Message: I have worked for the Catholic Church most of my life. I have seen many relationships that were hushed. I do find that the Church is a safe place for the clergy to be a couple, or carry on the relationships. I know of one couple who are Fathers, that have spent every free moment with each other as a couple for the past 40 years. Be it that they are not married but they are a couple. The Church defines relationships as man and wife, but allows the gay relationships to flourish in the shadows. I was told while working for a parish that the church does not have an open opinion of the gay life style,I was also told that the Catholic Church in the southern california region was 66 percent Gay, this was from a minister in a seminary. How could they support the proposition against gay marriage when they are 66% gay? I think it's talking out of both sides of their pulpits. What can we do to bring these truths to the parishoners so they are aware? We need to make a change to make it right for the gay clergy that are forced out of the church for speaking up about this.
Just Tell Mama
I've edited your letter to focus on the core issue: What should we do when we know that specific religious leaders whose organizations consider the LGBT lifestyle sinful are living semi-secret LGBT lives?
Most often, these folks are silent about LGBT issues. Only a small minority are flamingly ranti-gay as are certain famously outed evangelical preachers, for example. Most often, they have a private collection of reasons for remaining in institutions that would condemn them if their private lives were made public. Most LGBT readers here have no sympathy for their reasons that might include the following:
- I have never personally preached against the LGBT community.
- I am privately supportive of any LGBT person who comes to me seeking counsel or comfort.
- I am too old to leave my church and try to start a new career.
- I wrestle privately with my guilt over being gay.
- My private life is no one's business but mine. It doesn't impact my ministry.
- I stay out of politics including any discussion of LGBT rights.
- I have done the best I could to work things out balancing my personal sexuality with the teachings of my church. The LGBT community needs to respect the personal boundaries I set for myself.
- I do not believe in "outing" anyone, including myself. Nobody but God knows the heart and soul of another person.
- I lead a life of extreme community service and generosity. Isn't that enough?
I have, dear JesuitJack, heard all these arguments come from the mouths of my fellow Catholic priests, some of whom were so damn likable and respectable in every other way that I would not have dreamed of blowing the whistle on them. (I am not saying I was right about feeling this way.) I am thinking of one priest who was secretary to our archbishop. He had a life partner, a local funeral director. Everyone in the town where they shared a home, knew they were close friends, but only a few of us among the clergy knew the extent of their relationship.
In one parish I worked for a pastor, an old theater queen whom I called Trixie, who kept his young lover, a decorator, in a nearby town where he was not so well known. Over dinner at their table, I began to feel for the first time in my life, a skin-crawling revulsion at the prospect of "playing house" with someone on the down-low a few days a week. It didn't help matters that I knew Trixie was skimming the weekly Bingo revenue in order to pay for his suburban love nest. In his mind, taking a cut of the collection to support his lover was his little way of striking back at the homophobia of the Catholic Church.
In the simple retelling of all this, I am flooded with the unpleasant feelings that drove me to leave that business and shake the dirt of that church off my shoes. No, I did not expose the gay clergy to the strong light of public disclosure. I wanted to quietly put it all behind me. To wash it out of my hair. To move on to a better life. That is why men like me are not whistle blowers, even though we probably should be.
So my answer to your question about what to do is to approach those men who are leading preposterous lives and demand that they step out into the light in strong support of their LGBT brothers and sisters and that they drag their friends out with them. In other words, you and I should stop enabling their insincere lifestyles. When speaking with other people who know them, you might make a point of identifying them as gay. Take the lid off pious denial. When you encounter a church lady in the supermarket who mentions that Father Jim went on vacation to Palm Springs with his friend, correct her by saying "You mean his homosexual lover don't you?"
After I was out to my mother who was a parish secretary which meant she held first rank among all Catholic church ladies, I used to take particular delight in doing that whenever she would mention the name of a gay priest. Eventually, she stopped being shocked and had to rethink her conviction that all these lovely men, myself included, were destined for hell.
Someday, all of this nonsense will be over. None of us should expect to topple centuries of church hypocrisy on our own, but if we each remove just one stone from the wall....
Rome was not unbuilt in a day.