I just got off the phone with Father Geoffrey Farrow. A blogger friend of his who reads Bilerico and my blog suggested I contact him and was kind enough to facilitate our introduction.
If the word gracious can be understood to mean filled with grace in the spiritual sense, I'd like to apply it to Father Geoff who has surely fired a graceful shot to be heard round the world. He seems like a gentle man. A man of integrity who demonstrates once again that the greatest thing a man can do in this world is simply to be true to himself and to care about the people entrusted to him.
Trained in different seminaries and assigned to pastoral ministry in different parts of the country, our paths seem not to have crossed, but there is not a word of his magnificent story that felt foreign to me.
Having refused to bind himself to a directive from his bishop regarding Prop 8, and having delivered himself of a fine sermon about the nonsensical and un-Christian stance of the Roman Catholic Church regarding gay men and women and gay marriage, Father Geoff will return to his parish this weekend as usual and until he hears otherwise, will continue to serve his parishioners as usual. He has not been suspended.
Not yet. And this was a large portion of our conversation. Father Geoff has put the bishop of Fresno in a spectacularly awkward position. If he ignores what Father Geoff has said from the pulpit, he will catch hell from Rome. If he suspends Father Geoff or in any way reduces his faculties, he will be rightly demonized for silencing an honest and sincere priest who puts the message of Jesus Christ above the hidebound laws of the church, and he will find himself in the center of a defining war that has been percolating for far too long.
Father Geoff is unsure of his future, but he says that for the first time in years he feels at peace with himself while fearful about his ability to deal with the strife and tumult that is about to come his way. He said, "I feel like the little boy in the crowd who says the emperor is naked."
We talked about the fact that most priests are gay, and about the power structure that keeps them silent when in their hearts they know they should be working to overturn the ridiculous mistreatment of gay people by the Catholic Church. He said that at a gathering of priests that followed the news about his sermon, the bishop was assured by many of the priests that Father Farrow was wrong and should be punished. This is disgusting and yet so very believable.
I wish I could shout out to all the thousands of gay priests out there. This is your chance, guys. Father Geoff took the first shot. He made the bold jump. Are you going to let him stand there alone and vulnerable? Are you going to turn your back on him? Or will you stand up and be counted? Will you use your pulpits to support what he has begun?
The bishop can get away with suspending one man, but he cannot suspend all of you.
Do the right thing. This is why you were ordained.
Meanwhile, friends of Father Geoff are helping him set up a blog to facilitate those who want to help safeguard gay rights in California. If ever one humble man needed the support and good wishes of all of us, it is Father Geoff. I've got a good feeling about this guy, and I think he is exactly the sort of man that the Catholic Church needs right now.