Fr. Warren Hall, an openly gay priest who was fired from Seton Hall University last year, has now been suspended from ministry in the Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey, reported Religion News Service.
Hall was informed that his priestly faculties were being revoked because, according to Newark Archbishop John Myers, his actions were”confusing the faithful.” These actions have included support for unofficial LGBT events at World Youth Day this past July, along with support for PFLAG New Jersey, Gays Against Guns, and New Ways Ministry.
Hall has also publicly supported fired lesbian educator Kate Drumgoole, whom Paramus Catholic High School in New Jersey fired last January after her same-gender marriage became known to school officials.
Hall himself was fired as the Seton Hall’s director of campus ministry in May 2015 after posting a NOH8 Campaign photo of himself on social media. He later came out as a gay man, and was assigned to assist at two parishes in New Jersey. Hall commented to RNS:
” ‘The problem is that we have an archbishop who doesn’t believe you can be gay and Catholic. . .Since my firing from Seton Hall and coming out last year I felt an obligation to use this as an opportunity to more directly let people know of God’s love for all of us and that gay Catholics should stay in the church and work for more wider acceptance. . .I do not feel I ever preached or taught anything contrary to the Gospel (and) this is true from my entire 27 years of ordination.’ “
Myers, who turned 75 this year, has already submitted his resignation letter to Pope Francis. Additionally, the Vatican had already assigned a coadjutor to assist him in administering the archdiocese. Both Myers and the Archdiocese are defending their suspension of Fr. Hall as consistent with a priest’s vow of obedience.
The following is the statement of New Ways Ministry’s Executive Director Francis DeBernardo on the suspension of Fr. Warren Hall:
“By all accounts, Fr. Warren Hall has been a caring, compassionate, and faithful Catholic priest. But there’s one more important adjective to describe him: courageous. He has courageously stood by the LGBT community, taking personal risks to let them know that God loves them unconditionally.
“Fr. Hall first leaped into the pages of the news in 2015 when he was fired from his chaplaincy at Seton Hal University. His supposed crime: on Facebook, he supported the NOH8 campaign, an LGBT equal rights crusade with a strong anti-bullying focus.
“Later he took a more personal and courageous step by coming out publicly as a gay man. Throughout the media blitz that ensued, he also continually professed his love for the Church and for his priesthood. Fr. Hall has ministered to and with LGBT people in the New York City metro region, being a sign of hope and welcome to many.
“Archbishop Myers’ decision to remove Fr. Hall’s faculties exposes a weakness: by doing so, the archbishop is saying that his church fears associating with LGBT people—a fear which is contrary to the gospel. Myers’ authoritarian style, evidenced by his years as archbishop of Newark, is one that is on the wane in the U.S. church, and around the globe.
“Fr. Hall’s ministry with LGBT people is in line with the Church’s own authentic teaching that its ministers must reach out to all those who have been marginalized. He is in line with Pope Francis’ more pastoral and welcoming approach towards LGBT people.
“It is painful that Fr. Hall has had to suffer such an unjust penalty from an archbishop who is soon to be replaced because of his looming retirement. Our God, who is a God of surprises and blessings, surely has some good in store for this priest who has been such a good and faithful servant to the Church community.
“New Ways Ministry is proud that earlier this summer Fr. Hall agreed to lead a workshop on the topic of gay men in the priesthood and religious life at our organization’s Eighth National Symposium on Catholicism and LGBT People, to be held in Chicago, April 28-30, 2017. Because of this latest ordeal, his presentation will further show his strength of character, faithfulness to God, and devoted service to those shunned by dictatorial Church leaders.’
To DeBernardo’s statement I would add that there does not seem to be much good in removing a faithful priest from celebrating the Sacraments or being a positive face for the church in Newark.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry