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.
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?
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