Catholics Respond Strongly Against Vatican’s Ban on Gay Priests

This past week’s announcement by the Vatican that the Congregation for Priests has reaffirmed the 2005 ban on gay men being ordained priests has caused quite a storm of criticism from Catholics in the pews.  Here on Bondings 2.0 alone, the Comments from two of our posts on the topic have been numerous, insightful, and angry.  It’s worth taking a moment to read the comments from the first post and the second post.

To add your own voice to protest the Vatican’s ban, please sign New Ways Ministry’s statement “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations.”

In addition to New Ways Ministry’s response to the Vatican’s document, other Catholic organizations concerned with LGBT and sexuality issues have also strongly critiqued the ban on gay priests.  The following are excerpts from some of the statements, with links to the full statements:

Call To Action:

” ‘Call To Action remains deeply disappointed in the Vatican’s on-going rejection of the LGBT community,’ said David Saavedra, Transitional Co-Director of Call To Action, an organization of Catholics working for justice in the Church.

” ‘This document not only reaffirms old Vatican policies, it reaffirms the harmful rhetoric against seminarians and priests who are gay and already successfully serving the Church. Moreover, the document’s language and implications harm the entire Church that is denied the gift of ministry from the good and holy service of gay men who may be turned away,’ said Saavedra.”

For full text of Call To Action’s statement, click here

DignityUSA:

” ‘This document is extremely disappointing in its approach to gay men called to be priests,’ said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, an organization of Catholics committed to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Church and society. ‘It is not at all what anyone expected from the “Who am I to judge?” Pope.’ “

” ‘These guidelines are a tremendous insult to the thousands of gay men who have served and continue to serve the Church with honor and dedication. They undermine decades of commitment by these men, and they fail to acknowledge that God calls a great variety of people to the priesthood,’ said Duddy-Burke.”

For full text of  DignityUSA’s  statement, click here.

Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC):

“We, the GNRC, stand for inclusion and justice for LGBTI lay people and their families in the Church. We also declare that all religious men and women that followed God’s call to dedicate their life for the construction of the Church deserve the same treatment. ‘There have been tragic instances within our GNRC family where some members who had previously been in seminaries, sadly had to give up on their chosen vocation after their sexual orientation was discovered. And in a few cases, they were very publicly exposed,’ states Ruby Almeida Co-chair of the GNRC and Chair of Quest (England).”

Pushing LGBTI people out of the Church, rather than them being treated with respect and dignity whilst on their vocational calling, has set a dark and reactionary tone. ‘The Church states in many documents that LGBT should live in celibacy, without needing to express their sexuality, yet later says that priesthood is not an alternative. This double-bind message distorts the credibility of the church. And we should not miss the language of a subtle homoerotic seduction into an intimate and exclusive relationship between the priest and Christ that the Congregation for the Clergy uses several times in the document,’ explains Dr. Michael Brinkschroeder Co-chair of the GNRC and project-manager of Homosexuelle und Kirche (Germany).

The Global Network of Rainbow Catholics (GNRC) brings together organizations and individuals who work for pastoral care and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, questioning, and intersex (LGBTQI) people and their families

For full text of GNRC’s statement, click here.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests director David Clohessy (SNAP):

“Scapegoating some adults protects no children. Behavior, not orientation, is what matters.

“Half of our 20,000 plus members are women who were sexually assaulted as kids by priests, nuns, bishops and seminarians. It’s just wrong to assume or claim that most victims of child molesting clerics are boys.

“This will almost certainly have no impact whatsoever on the church’s continuing child sex abuse and cover up crisis. Those who hope this will make kids safer will be disappointed.”

Bondings 2.0 will report on other significant reactions to the Vatican document as they become available.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 10, 2016

Related articles:

Religion News Service: Outcry greets Vatican decision to reaffirm ban on gay priests”

Huffington Post: “The Pope Just Approved A Very Troubling Document On Gays And Priesthood”

The Advocate: “Pope Reiterates Catholic Church’s Ban on Gay Priests”

The Washington Blade: “Catholic Church reaffirms gay priests ban”

 

Support Gay Priests! Sign “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” Statement!

To respond to the Vatican’s recent reaffirmation of a ban on gay priests and seminarians, New Ways Ministry is launching a signature campaign for Catholics to show support for the gay men who serve them pastorally through ordained ministry.  You can read the full text of the statement, and sign it, by clicking here.

13114249825_e879cef180_bThe statement, entitled “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations,” expresses the idea that Catholics are well aware that gay men are already serving very faithfully and successfully in the Church. Moreover, the statement attests to the fact that Catholics are grateful for the ministry and witness of gay priests, and it makes note of the unique perspective and gifts that they bring to the Church.   The title of the New Ways Ministry statement “corrects” the title of the Vatican document which condemns gay priests, “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation.”

In addition to describing the blessing that gay priests offer the Church, the statement offers the following affirmation:

“To our gay priests and seminarians, we say, ‘Thank you! Despite what the Vatican has said about you, we offer you our total support. You are welcome in this church. You are one of us. You are wonderfully made.’ “

You can read “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocations” in full, and sign it, by clicking here.  The deadline for signing the statement is December 31, 2016.  Copies of the the statement and the signers’ names will be sent to:

  • Pope Francis
  • Cardinal Beniamino Sella, Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy
  • Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • The many gay priests that New Ways Ministry is in touch with.

We also encourage you to alert the gay priests and seminarians that you know to see the support which they have received from Catholics around the world. Do so after the deadline of December 31, 2016, so that they can see the full list.

We want this statement to let Church leaders know that Catholics welcome the ministry of gay men in the priesthood and do not want a ban on their admission to seminaries and ordination. We also want this statement to let gay priests know that Catholics stand with them through this latest attack on their dignity and integrity.

Please share the statement with friends of yours so that they can sign it, too.   Send them this URL:

http://bit.ly/ThankGayPriests

Use your social media and email contacts to spread the word!

–Francis DeBernardo and Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 9, 2016

 

 

New Ways Ministry Responds to Pope Francis’ Ban on Gay Men from the Priesthood

The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the news that Pope Francis has approved a document entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, which reaffirms Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 ban on gay men from entering the Catholic priesthood.

Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do by approving the newest Vatican instruction that reaffirms a 2005 ban on gay men becoming priests.  Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement in 2013 was made in response to a question about gay men in the priesthood, and that response indicated very plainly that he did not have a problem with a gay priest’s sexual orientation, as long as “he searches for the Lord and has good will.”

The newest document, entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” contains three sections about gay men as candidates for the priesthood, and all of the messages are negative.  The writers of the document seem to have closed their eyes to the fact that thousands upon thousands of gay men are already serving faithfully and effectively in the Catholic priesthood.  Indeed, without gay men, the Church would not be able to operate.  (Add to that the multitude of lesbian women who serve in diverse ministries in the Church, whose service allows so much good to happen.)

Bishops and many heads of men’s religious orders have ignored the 2005 document, realizing the gifts that many gay men bring to the priesthood and church ministry.  It is likely that these and many other leaders will simply ignore the bad advice of this most recent document.

Had the document not been approved by Pope Francis, it could easily be dismissed as the work of over-zealous Vatican officials.  But the pope’s approval of this text is a great disappointment to many people—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual supporters—who held out greater hopes for this pontiff who had done so much to open church discussion on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity.  So much of the language about gay men is simply a restatement from the 2005 document issued by Pope Benedict XVI.  In his three-and-a-half years as pontiff, Francis has shown that he has moved away from Benedict’s approach to issues of sexuality.

It’s not too late for the pope to retract this document. That would be a healing balm to many who are surely going to be pastorally hurt by this step, and many others who are sure to leave the Catholic Church because of it.

At the very least, Pope Francis owes it to the Church, the world, and, not least, the LGBT community to explain exactly where he stands, given the blatant contradiction between “Who am I to judge?” and this most recent document.

Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 7. 2016

How Important Is It to Know If an Archbishop Is Gay?

It always makes me uncomfortable when I read a news story which alleges or reveals the homosexuality of a church leader who has a particularly nasty record on LGBT issues.  Not because I don’t believe that these stories are possibly true.  It’s more because such stories often seem to have a not-so-subtle message of “Aha!  We always knew it! What a hypocrite!”

Archbishop John Nienstedt

Such a story emerged this past week.  MinnPost.com carried an essay by Tim Gihring with a title which explains the situation: “Does it matter whether Archbishop John Nienstedt is gay?”  Nienstedt is the retired archbishop of St. Paul, Minnesota, who, in addition to having a very strong stand against marriage equality and other LGBT issues, was forced to resign when his gross mishandling of clergy sex abuse cases was revealed.  Rumors have also circulated for a long time that Nienstedt himself is gay, and that he was sexually active in secret.  He has denied these rumors.

Gihring’s article differs somewhat from the usual form these stories take, though.  In the conclusion of his essay, Gihring writes about the “trap” in which Nienstedt seemed to be caught:

“By closing the door to homosexuality, marking its expression as the work of Satan and the most aberrant of sins, Nienstedt had nowhere to go with his own desires. He left himself no way out.”

That, to me, is such a sad set of sentences.  They describe to me a gay man who did not learn to accept himself, and whose lack of self-esteem provided him no opportunity than to act out sexually in unhealthy ways, and to project his own self-hatred onto others.

Gihring’s “trap” in which he believes Niensteedt was caught is bigger than just his denial of homosexuality.  Gihring speculates that Nienstedt made a deal with church officials that if he covered up sexual abuse cases, they would cover up his homosexual liaisons.  Gihring writes:

“For pushing back on gays in the church, among other issues, Nienstedt would be promoted and promoted and promoted again. He would also be protected: Among the revelations in the documents unsealed last month is that the Vatican envoy to the United States quashed an investigation into Nienstedt’s homosexual activity and ordered evidence destroyed.

“The evidence that exists, in the form of corroborated witness accounts, suggests that Nienstedt spent his time in Minnesota, from 2001 to 2015, living a precarious double life: indulging his homosexual tendencies, even as he railed against them. . . .

“. . . .[T]he deal that Nienstedt long ago made for the benefit of his career — to follow the church into conservatism — now seems a kind of ecclesiastical quid pro quo: if he covered for the sins of the church, the church would cover for his. The internal investigation of him, reportedly quashed by the Vatican, had been his idea — he was that confident that his name would be cleared.”

Gehring is skating on thin ice here.  He has made it seem like an agreement was made by the Vatican and Nienstedt.  Unfortunately, his case is built totally on speculation.  If, in fact, the Vatican did quash an investigation of Nienstedt, it is a huge leap of inference to claim that this was connected to any kind of “deal” that was arranged.

I am not defending Nienstedt’s actions, either in his mishandling of sex abuse cases or his possible homosexual liaisons.  But let’s remember that these two different types of actions are qualitatively different.   In the sex abuse cases, his actions did terrible harm to vulnerable people, and to the Church community. If he engaged in promiscuous, casual, or anonymous sexual encounters, any potential harm would have affected only himself and his partners, who presumably were consenting adults.

Neither am I excusing Nienstedt’s terrible record of opposing LGBT equality.  He has spent an inordinate amount of energy and church money to deny LGBT people their civil rights, and as this blog’s archives show, New Ways Ministry has opposed him on all these matters.

In the case of his sexual behavior, the real culprits here are the structures of the church which actually promote such behavior:  clericalism and homophobia. The privilege that clerics receive and the fear and silence that surround any discussion of homosexuality in the church create a toxic atmosphere, even for those who supposedly “benefit” from these structures.

So what’s the answer to the question of Gihring’s title question: “Does it matter whether Archbishop John Nienstedt is gay?”  I think the answer is yes, it does matter because it is an integral part of who he is.  I think, though, that the answer is not just important for the public to know, but, more importantly, for Nienstedt himself to know.  Part of the great tragedy here is that a church system has let a man get to Nienstedt’s place in life without allowing him the freedom and security to know and accept who he is.

If any definitive evidence emerges that Nienstedt is, in fact, gay–and the only solid evidence of that would be his own admission–then I don’t think that would be an occasion to gloat over hypocrisy.  It would be an occasion first to lament the pain that he must have experienced as a terribly closeted gay man. It should also be an occasion to reinvigorate our efforts to end clericalism and homophobia in the church, and all the myriad personal and structural ills they bring.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related posts and articles:

For all Bondings 2.0 posts about Archbishop Nienstedt’s connections with LGBT issues, click here.

Bondings 2.0:  “Minneapolis Archbishop Nienstedt: “I’m not gay…I’m not anti-gay.”

Minnesota Public Radio: Archbishop authorized secret investigation of himself”

Star Tribune: Twin Cities Archbishop John Nienstedt faces new sex claims”

National Catholic Reporter: Report: Minnesota Archbishop Nienstedt under scrutiny for same-sex relationships”

TwinCities.com: “Nienstedt under scrutiny for same-sex relationships, ex-official says”

The Wild Reed: “Has Archbishop Nienstedt’s “Shadow” Finally Caught Up With Him?”

Why Do Conversations About Gay Priests Always Focus on Celibacy?

As we mentioned in Tuesday’s Bondings 2.0 post, Chicago’s Fr. Michael Shanahan came out as a gay man in an article published in The Washington Post.  The article detailed both many challenging experiences that gay priests face, and it also spoke about their deep spirituality and love of ministry.  Yet, in the past two days, other news outlets have picked up on the Post’s story, but the only thing that they have focused on is the fact that Fr. Shanahan came out  in the article.

s-first-united-lutheran-church-largeI’m happy that the idea that there are gay men in the Catholic priesthood is getting some publicity, and I applaud Fr. Shanahan’s decision 100%.  I am a little surprised that the media have jumped on this story in this particular way.

For example the CBS station in Chicago featured Fr. Shanahan’s announcement both on television and online.  But even though Fr. Shanahan’s quotations in his story spoke about his interior struggles and his dedication to ministry, the CBS segment focused on celibacy.  More than half the article is devoted to the topic.  If a priest in a news article said that he was heterosexual, would the topic of celibacy be raised by others?  I think not.  I think a bias still exists in society that gay=sexually active, so that acknowledgment of a gay orientation implies that a person may be more inclined to be involved with sexual activity.

The news media, however, are not the only ones to blame for this focus on celibacy.  The church hierarchy promotes this kind of thinking.  The CBS story reported that the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a very succinct statement:

“In response to inquiries from CBS 2, a spokesperson for the Chicago Archdiocese on Monday said Shanahan would not comment and released a one-sentence statement from Archbishop Blase Cupich:

‘We support all our priests as they live out the promises they made on the day of their ordination.’ “

In one sense, it is good to hear that the Archdiocese of Chicago supports both their gay and heterosexual priests.  In another sense, though, it is sad that in responding to a question about a gay priest that they felt the need to bring up the promise of celibacy.

The article prolonged the celibacy theme by quoting two other experts in the area of priesthood:

“Can openly gay men be priests? Amid allegations last year the Archdiocese of Newark had effectively disciplined an openly gay clergy member, a spokesperson for church leaders there said being gay does not preclude a man from being a priest, provided he upholds his vow of celibacy.

“Thomas O’Brien, director of DePaul University’s Center for Religion, Culture and Community, agrees that is the general policy church leaders are following.

“ ‘All priests are required to be celibate, regardless of sexual orientation,’ he said in an email to CBS 2. ‘That policy does not vary from diocese to diocese, although different dioceses do approach violations of celibacy in distinct ways depending on the leadership style of the bishop and his administration.’ “

Again, in regard to this quotation, I am glad that the Archdiocese of Newark says it does not discriminate against gay candidates for the priesthood.  But, again, I am amazed that their primary concern about gay men in the priesthood is whether or not they will keep their vow of celibacy.  Aren’t they also concerned with how he might be treated or accepted by others in the Church?  Don’t they want to know how his spiritual life is developing and what spiritual gifts his experience of sexual orientation provided him?  Aren’t they interested in knowing what kind of minister he might be?

The CBS article did carry a lay person’s perspective on the issue.  Mildred Soriano, a parishioner at Shanahan’s parish, said she wasn’t concerned about the priest’s sexual orientation:

“It doesn’t really matter, as long as he believes in God. It doesn’t matter to me at all. We’re all God’s children.”

Now, that’s a wise perspective!

I think this obsession with celibacy shows that our Church still hasn’t fully appreciated the gifts that gay men bring to the priesthood.  Men like Fr. Shanahan have a unique perspective on the world and on spirituality, and so they bring a richness to the Church and its ministry.  Gay men have been serving admirably and courageously in the priesthood for centuries, and, by all estimates, still make up a significant segment of the contemporary priesthood.  They are as varied and diverse as the heterosexual priests are, as varied and diverse as all in the Church.

I think that the fascination with a priest’s orientation is due in part that we have imagined that all celibate people give up their sexuality.  They may forego the opportunity to express that sexuality physically with an intimate loved one, but that doesn’t mean that they still aren’t sexual beings.  The cloud of secrecy and silence that hangs around priesthood and celibacy also becomes a lure for some to want to inquire deeper into these men’s sexual lives than they would about other people.  Secrecy and silence only cause harm–to both individuals and the Church as an institution.

I am so happy for the witness of Fr. Shanahan.  His many contributions to the church, including this last one of coming out, help to build God’s reign of justice and equality.

New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a weekend workshop abourt gay priests, deacons, and religious brothers. Entitled,Fan into Flame the Gift of God: Embracing the Gifts of Gay Priests, Deacons, and Brothers,” it seeks to help the church embrace more the gifts of its vibrant gay ministers.

The retreat, scheduled for April 28-May 1, 2016, near Philadelphia, is open to gay priests, deacons, and brothers, but also to all diocesan clergy personnel, as well as leaders and formation personnel of men’s religious communities.  The program is designed to foster communication and understanding between gay clergy and religious, and the leaders responsible for their development. To view a brochure, click here.

If you are a member of the target audience and are interested in attending the retreat or know someone who might be interested, please contact New Ways Ministry at info@NewWaysMinistry.org or call (301) 277-5674.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

Chicago.Go.Pride.com: “Chicago priest: ‘I’m gay and I’m a priest, period’ “

 

 

 

Elphin Bishop, Bert & Ernie, Gay Priests, and Colin Farrell Are All Involved in Ireland’s LGBT Debates

Earlier this week, we posted about the marriage equality debate happening now in Ireland, and the role of Catholic bishops and laity on both sides of the issue.  Today we will look at some other Catholic LGBT issues in both the Republic of Ireland and the six counties which comprise Northern Ireland. These issues include marriage benefits, adoption, religious liberty, and gay priests.

Bishop Kevin Doran

In the heavily Catholic Republic of Ireland, where the marriage equality debate is occurring, Bishop Kevin Doran of the diocese of Elphin, a strong advocate against marriage equality has also spoken in opposition to lesbian and gay couples adopting children.  In a talk in the city of Roscommon, Doran spoke about the importance of procreation in marriage and the idea of complementarity of the the sexes being important for child-rearing.

But Doran did make some concessions.  Gay Star News  reported:

“Although slamming gay marriage and adoption, Doran did say that the state should ensure gay couples in committed relationships should have inheritance and visiting rights in the event of illness or death. He also said that the church, ‘condemns without reservation words or actions which are intended to injure, ridicule or undermine homosexual people.’ “

Catholic opposition to adoption by gay and lesbian couples was also in the spotlight in the more Protestant Northern Ireland, where the Catholic bishops have chosen to sever ties with an adoption agency which has agreed to let such couples adopt.  Gay Star News provided details:

“The agency in question is The Family Care Society NI. The agency was originally founded by the Church and has offices in Belfast.

“Adoption laws were changed in Northern Ireland in 2012 to allow same-sex couples to adopt. . . .

“In a statement. . ., the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland said, ‘It is unreasonable for legislators to oblige faith-based organizations to act against their fundamental and reasonable religious beliefs in the provision of services that contribute to the common good.

” ‘As a result the Family Care Society is now legally obliged to receive and process applications in accordance with the new and wider interpretation of adoption law established by the High Court decision.

” ‘Since the provision of adoption services in Northern Ireland now also involves acting against the Church’s teaching and ethos, we too have no option but to end the long established relationship between the Church and The Family Care Society NI.’ “

It is curious that when discussing adoption and Catholic teaching, these bishops only focus on the sexual relationship of the couple, and not the importance of a child being raised in a loving household.

Muppets Bert and Ernie

In a related story, Paul Givan, a politician with the heavily Protestant Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, has called for “reasonable accommodation” for religious conscience as part of his Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill which he is proposing.  The bill was in response to a case in which a Christian baker refused to make a cake of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage” and including the logo of Queerspace, an LGBTQ organization in Belfast.

The Irish nation has also had an inside view into the lives of some of its gay priests through the publication of a sociological study of priesthood by former seminarian Dr. John Weafer.

Entitled Thirty-Three Good Men: Celibacy, Obedience and Identity, the book examines the lives of a sampling of priests in the context of a variety of their life struggles.  The parts about gay priests have been receiving the most press attention.  The Huffington Post report on the book discussed one gay priest, known as Fr. L, who went on to have a sexual relationship with another priest:

“Fr L went on to discover a ‘clerical gay scene in Ireland,’ saying he believed there were ‘quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood’ and during one visit to a gay bar in Dublin recognized at least nine priests in the venue.

“Weafer said he did not believe the church hierarchy would be surprised to read these revelations.

” ‘There is a support group for gay priests in Ireland and one respondent said a number of bishops had been invited and met with them in an informal setting,’ Weafer told The Huffington Post over the phone.”

In a story about the book in The Belfast Telegraph, the author noted the difficult situation gay priests live in:

“He believes that there are ‘quite a lot of gay guys in the priesthood’ and on one occasion when he went into a gay bar in Dublin, he recognised at least nine priests in the bar. . . .

” ‘As long as priests don’t go public and don’t flaunt those actions that don’t correspond with being a celibate priest’ they turn a blind eye, he claimed. . . .

“According to Dr Weafer: ‘If a priest was to say in the morning “I am gay,” he would be fired. Priests have learned to keep their heads down.’ “

Actor Colin Farrell and his gay brother, Eamonn Farrell

Given the marriage equality debate and these other controversies which have emerged, Ireland, north and south, seems poised for some lively national dialogues about LGBT people and religion. One news story noted that at least 20,000 students in Ireland have registered to vote to participate in the marriage equality referendum in the spring.  Irish celebrities such as actor Colin Farrell have also become involved in the discussion, making public statements in support of marriage equality.

It would be wonderful if the bishops would relax their defensive posture somewhat and listen to the stories of LGBT people, even their own gay priests. They would learn so much about life, love, and faith.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

Related article:

The Independent: “Bishop supports inheritance rights for gay couples”

In Trinidad, a Catholic Priest Speaks Out Boldly for LGBT Equality

LGBT issues in the Caribbean continue to be somewhat of a roller coaster, especially when it comes to Catholic involvement with those issues.  Recently, we’ve seen a story with positive and negative sides emerging from this region, giving hope and also reminding us of how far we have to go.

Fr. Stephen Geofroy

In Trinidad, a Catholic priest has publicly come out in support of civil rights for gay and lesbian people, as the country there debates reforming their constitution.  While the draft of the constitution notes the oppression that gay and lesbian people experience, it fell short of addressing that problem by not providing them constitutional protection.  Instead, the draft calls for further national discussion and education on these issues.  You can read about the political debate by clicking here.

At a forum where citizens were able to express their opinions on the constitution draft, a Catholic priest, Fr. Stephen Geofroy, spoke out in favor of lesbian and gay rights.   The Trinidad Express reported:

“Geofroy said the matter should not be debated further and instead Government should be embracing of all its people.

“ ‘Now on the issue of sexual orientation being subject to further national discussion…discussion about what? Aren’t LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), aren’t they not humans still, yes or no?’ said Geofroy.
‘Yes? Then they should have rights as other people have,’ he continued as he received loud applause from the packed hall.

“Geofroy said there was no debate on whether gays are people or not as they have expressed themselves clearly that they are part and parcel of this country’s culture.

“ ‘We’ve come over a long history of slavery and indentureship and now it is time to break the many things that denigrate the person,’ said Geofroy.

“’This is certainly one of the things we have to do and we have to be very decisive of it.”

” ‘Geofroy said there has been discrimination on the basis of race, colour and class in this country.

“ ‘…I don’t see the difference with sexual orientation. We are citizens of a country and people have the right to love who they want irrespective,’ said Geofroy .

“He said to continue discussing the issue at a national level without taking a decision was to go the way of other countries such as Nigeria and Uganda as part of a political agenda.

“ ‘I think we should avoid that like the plague,’ he said.”

Geofroy’s statements were met with thunderous applause. In the same article, Colin Robinson, executive director of the Coalition Advocating for Inclusion of Sexual Orientation (CAISO), praised Geofroy’s words, called him a “real Catholic,” and explained that there were a handful of Catholic and Anglican clergy who were ministering to the island nation’s gay community.

Archbishop Joseph Harris, to whose diocese Geofroy belongs, attempted to correct the priest’s comments, but at the same time, spoke out for civil rights for lesbian and gay people by noting that the Church has always  “held there should be no discrimination based on sexual ori­en­ta­tion.”  A follow-up article in The Trinidad Express reported:

“Harris said: ‘It is unfortunate; he used an unfortunate turn of phrase when he said people should be free to love whom they want to love. I hope, therefore, when he was speaking about people being free to love, he was talking about love in the platonic (brotherhood). Love is platonic.’ “

Harris mentioned that he was concerned that Geofroy’s comments would be construed to support same-sex marriage.

The archbishop went on to explain his policy on gay priests, as well as his opinion of Geofroy:

“Asked about the Church’s policy on gay priests, Harris said: ‘There are priests whose sexual orientation is towards their own sex. All priests are called to celibacy. But as long as a priest is not acting out his orientation, he is okay’

“Harris said Fr Geofroy was ‘a priest in good standing.’ “

Geofroy’s decision to speak out for human rights makes him not only a priest of good standing, but a priest of courage, integrity, and compassion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry