Fired New Jersey Priest Asks Pope Francis to Defend LGBT Church Workers

HalltoFrancis_FinalA priest fired for opposing anti-gay bullying has written to Pope Francis, asking the pontiff to stem the expulsion of LGBT church workers which has harmed the U.S. Catholic Church for the past several years.

Fr. Warren Hall’s letter comes two months before Pope Francis makes his inaugural visit to the United States, where more than fifty church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related public incidents since 2008. In the July 14th letter, reported on by Religion News Service, Hall writes:

“I ask that…you find time to listen to the challenges faced by LGBT people, especially those who are Catholic and wish to remain part of the Church they have grown up in, which they love, and yet which it seems is alienating them more and more. Good teachers are being fired, pastoral and compassionate priests and religious women are being silenced and accept it out of fear of being disciplined by their superiors, and good, faith-filled people are leaving the Church as they witness to all of this happening. As a gay priest, I am personally experiencing all of these things.”

Hall himself was fired as the chaplain at Seton Hall University in New Jersey for posting a photo of himself with the “NOH8” logo on Facebook. He later came out as gay himself, saying he had to be honest with himself and with others, especially his students. Newark’s Archbishop John Myers has not reassigned Fr. Hall, leaving the priest without an income and “unduly punished,” according to Hall.

But Hall is hopeful that Pope Francis, famous for his “Who am I to judge?” comment might create change during his visit and stop LGBT people from being forced out of the church by the decisions of some leaders:

” ‘He could more strongly offer the message that this is your church, too. You are welcome here . . .He could at least help to slow down the firings. . .and help everyone sit back and take a breath. Perfection is our goal, but no one’s there. How can we move forward together for the kingdom?’ “

When Pope Francis visits Philadelphia, he will visit a local church wounded by the recent firing of lesbian minister Margie Winters. Archbishop Charles Chaput said he is grateful that Winters was expelled by the Sisters of Mercy, but Catholics nationwide have expressed their widespread disagreement with the discriminatory act. Winters’ wife has written to Pope Francis herself.

Another Philadelphia area gay teacher, Michael Griffin, was fired in 2014.

Pope Francis’ agenda will be exceedingly full as he addresses Catholics gathered for the World Meeting of Families, in addition to the United Nations, and the U.S. Congress. Yet, two years after his much celebrated “Who am I to judge?” remark about gay priests, it is time for the pontiff to act on his words.

The U.S. visit is a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis to demonstrate that he does not judge and that he stands with Fr. Warren Hall and the many good, faithful, and committed LGBT church workers who are facing discrimination. To remain silent about these church worker firings is to remain silent in the face of scandalous injustice, a silence undercuts the sincerity of Pope Francis’ previous words.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

7 thoughts on “Fired New Jersey Priest Asks Pope Francis to Defend LGBT Church Workers

  1. Jerry Baumeister, PhD July 23, 2015 / 2:58 pm

    The more stories I read or hear about LGBT people being fired for who they are is distressing. I keep asking myself WHY do I stay in such a church that is anything but Christian, when there are so many other churches that will accept me for me.

    • jono113 July 23, 2015 / 6:18 pm

      Good question. Pray over it.

    • Friends July 23, 2015 / 9:47 pm

      Jerry, what occurs to me is that Jesus Himself remained essentially a Rabbi (or “Teacher”) within the Jewish tradition into which He was born. He was not “a practicing Catholic”! The Gospels tell us that He was teaching in the Temple at age 12. Sometimes we forget this plain historical fact. Why did He do so? Because a.) those were His chosen and most favored people, and b.) because that is where the ground for proclaiming the Word of His Father ought to have been most fertile. Only when He was, in Handel’s poignant Scriptural words, “despised and rejected” by His own people, did He undertake the mission of proclaiming the Good News to the Gentiles. It’s something to think about, when we wrestle with the hateful behavior of the “Red Beanie” cohort — whose behavior seems more and more to resemble that of the Pharisees, who were, in effect, God’s worst enemies. There are indeed some Christian leaders who appear to “get the Heavenly message” much more clearly than the Red Beanie Pharisees do. Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu is one divinely inspired Church leader whose good work comes to mind. All I can suggest is that each of us feels called to go where we believe we can do THE MOST GOOD in proclaiming the Teachings of Jesus. The field is vast, and the need is great. There’s clearly enough good work to keep ALL professing Christians occupied for an entire lifetime — and then some! I hope these thoughts are useful and helpful to you.

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