Monday, January 26, 2009

Shocked but not surprised.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.” An English professor of mine in college once said, “truisms are truisms because they are true.” On Friday the Bilerco Project published an article about my recent run in with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In brief, I had applied for the position of Executive Director of a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. I had very successfully completed the lion’s share of the interview process and was all but assured that I would be given the position. I had one final interview left with the Board of Directors on December 15th, 2008. Two days before that interview, I received a phone call from a Board Member informing me that the final interview had been cancelled. He was extremely apologetic and explained that they had received a phone call from the Archdiocese threatening them with disaffiliation if I were to be hired as the Executive Director.

I decided not to pursue any legal remedy for three reasons. First, I did not in any way wish to harm the non-profit for which I had applied. They do outstanding and laudable work helping the working poor. Second, I have extremely limited financial resources and am no match for the extremely well financed and influential Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Third, my own family asked me not to pursue the matter further. They felt that I was being made “an example of” by the powers within the Church to discourage other priests from speaking out. My folks basically suggested that I just find a job and move on with my life.

Paradoxically, the actions of churchmen are pushing me in the opposite direction. On this final point, I must say that I have received first a command and then, “warnings” not to publish, not to speak with the media, and not to make public appearances. I am in a “David and Goliath” scenario with powerful churchmen who have the staff and vast wealth of the institution at their command. I was effectively blackballed by the Archdiocese from obtaining the position at CLUE-LA and I am aware that the hierarchy may try this and other means to attempt to intimidate me into silence. It is the basic civil right for freedom of speech that is at stake here for both myself and the reader.

These authoritarian churchmen are threatened by the free expression of ideas which differ from their own. They are even more acutely sensitive on this particular issue than on most others because they know that many priests (and bishops) are gay. They take it as a personal affront that threatens not only their power and position, but perhaps even more frightening, it threatens to unmask many of them as closeted gay men. The simple solution of granting gay and lesbian Catholics the practical dignity which they have conferred upon them theoretically is a non-option. This is true because of sociological reasons. Most Catholics live in the Third World and are not prepared to accept women priests, let alone gay and lesbian equal rights.

I entered the seminary in 1978 because of a sincere religious conversion. I have been privileged to know many holy priests and nuns. I have meditated on the Word of God and have been inspired by the Truth of Divine Mercy. I know that I am imperfect and have fallen short in my life but I can honestly say that I have never acted out of malice towards others. I know that the truth cannot be destroyed by free discussion and that ultimately, free discourse of ideas serves the truth since, it reveals it. Those who would lead us spiritually must do so by the wisdom and reason of their argumentation and not by coercion. They must embrace and manifest love and mercy as central values which they manifest through their words and deeds. This is how our founder proclaimed the Good News.


Matt Algren said...

I continue to be appalled by the actions of the Church leadership toward you. It's a disgrace to everything they claim to stand for.

You're in my prayers.

Brian R said...

I can do little more than offer my prayers and tell you how much I admire you for your stand.

Rob T. said...

This situation confirms why I cannot ever even think of returning to the Catholic Church, esp. when it's run by that wacko B16 & others like him. The leadership of the Catholic Church is like the Politburo under Stalin & Mao- do as we say, don't question, or we will hurt you. This group of far rightists are not real Christians, Christ never intended His church to be run so narrowly & bigoted.

Dusty in the San Joaquin said...

How disgusting!

It’s clear from my following you the past few months that you’re a giving sensitive person and your original calling to the clergy should not be traded in for a desk job. If your not welcome in the Roman Church, I’m sure the Episcopal Church would welcome you with open arms and recognize your ordination. But then you probably already know that. If you would like to communicate more with me about this, give me a way to reach you.

Марко Фризия said...

Like everyone else, you have to eat and have a place to live. I am sickened that this is happening to you, but not surprised It is hard for me to maintain any semblance of Christian charity towards those who are persecuting you so I can't and won't comment more about them. Thank you for taking all of the risks you have taken and sacrifices you have made on behalf of others. We hold you in our prayers and love.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Geoff+, Please know that for this former Roman Catholic girl, your actions warm my heart. That's probably cold comfort, even on a good day, but please know that your integrity and authenticity remind me of all that I know that is good about the RC Church.

I'm all grown up now and an Episcopal priest who, for the past 33 years has been in a faithful monogamous relationship with the same woman. We've got six kids and five grandchildren (and counting).

I've been following you through Susan Russell's writings and I want you to know that I pray for you often and from the bottom of my heart. I pray in deep gratitude for your courage and ask God that you will be given the strength and wisdom to continue to be a beacon of hope though these dark days.

You have no idea how many lives you have touched and how many lives you have changed.

I join that mighty throng in holding you up before God in prayer.

Birdie said...

I have registered my disappointment with CLUE-LA and my anger with the Los Angeles Diocese. However, my email to the diocese was returned unread, so my snail mail letter will be in the mail tomorrow.

Those who have access to members of the press would do well to send links to this post and the Bilerico article. Spread light on this outrage so that it cannot hide.

Stand tall, Father Geoff, and know that our prayers are with you.

Jeremiah Andrews said...

We (the many) are following this issue as it makes its rounds in the press. I am sure, that God will speak in the midst of this turmoil.

Being forced into silence by the church is an old tactic that has just about run its course.

Be Steadfast and Honest in your desire to serve community and do not let your heart be burdened by those who would want to silence you. They will face their own challenges in the coming weeks. This is not over by a long shot.

You will be victorious one way or another. You are still alive with air in your lungs and a pen in your hand.

God is NOT done with you yet.

Be Steadfast ...
Be Still ...
And know that I am God.

Henri Nouwen would be apt to remind us these mantras:

I am human, You are God
I am human, You are God
I am human, You are God...

And finally before you rest your head...

"Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on Me."

You are in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Father--with all due respect, perhaps it is time to leave the Catholic Church just as I did years ago. There are many other spiritual homes.

Now the Pope is welcoming Holocaust deniers. Please pray on this and know you are welcome in other faith traditions.

David@Montreal said...

Never forget violence and bullying is always the fruits of the impotent.

Likewise, I'd urge you never to confuse this disgusting behavour by the bullies of the patriarchy with the love of our God- a 'love beyond our wildest imaging' to quote he Bishop of New Hampshire.

so now our prayers become very specific- for livlihood and employment which honors your talents and priesthood.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

What all have said (the relevant parts ;=)

Prayers and Blessings!

Bill said...

Our trials can make us stronger. I have said a prayer for you, and will continue to do that.
Stay strong! God will help you through this.

barbarab said...

I'm so very sorry. Unfortunately it confirms my experience with the Roman Church. Like Elizabeth I'm all grown up and an Episcopalian but not a priest. You are a blessing to all of us and remain in my prayers. God will show you what you should do next: Peace be with you!

alban said...

You are in my thoughts and in my prayers, and I am very much heartened that you seem to be realistic.

I wasn't sure what would happen when I took a 'leave of absence' some 15 years ago, but I see now that it was a blessing. I don't regret my Ministerial Priesthood for one second; there are several things I miss quite deeply, and in my heart and soul I believe that I will always be a priest (something I know you will completely understand); however, not returning after my year was the right thing for me.

Trust always that you that God is watching over you, and that nothing can happen that you are unable to handle with the help of His grace. May God's abundant blessings be upon you in this time of transition and growth.

KJ said...

I echo Elizabeth's thoughts, though my experience was in the parallel universe of Evangelical Land. Those that follow will call you blessed.

Pinkbeard/Barbarrosa said...

The Catholic hierarchy has never believed in free expression. A few days ago, Cardinal Rouco, president of Spain's Bishops Conference, was outraged by the mild and respectful Atheist ads being run in Madrid buses ("There´s probably no God... etc.) and said that "real freedom of expression needs surveillance and approval" to avoid the "insult" of people doubting God's existence. Frankly, I don't think God needs this kind of defense.

Thank you for your courage.

Adrian Molina said...

You are in my prayers. There are so many of us who are being pushed away by our own church, we find a lot of hope and comfort in your courage. I've been going to an Episcopal church for the last three months because it hurts my heart to go to my own Catholic church nowadays. What they've done is despicable, and extremely unchristian.

Марко Фризия said...

Since all of this began for you, I have wondered how you survived day-to-day (I would be in dire straits if my income cut off and I would be incredibly stressed out and in a panic). As a human being, I have worried about your wellbeing under so much stress. And I wonder if people are stepping forward to help you in tangible ways -- these are such hard times for so many folks. We've had conversations here wondering if you were ever reunited with your missing cat. Is there anything we can do to help you? If possible, please send me an email (my email address is on my blogger profile). Is there a postal address where one could send you a gift? We've thought about sending you something in care of Susan Russell's parish.

PersonalFailure said...

keep fighting the good fight, father. you remind me more of Jesus then anyone else.

what about switching to a religion that allows gay clergy? you really seem suited to the clergy, and it seems a shame to waste your talents.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for your courage and your strength.

If you leave the RCC I would understand but I do believe it is so important to remain and to make know the human rights being castegated by the ONE HOLY APOSTOLIC CHURCH.....this year of St Paul should show the Hierarchy the need for openness for all people....but we gays who choose to stay in the Church ask that you remain to continue the fight with us........
HUGS and prayers in whatever you decide

Sebastian said...

"But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Galatians 2: 11 St. Paul wrote those words about opposing St. Peter on the question of whether Christians were subject to the dietary and purity codes of the Old Testament. This is not an insignificant dispute for us, as some of the harshest condemnations of homosexual acts in the Bible are mixed in with those very purity and dietary codes.

I don't know what advice to give you. You made a stand in conscience and now are faced with other questions of conscience. To what extent should you continue to challenge the hierarchy? And in what ways should you challenge them? Only you can decide.

It is clear, however, that the hierarchy somehow believes that it is above the law of charity, the Golden Rule, and also that the hierarchy simply does not accept the ethos of American democracy. American democracy rests on the idea that individuals have rights, and that the civic and economic autonomy of the person allows them to say what they want without recriminations of the type they are subjecting you to. Will they ever learn to do so? I don't know. But if they don't, the hierarchy will become less and less relevant to the Church and to the world.

artemisia said...

Carry on with your work for justice. You are in my prayers.

jmKelley said...

We thought the Inquisition was long past, but such actions by the Roman bishops, the kirchen fuhrers, prove it is alive and well. They lack the power to actually burn us at the stake now, but the mentality of the Inquisition still thrives among them.

“Blessed are you when they hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.” (Luke 6)

"Just trust in God. He'll let you know what to do next." +Saint Mychal Judge

Anonymous said...

Hi Geoff

My name is Eric and I live in SoCal. Wish you the best on this. Have you read John Shelby Spong's work? He might be able to give you a more peace-filled perspective on the short-comings of people. I have found him to be quite enlightening.

peregrinus said...

Hold to your beliefs in acceptance and love, there are people in Australia and world wide thinking of you and praying for you.

Anonymous said...

It is sad how much the Church insists on remaining in the stone age. I will keep you in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to know there are still good people in the church. Good luck, Man.

Doorman-Priest said...

I am so sorry to hear this. How vindictive! I wish I could do something practical to help.

RejoiceAllWays said...

In catching up on past issues of NCR, I read the article describing your heroic action and fate. As a brother gay priest,I admire your courage and conviction. Although I have been a priest for over 30 years, only since 2000 am I finally coming to acceptance of my own sexual orientation as your spiritual director wisely suggested to you in 1978. It is time for the Church to listen to gays and lesbians about their faithful relationships and desist in condemning them. The Church needs to preach and teach a "new vision" for sexuality with less emphasis on prohibitions and more recognition of conscientious love -- as Cardinal Carlo Martini recommends. I often dream of starting a support group for gay priests or men, but the area where I reside does not allow for the anonymity of CA! Maybe God will throw me out into a new ministry as was your blessing or curse -- in all things let us be satisfied!

Anonymous said...

As my mom used to say, "another star in your crown", Geoff.

Hang in there, and God bless.

June Butler said...

Geoff, I have little to offer you but my prayers and my admiration for your courage. I hope that you do not stop speaking out.

As a renegade Catholic, according to the canons, a heretic and an apostate, I've been at home and at peace in the Episcopal Church for 14 years.

May God bless you and may you find employment which will enable you to use your God-given gifts.

James said...

Fr. Geoff - I wish you knew how much I admire your true Christian response to the injustice perpetrated by the Archdiocese. This new bit is absolutely appaling. I hope the news media picks this story up and runs with it. Particularly now that Mahoney might be criminally charged.

I cannot speak for all the Episcopal Church, but, come home to us, you'll receive a welcome. "We'll leave the light on for you."

You're in my and our prayers, my brother.

Anonymous said...

It is iniquitous that in the wake of this action against you, and against other progressive priests who have been following their consciences, the Vatican should be attempting to explain away the welcome extended to the SPX Bishops as being in the "interest of church unity", and an expression of "mercy to the suffering".

The Holy Spirit has a habit of working in mysterious ways. Others before you have found they emerged from Vatican attempted muzzling stronger, with a louder voice.

I have no idea what is the path ahead of you - but I pray that it will indeed be one of greater strength, whatever form it may take.

Anonymous said...

I have followed Fr. Geoff's story and postings with great sadness. I am in a similar position, having recently received unspecified threats from my bishop if I continue to write or speak out on behalf of LGBT people. All I can say at this point is "Hit me with your best shot!" The bishops are losing power and they know it. Personally, I have found great support and drawn strength from other priests and LGBT people willing to stand up for the truth that we are God's children. Peace...

(Fr.) Chris Carpenter

June Butler said...

The bishops are losing power and they know it.

Fr. Carpenter, exactly. May God bless you as you continue with your good work.

Anonymous said...

Hi Father Geoff Farrow. You are a brave man and I respect your courage. Another brave man was Harvey Milk. I was lucky too have lived in SF when Harvey was supervisor and lucky again to be an extra in the movie Milk. I hope you see the movie if you haven't already. You have some in common with Harvey. Below is a tape of Harvey's recording made in case of his assassination. While times have progressed and hopefully we are safer nowdays than in Harvey's time, it still takes courage to do what you have done and especially within the church. Thank you.

Fr. Marty Kurylowicz said...

I am so sorry to hear this happened and is happening to you. Especially, when you so beautifully represented us all throughout the weeks leading up to the elections in November 2008, regarding Prop 8 meeting with so many leaders in government and many LGBT leaders. I felt proud to see; you an openly gay Catholic priest at these social functions, reminding to the public that not all Catholics are in agreement with the Vatican's antigay teachings. You were breaking the silence about human sexuality raising it to the level as “a gift from God” not something to be ashamed of, to be hidden as wrong or evil.

However, Pope Benedict XVI soon after he was elected pope April 2005, set into operation the removal of all openly gay priests, which is what Hitler, did when he came to power. * They fear the light all their deeds are done in the dark that is why there is that feeling of paranoia and so remain in the light. That sounds like something Jesus said. It is helpful that you wrote about this ordeal on your blog, because I have and am receiving similar treatment. I truly appreciated your words about paranoia.

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.” An English professor of mine in college once said, “truisms are truisms because they are true.”

You really have and still are following Christ's example and it is not easy to do, is it? It is hard to understand when you truly try to follow Christ; you get the worst treatment from the hierarchy, which is actually how Christ was treated. Strange isn’t it, seeing the Gospels from a whole new perspective. It is a whole new experience of life, the world, the Church and the meaning of Christ’s words. I hope you are around good people, who are supportive and kind, which I am sure you are. With all good wishes, Marty

* Why Bother About Homosexuals? Homophobia and Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany (2002)
by Geoffrey J. Giles explanation of Hitler’s immediate action taken against gays, when he came to power, accounts of the inhuman treatment of gays.
100 Raoul Wallenberg Place, SW, Washington, DC 20024-2126

butterfly said...

Dear Fr. Geoff Farrow,

You are under the wing of the Almighty God. Soar with Him!! He leads you to greener pastures. He will take care of your every need.

Much love and respect for you!!

saints54 said...

I support your effort in facing "mother" church for equality and justice. For deeper spritiuality look to the East.

OFM800 said...

Please do not give up the struggle for truth and compassion. Our Church needs leaders like you more than ever. Peace!

Anonymous said...

Father Geoff,
I left the Catholic Church over nonsense like this.
A suggestion: Just leave any denomination alone. Take time to clear the decks and breathe deeply. Life really does go on, with or without going to a church. I left 5 years ago. Is life better because of it? Is life worse because of it? Can't say. Life seems to have its ups and downs like it always has. The sky hasn't fallen and I can still laugh like I always did.
Best of luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Wishing you His grace and peace.

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Geoff, Just joining my voice with the others once again, encouraging you to continue to look beyond the voices that seek to censor and silence your witness, to The Voice that proclaims "YOU are my beloved .. on you My favor rests". I join all these who love you and wish you the very best. I also join those who extend a warm welcome to The Episcopal Church should you ever feel so inclined.

Erika Baker said...

Having read all the comments here in one go, what stands out for me is a clear desire from all of us to help. Maybe you could post about practical things we can do besides pray for you?
Are there particular people to write to, would donations of money be useful, is there anything else?

Do let us know - this is a battle we all fight together.

Anonymous said...

Here in Connecticut back in the late 80's was a time of LGBT activism. Dignity had been welcomed to meet in a local Catholic parish school and progress seemed to be real in terms of our being included at the Altar. Well, long story short, Dignity got expelled from the parish school and several priests eventually left the ministry. I don't believe we will see any Church movement toward acceptance or understanding in our lifetime. I can't say that I really care anymore.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, my husband and I know first hand the actions of the church as well as the larger communities we live in. How they act toward those who speak up on a current civil rights issue, especially lgbt civil rights. Our son was the victim of an anti-gay assault after his 16 birthday, my husband has been shot at and I was beaten with my back broken. A decade ago, several of us mothers and fathers of hate crime victims formed our own support network to assist those new to such bias violence. As time passes, the need for our service increases rather than decreases.
Once we were Catholics and our children were raised in the church. We remain Christians but not within the church. We were asked to leave. The only Christian churches to welcome us were the lgbt churches.
Please be safe and know that this family is most grateful for your words and actions. They mean more than I believe you know.
I made my son a promise as I cradled his bloody and broken ,that while breath remained in me, I would never, ever be silent regarding this gross injustice and homegrown terrorism.
Go in peace and know that you are truly doing the work Christ commanded us to do.
Carolyn Wagner
Families United Against Hate

Carolyn Wagner said...

I forgot to ask, can others assist you regarding basic living requirements while you seek stable employment?
Carolyn Wagner

Freedom Bound said...

I remember you daily at vespers my brother. And know that you are an inspiration and I hope those of us you keep going with your witness can in someway sustain you too.

Anonymous said...

What the Los Angeles Archdiocese has done to you is outrageous. As president of Dignity Twin Cities, I would like you to know that you are an inspiration to us. Your work, and persecution, remind us how important it is to continue our work for justice for glbt Catholics. Thank you for what you have done.

Anonymous said...

Theresa J
Hi, Father Geoff. I start worrying about you (I know I shouldn't, but I do) when you don't let us hear from you. I pray every day that you get the job you want, but then you are so good as a priest that I bet God doesn't want to lose you to a private company. Love and prayers for you, your family, and all your friends.

kevin57 said...


I too am a "Father," and exclaustrated (i.e., on leave) from my religious order. I too am gay. I too know existentially the pain of being marginalized and rejected by my Church. I was ordered by my superiors to go for in-patient psychiatric care despite having two formal psychological assessments that concluded I have no mental disorders. I was told that no bishop would grant me faculties unless I did so. After "discussion," it was made a matter of "obedience" (Go, even if you don't need it because we're ordering you to go!) That was the last straw. In the midst of all this there have been numerous hateful Vatican statements, from no gay seminarians to voting against a UN resolution that would have recommended de-criminalizing homosexual activity between consenting adults. Thus, the Vatican sided with regimes throughout the world that literally kill people for loving the way they love. Disgusting!

I stay in the Church because I love the sacraments and the spiritual tradition. You know, Father, how mystics like John of the Cross were treated. They stayed and now they are a light for all time.