Monday, April 25, 2011

What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.

At a New Year’s Eve party in 1999/2000 a woman exclaimed, “You are gay and you are a priest! How can that be?!” I asked her if she had ever visited Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. “Yes, I have,” she answered. “Well, let me let you in on a little secret, if straight boys had built that church, it would be an “A-frame” with cottage cheese on the ceiling.” Edgar Allen Poe quipped, “The best way to conceal something is by putting it in plain sight, no one would ever think of looking for it there.”

Lest I be accused of speaking anecdotally, let me cite some published proof for the truth conveyed in the forgoing encounter:

"The exact number of gay priests worldwide is unknown. A study conducted in 2000 by Father Donald Cozzens for his book The Changing Face of Priesthood suggests that as many as 60 percent of all American Catholic priests were gay, but those numbers varied greatly depending on geographical location. “At issue at the beginning of the 21st century is the growing perception that the priesthood is, or is becoming, a gay profession,” Newsweek

Donald Cozzens, Ph.D. a psychologist and former Rector [President] of Saint Mary’s Major Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio, states,

“An NBC [National Bishop’s Conference] report on celibacy and the clergy found that ‘anywhere from 23 percent to 58 percent’ of the Catholic clergy have a homosexual orientation. Other studies find that approximately half of American priests and seminarians are homosexually oriented. Sociologists James G. Wolf in his book Gay Priests concludes that 48.5 percent of priests and 55.1 percent of seminarians were gay. The percentage appears to be highest among priests under forty years of age. Moreover, the percentage of gay men among religious congregations of priests is believed to be even higher. Beyond these estimates, of course, are priests who remain confused about their orientation and men who have so successfully denied their orientation, that in spite of predominantly same-sex erotic fantasies, they insist that they are heterosexual.”

“The Changing face of the Priesthood” (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2000) page 99

“Equally disturbing is the tendency of bishops to overlook the fact that a disproportionate number of homosexuals are being recruited into our seminaries. I know of one seminary where, two years ago, 60 percent of the students identified themselves as “gay,” 20 percent were confused about their sexual identity, and only 20 percent considered themselves to be heterosexual.” “What Are We Advertising?” The Tablet, April 24, 1999. (553)

“Andrew Greeley believes that U.S. bishops, unclear on how to address the issue of expanding numbers of gay priests, have simply resorted to denial. Among the effects of this psychological defense mechanism is the toleration of lavender rectories and seminaries. ‘Bishops Paralyzed Over Heavily Gay Priesthood,’ National Catholic Reporter (November 10, 1989) 13-14”

“Trappist monk and author Matthew Kelty states,

"Since most men have a woman to love, whom is the gay man to love? God, surely, in the context of community and a noble, celibate service. This is the pattern of history, for then the sexual is absorbed in the loving communion with God and community.
‘The Land I Love In,’ Homosexuality in the Priesthood and Religious Life, ed. Jeannine Gramick (New York: Crossroads, 1989) p. 148.”

Father David Trosch, said the following in a published letter,

“Perhaps a year later in a conversation with a highly placed priest of the archdiocese he stated that approximately 35% of priests were homosexuals. It was most disconcerting to read the following article in which Fr. Cozzens, the head of a Catholic seminary, says that estimates range as high as 60% of American priests are homosexual.

Unfortunately the article states that, "Cozzens is not against ordaining gay men, and concedes some effective bishops and even some popes may have been gay."

I totally disagree with his position of not being against ordaining gay men. I personally believe that it should be incorporated into the Code of Canon Law that homosexual orientation invalidates ordination, that is, makes homosexual orientation a diriment impediment to ordination.”

All of this data might only be of interest to academics, psychologists, sociologists and Church officials; were it not for the fact that those responsible for this state of affairs (no pun intended) in the Catholic Church are themselves promoting an anti-LGBTQ social and political agenda. New York state will be the next battleground for an intense lobbying effort by Catholic bishops (led by Dolan of NYC) of elected officials. This will be an effort by Archbishop Dolan & Co. to defeat Marriage Equality legislation from becoming a reality in New York State.

The fact that many of these Catholic bishops are themselves gay, as the statistics clearly suggest, is something that many of us in the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ community already know. Some of the most homophobic people in the world, are repressed homosexuals.

More bad news for Catholic bishops come from an unexpected source, Catholic theologians.

"Creighton University professors Todd A. Salzman and Michael G. Lawler are the latest voices on the Catholic circuit. Their 2008 book, "The Sexual Person," just earned a rebuke from the U.S. bishops' doctrine committee.

Salzman and Lawler's dense academic argument turns traditional Catholic teaching on natural law on its head. They redefine natural law, saying "nature" is personal and individual, and that sexual activity need not be directed at procreation (contrary to what the Catholic Church has always said).

Salzman and Lawler argue that what is "natural" for a heterosexual is not "natural" for a homosexual, and therefore homosexuals and heterosexuals must act in accord with their personal "natures".

In other words, if it's "natural" for a homosexual to perform homosexual acts, then--for that person--heterosexual acts would be "unnatural" and immoral. For the two professors, homosexual activity is only immoral for the heterosexual acting against his or her nature.

Bottom line: Salzman and Lawler are arguing that homosexuality is a status, not a choice. If that's the case, then everyone--including the Catholic Church--should line up in support of an entire rainbow of gay-related arguments and ideas."

Ever increasing numbers of ordinary Catholics are disregarding the Pope and bishops on Same-sex orientation and Marriage Equality. They have already done this with regards to divorce and remarriage, artificial contraception and the role of women in society.

I wonder how long it will take U.S. Elected officials to connect the dots and discover that Catholic bishops do not speak on behalf of Catholic Voters. In fact, listening to Catholic bishops on social issues, is likely to infuriate (Catholic and Non-Catholic) voters and could cost Elected officials reelection.


The Honourable Husband said...

“The best way to conceal something is by putting it in plain sight, no one would ever think of looking for it there.”

Precisely. How obvious does it have to be? The laity has worked this out. Surely the clergy can't maintain they don't know.

Joe said...

I'm very surprised that a higher percentage of priests under 40 are gay than those above 40. I assumed that the main reason why many gay men joined the priesthood was b/c it was a safe harbor against social/family expectations (i.e., not having to marry a woman & start a family). Now that gays are increasingly accepted in society, you'd think that younger gay men wouldn't feel the necessity of joining the priesthood.

Matthew said...

I thought everyone knew this. Though admitedly I did not as I was growing up. But, I was not raised a Catholic. But I went to some Catholic churches with friends. Later in college a Newman Center priest began flirting with me. I thought it was just innocent fun until he took it a few steps further. I genuinely liked him and was turned on by him but still was flabbergasted that a priest wanted to have sex with me. But the real part the church does not want to admit to is the emotional damage. While Fr. Chris and I never did have sex (we came close) I was emotionally damaged by the incident because I began to have feelings for him, felt like I loved him and wanted to build a life and home with him. I felt dumped because he just wanted to have fun because he could not be open in a relationship. That is why I am glad that there are now openly gay (and in relationships) clergy in the Lutheran, Episcopal and other churches as role models.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Joe,

A professor of Moral Theology in graduate school once shared with me, “Major life decisions are rarely made out of a singular pure motive.” As I reflect back to my decision to enter into the seminary, it was not so much an event as a process. I was wrestling with my own beliefs; I had a conversion experience and resumed the practice of my faith. I encountered a kind priest who inspired me and yes, in 1978 American society the priesthood afforded a welcome respite to the barrage of questions about dating, marriage (to a female), etc. However, I can honestly say that was more of a “bonus” and not my primary reason for wanting to become a priest.

As for the greater numbers of men under the age of forty being priests, two points. First, the statistics are ten years old, so it would be priests under age fifty today. That means they were ordained 25 years ago (around 1986). Secondly, as I stated above, there are multiple reasons why one makes a major life decision. People generally enter into lives of ministry, social work, teaching, etc for reasons that seem irrational to many in our society and yet, those life paths always draw some people.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Matthew,

I share your frustration when you say, “I thought everyone knew this.” I cannot tell you how many times people have been genuinely surprised and sometimes shocked, when I share this data with them. I think you “knew this,” because of your encounter with Fr. Chris, but even your statement; “I was flabbergasted that a priest wanted to have sex with me” underscores a myth about priests that has been carefully constructed by the hierarchy of the Church. Namely, that priests are somehow “above” being human.

Tragically, you, Fr. Chris and the communities served by priests denied healthy intimate relationships, all become, as you accurately state, “Emotionally damaged.” The fairytale stereotype of “angelic priests” possesses a certain appeal to the average person, the idea that God and religion in general are “above it all.” Those are distinct and superior to normal life. This mentality is dangerous to an authentic spiritual life. Christians, after all, believe that God became a human being and thereby brings us into communion with God through our humanity. These manufactured fantasies also inflict real emotional and psychological damage. Large numbers of priests suffer from morbid obesity, alcohol abuse, prescription drug dependencies, underdeveloped psychosexual development, to name but a few. These priests serve roles of offering spiritual and relationship counseling to their parishioners. Connect the dots and the implications are frightening. Add onto this a hierarchy that, as the Cover-Up Scandal has revealed, is more interested in PR and financial damage control than in protecting their flocks and guiding them to spiritual development and you complete a horrific picture.

Your comment, “But the real part the church does not want to admit to is the emotional damage.” Is far more profound than most people grasp; although I think most Catholics, and an increasing number of Cardinals, believe that mandatory celibacy for priests is simply wrong. This subject is extensively dealt with in two good books on the subject; “Freeing Celibacy” by Donald Cozzens (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota) 2006, and “Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church” by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota) 2008.

Briefly, celibacy has nothing to do with sex it is about institutional power, wealth and control. It has been taken out of its Christian historical context (i.e. monastic life) and artificially imposed on diocesan clergy by the hierarchy for the aforementioned reasons. Priests and the communities they serve are both damaged by this unnatural situation. Restoring celibacy to a short term, voluntary commitment that is one feature of monastic life would be a good start to a healthier priesthood and Church.

Bringing these issues to light serves everyone, including the Church, since it is the beginning of authentic healing and growth.

Renshaw said...

I went to seminary in the 90's and spent a good chunk of years in the priesthood. I am gay and wanted to take the promise of celibacy seriously. What bothered me in the seminary was not the gay community, but the dysfunctional gay community of priests and seminarians. Once ordained, I found that same dysfunctional community back in my diocese. The emotional harm done to the parishioners, to the church, and to the priest is unbelievable. I know two priests who wear wedding rings, consider themselves married to each other, but live together only on their day off in their cabin in the woods. When your life has to be concealed, it is not healthy and neither are you. It will eat at your very authenticity. Another priest has just decided to live a dual life. He doesn't want to come out so as not to lose his family of origin. He has come out to live life as a gay man in the gay community "after hours." The church, for him, was a safe place to be homosexual without being homosexual. He is going to implode.

I had to leave active ministry. The church is actively hostile to gay people and growing more so. I cannot be an active priest in a community that institutionally hates me. For my own sense of authenticity and integrity, I had to leave. I really cannot understand how any gay man can remain in the priesthood, unless there is some presence of self-loathing.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Renshaw,

As I read your letter, part of me was shouting, “Amen!” and part of me was filled with sorrow. The “Amen!” part, is for myself, now that I can simply “be.” The “filled with sorrow” part is for the many priests who feel trapped.

I have received E-mails and telephone calls from priests who feel they have no options. One priest telephoned and confided, “I wish I could say what you said, but I’m 63 and I have a heart condition. If I did what you did, I’d be on the street with not health insurance and I’d be dead within two years.”

A young priest in his early thirties told me, “They [the hierarchy] saw to it that we got all the necessary training to be counselors, administrators and teachers; however, they made damn sure that we never got any marketable degrees, or certificates.”

I also feel sorrow for parish communities, their “value” is often assessed in terms of their cash flow to the diocese, or if they have large numbers of parishioners (voters).

Your comment, “I cannot be an active priest in a community that institutionally hates me,” can be put into context on two levels. First, many LGBTQ people, regardless of their religions, have experienced what you are speaking about with their families of origin. As in that scenario, coming-out is a process and not simply an event both for the LGBTQ person and for the other family members. There may be protracted periods of separation; however, there is always hope for reconciliation.

Secondly, the “Church” is far more than its institutional element, it is also the people we served, and the religious orders that serve selflessly in economically depressed communities wracked by violence. Most Catholics in the pews are accepting and supportive of Marriage Equality and LGBTQ Civil Rights and that both confirms my belief in the justice of our cause and gives me hope for the future.

I appreciate and understand your just anger; however, I feel torn on several levels. Like the French after the invasion by the Nazis in 1940, Catholics can rightly either leave altogether, or stay and fight with the resistance. I do not think there is “a right answer,” but a personal decision that each of us must make. For now, I feel called to stay and fight. Speaking the truth openly that we all knew and discussed in seminaries, rectories, and chanceries is shining the light of day onto the darkness of the hierarchy. It is my hope that will effect much needed change and healing.

Tal said...

Oddly, the stereotypes Catholics have fought against still linger today, albeit without the harsh bigotry that formerly accompanied them.

The biggest stereotype is the myth of the "Catholic vote," the notion that Catholics, cult-like, do as they are told. Unsurprisingly, this is one stereotype the hierarchy continues to nurture, even though the idea that roughly 70 million people, covering multiple ethnicities, races, ages, income brackets, and levels of education can be called a voting block is ridiculous. But every election season, the media and politicians consult with various bishops and cardinals on what the "Catholic vote" thinks, wants or desires from its political leaders.

In the Catholic experience, this myth of the "Catholic vote" dangerously empowers the hierarchy as perceived gate keepers to roughly a quarter of the electorate. In so doing, it pairs the religious with the profane and makes princes of bishops. Frankly, I would've thought centuries of bloody reformations, wars and revolutions were sufficient to show the hierarchy the dangers of pairing political power with spiritual authority. Yet here they are, at it again.

The last result of the hierarchy's flirting with political power was forty or more years of fervently concealed child abuse, when the hierarchy used its influence to encourage and cajole elected officials, prosecutors and the police into keeping victims and their families silent. By the time the scandal came to light, the hierarchy's efforts resulted in thousands of victims, empty pews and mothballed churches, and declining donations to charities that serve some of society's poorest and most vulnerable people.

The hierarchy's latest victims are LGBTQ, singled out as aberrant dangers to society and Creation, and even scapegoated as the cause of the child abuse scandal. Now, to protect the children they menaced, the hierarchy has debarred homosexually oriented persons from ordination, despite the fact there is no evidence that homosexuals were the cause of the abuse! (Indeed, the only take away from the scandal was that bishops are unworthy of our obedience or trust.)

In all of this, where the hierarchy's power lies cannot be ignored. In short, the hierarchy's power has become deeply vested in social conservatives and their agenda, which if successful can only reinforce the hierarchy's hold on the faithful. (The Church has always been morally conservative, but it seems the temperance that emerged following Vatican II has been thoroughly ground out and subsumed under the broader objectives of the social conservative political movement, which in degree and flavor, is markedly different from the Church's historic moral teachings and philosophy.)

Ultimately, the hierarchy has turned Christ's message on its head, perverted the Magisterium, and denied obvious truths while clinging to their 'authority.' The best solution would be for politicians to adhere to the spirit of the First Amendment and keep their own counsel. But power unfortunately attracts power, and LGBTQ continue to get ground up in the middle while our secular leaders worry about the opinions of unelected old men who have no more right to speak for Catholics than they do to commandeer their votes.

Joe said...

Renshaw made a good point - why do so many gay priests stay in the priesthood when the Church hierarchy is so very hostile to LGBT people in general & gay priests in particular?

If the purpose of staying in the priesthood is to change the institutional church from within, I don't see any fruit from those labors. The institutional church has grown increasingly hostile to LGBT seemingly everyday. The cup hath so runneth over w/ antigay hate that I don't see what more harm the institutional church can do to gay people, other than advocating for our extermination (let's see how the Church, being against abortion & capital punishment, gets around that!).

Instead, I hear too many stories of priests either in the closet and/or living a double life. Sorry, but that will not result in change in the Church.

Will said...

Matthew, my husband and I host Sweat Lodge gatherings once a month followed by a pot luck supper. Over the 14 years we have been together (and the Sweats were going on for a decade before we met) several gay priests have been part of the core group for various lengths of time, one for the entire time.

We learn a lot about their frustrations and the difficulties they face, it having been particularly bad during the height of the Boston Archdiocese pedophile scandal when there was a witch hunt for gay priests. For the most part these men are very good at heir jobs, are sexually active and several of them have had partners for varying lengths of time, partners both inside and outside the priesthood.

I used to wonder why gay men would go into the priesthood (or the US Military) where they knew in advance they would be despised and subject to summary dismissal should their homosexuality be discovered. From the priests who are part of our circle, I have learned that they are men who had a genuine calling and were unwilling to allow the hierarchy to deny it to them. And yes, there is emotional damage, damage we try to care for by providing a safe place for these wonderful men to be who they are for a while among fellow gays who love them.

Gary (NJ) said...

I'm an acolyte in the Episcopal Church (Anglo-Catholic tradition) and most of the males who are acolytes, as well as the male priests, are gay. We have the full inclusion of women and LGBT people and our church, including a Fellowship for LGBT people. Our rector actually told the congregation one day that if it weren't for all the volunteering that gays do, 'this church would have had to close its doors a long time ago'. I assume this is true for many churches, and not just the Catholic Church.

Anonymous said...

Joe's comments above seem to echo my own feelings...just what are all these gay priests doing in the Church?...are they all so afriad of losing their incomes....the nuns seem to have more backbone and ability to speak truth about the important issues of today.....I understand that many are caught in a bind but certainly not all of them...are they not complicit in the oppression of gay people...are they not complicit in the oppression/suppression of women in our Church?....are they not complicit in the oppression of the poor by the hierarchy who align themselves with the ruling economic elites against the poor in the US and the 3rd World?...priests in Europe are banding together to try to force change....there is safety in numbers.....or are they all conservative right wingers who have lost their roots of the social gospel and their way on the pasth of the Christ? Michael Ferri

Anonymous said...

OK Father , I am gay and catholic, where do I go to church? I also live in a small town.

Father Geoff said...

Dear Anonymous,

That is a great question! Years ago my brother and sister-in-law telephoned me, and asked if I would be willing to become the legal guardian of my six year old niece in the event of their unexpected death. I did not expect such a request, and when hit with it out of the blue, I instantly agreed.

After we concluded the conversation, and for sometime afterward, I gave the subject much thought. Being a parent/guardian means the responsibility of raising a person from infancy to adulthood. It means equipping them intellectually, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually to be able to stand on their own two feet and make reasoned, just, and enriching life decisions. Part of that development process is grounding the person in a loving and supportive community.

What Church would you want a child entrusted to your care to attend? What values would you look for in that community? If it isn’t good for someone you love, and who depends on you; then it probably isn’t good for you either.

Best wishes,

Fr. Geoff

PS: I do not mean this to be critical, but a good start would be to stop being “Anonymous” and trust/believe in your own goodness and personal worth. I empathize with the desire to be cautious; however, there is a tremendous liberation in personal authenticity.