be a ‘model’:
“In the Catholic Church, there is likewise a high proportion of gay priests…a slowly increasing trickle of priests are coming out, acknowledging their orientation, and publicly identifying as gay – but also insisting on their celibacy…The number of Catholic priests who have come out publicly is still minute – but very many more have at least begun the process. Many of them will continue, taking it further. In years to come, openly gay priests will not be anywhere near as rare as they are today…
“In the Catholic Church, the orthodox teaching is crystal clear that to be homosexual is entirely natural and not in any way sinful – but this message is often obscured, so that young people do not receive it, experiencing instead only the perception of outright rejection. What better way can there be, to demonstrate emphatically that gay people truly are welcome in the Church than to have one of us at the altar, as celebrant?…
“The more that priests like Fr Meier, and other gay and lesbian Catholics, can come out and demonstrate the value for ourselves in obeying the Catechism, and integrating our sexuality into our personalities, the easier it will be for younger people who grappling with these issues to deal with them.”
For his part, Fr. Meier looks forward hopefully with the release of Hidden Voices ascribed to him, which he admits on his personal website is uncharted territory:
“I am not sure where exactly any of this will lead. It is a huge leap of faith and to be perfectly honest with you, very frightening. I know that while many will celebrate and be grateful for this publication, others will be angry and upset and feel as if I am betraying the church. I have no such intention. I am just a man trying to live a life of integrity and speak the truth that God has given me to speak.”
To hear more from Fr. Meier himself, views this YouTube video from Rising Voices:
New Ways Ministry applauds Fr. Gary Meier for his courage in writing Hidden Voices and coming out now as an openly gay Catholic priest, and we send our prayers as this leap of faith begins to unfold further.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry