04/14/17

Glenstal monk urges church to change attitude on sexual ethics

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Fr Mark Patrick Hederman calls for church to modernise its approach to sexuality

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman: “It is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour.”

The Catholic Church’s “stifling teachings on sex” need to be dramatically modernised, a Benedictine monk has said.

Fr Mark Patrick Hederman, the former abbot of Glenstal in Limerick, said the church also needs to address its subjugation of women and open a national discussion on sex, celibacy and ethics.

He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Fr Hederman (72), a former headmaster in Glenstal Abbey, said that for centuries sex in Ireland was only talked about in the context of “the natural law of God and confined to religious discourse”.

Reality check

However, he believes the time has come to have a greater conversation and for the church to have “a reality check” on its ideals.

In relation to a person’s emotional or sexual life, he said in the past it was as if the church felt such a life did not exist.

“It was presumed that it arrived fully fledged in the marriage bed, the only location where its practice was permitted. Even the most basic courses on love-making teach that a man has to train himself to prevent orgasm occurring prematurely before it can be shared with his partner.

“This does not come naturally. On the contrary, the natural orgasm and ejection of sperm for a man is unencumbered and immediate. That is the biological way, the optimum performance in terms of procreation and reproduction of the species.

“Lovers have to learn, discipline themselves, and gain a control which will help them to be sexual in a way that makes them sensitively reciprocal. Otherwise sexuality is the tool of selfish individuality and autistic monologue,” he writes.

Rejected lifestyles

Fr Hederman is a prolific author and his latest book, The Opal and the Pearl, is published this week and calls for a more modernised attitude from the church on sex. The book takes its title from a letter from James Joyce to Nora Barnacle in 1909.

In it, he writes that Catholics who wish to remain “conservative and old-fashioned”, should avoid being “sectarian and supportive of values and lifestyles which have been rejected by the majority of 21st-century families.

“Otherwise we are categorised as out-of-date leftovers from a previous era, such as the Amish communities in America and Canada.”

Fr Hederman said that while he believes in celibacy and the condition of Christian chastity, “I don’t believe that everyone who wants to devote their life to God should be required to be celibate.”
He said the progressive attitude shown by the nation in the marriage equality referendum have not been reflected in all parts of society.

“Now that we have legislated for gay marriage and accepted the fact that sexuality does happen for reasons other than procreation; now that we also recognise that some of the most heinous sexual crimes have been perpetrated within the ‘sanctity’ of marriage; it is surely time to take a more comprehensive approach to the ethics of sexual behaviour,” he said.

“Every or any sexual activity can be good or evil, and the act itself right through to the moment of orgasm is always somewhere on a spectrum between selfish egotism and altruistic communion.”

Complete Article HERE!

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08/20/16

Does it matter whether Archbishop John Nienstedt is gay?

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By Tim Gihring

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When allegations of a sex-abuse coverup began to leak out of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis a couple years ago, they were always accompanied by another, seemingly unrelated set of accusations: the bumbling attempts of Archbishop John Nienstedt, then the leader of the archdiocese, to have sex with men.

“The archbishop has been known to go ‘cruising’ (and I am not referring to the type of cruising one does on a ship in the Caribbean) and, on one occasion, purchased ‘poppers’ (and not the exploding candy preferred by elementary school students) and followed another gentleman to his car for, well, the type of activity that men purchase ‘poppers’ for…,” wrote Jennifer Haselberger, the whistleblower whose allegations prompted Nienstedt’s resignation last summer. On her website, Haselberger helpfully links to Wikipedia’s entry on poppers: basically disco-era sex drugs.

In late July, more stories of Nienstedt’s “promiscuous gay lifestyle,” as a fellow priest put it, were released by prosecutors. Most relate to his time in Detroit, where he moved up the clerical ladder in the late 1970s and ’80s. He’s said to have frequented a gay bar just across the border in Canada, whimsically called the Happy Tap.

But even if the allegations are true, it doesn’t mean that Nienstedt is sympathetic to sexual abuse — a link between homosexuality and priestly pederasty is as unproven as it is enduring. Nor does it mark Nienstedt as unusual. Catholic researchers estimate that as many as 58 percent of priests are homosexuals. To confirm that he desired men would be like discovering that the pope is Catholic.

But Nienstedt is not just any priest, of course. He staked his tenure in Minnesota fighting marriage equality — and using church money to do so. No other archbishop in the country has gone so far as to condemn the families and friends of gays and lesbians for abetting “a grave evil.”

Nienstedt, who now lives in California, writing and editing for a Catholic institute, has publicly denied that he is gay. He recently declared, as no straight guy ever has: “I am a heterosexual man who has been celibate my entire life.”

For gay Catholics, if Nienstedt does share their desires, the deceit would be heartbreaking, “a sickening level of hypocrisy,” as one described it. It may also help explain why Nienstedt not only neglected the sins of priests, but covered them up, a pattern of denial that would be hard to fathom if it were not so deeply personal.

A different era

When gay Catholics in the Twin Cities first came together, in the late 1970s, they asked to meet with then-Archbishop John Roach. They were looking for compassion and understanding, if not acceptance — and to a remarkable degree they got it.

With Roach’s blessing, the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) — an independent group of local Catholics based in St. Paul — introduced a sort of sensitivity training in parishes and in nine of the 11 local Catholic high schools. It was intended to help priests, teachers, and administrators better serve gays and lesbians, and it lasted for nearly 20 years.

“During the peak of our work,” one of the group’s co-founders told me several years ago, “we became almost mainstream.” In 1989, the archdiocese awarded its Archbishop John Ireland Award to another CPCSM co-founder for his social-justice activism on behalf of gays and lesbians.

The efforts paid off: “If it was okay to bash someone in the past, it isn’t now,” reported the director of Catholic Education and Formation Ministries in 1998. “We’re trying to teach kids what’s right.” When conservative activists objected that same year, the archdiocese defended the Safe Schools initiative.

Michael Bayly, a gay Catholic who until last year headed up the CPCSM, began compiling this history in 2009, shortly after Nienstedt became archbishop. He worried at the time that “there are some who would like to downplay or even deny such a relationship.”

But the church’s openness wasn’t limited to the Twin Cities. Bayly recalls that in 1994, when he moved to Minnesota, a bishop from Detroit came to talk with gay and lesbian Catholics on how — to quote the advertisement for the dialogue — a “wholeness in sexual expression” can be “deeply human and truly spiritual.”

In fact, Detroit was known as one of the most open-minded districts of the church. And as Nienstedt was starting out there, he was imbued with its liberal spirit.

Promoted and protected

In 1977, as the era of disco and poppers was in full swing, Nienstedt was 30, a newly minted priest in Detroit, and he became the secretary to Cardinal John Dearden, characterized by the New York Times as a “leading liberal voice in the Church.” Nienstedt himself described his mentor’s views to the Times as aligned “with the mind of the Church.”

But something changed after Dearden’s retirement in 1980, when Nienstedt went to work and study in the Vatican, which was shifting toward the neo-conservatism of the new Pope John Paul II. As a leading critic of Nienstedt has noted, the ambitious young priest saw first-hand “the changes John Paul II sought in the church and the kind of bishops whom he wanted.” When he returned to Detroit in 1985, Nienstedt’s new boss was a favorite of the pope, and, sure enough, in time Nienstedt adopted his views.

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.

Haselberger, who worked closely with Nienstedt in the archdiocese office as an adviser on church law, believes his proclivities help explain why he coddled abusive priests — he may have been attracted to them. And the so-called Delegate for Safe Environment, a priest overseeing child-abuse prevention in the archdiocese, came to the same conclusion about Nienstedt two years ago: being gay “affected his judgment.”

But Nienstedt’s silence protected far more priests than he could have known or been attracted to — dozens across Minnesota. And aside from suspicions of a relationship with one of the most notorious, Curtis Wehmeyer, his intervention — or lack of it — appears less about personal favor and more about institutional preservation. He saw sin, and looked the other way.

Instead, the 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.

But the deal may also have been a trap. 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.

At the end, as multiple investigations closed in, Nienstedt still stuck to the pattern, claiming both that he was unaware of abusers under his watch and that any accusations of homosexuality were merely retaliation for his anti-gay policies. He had no choice but to double down on denial.

Complete Article HERE!

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07/6/16

Remarried couples should abstain from sex, Philadelphia Catholic church says

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File Under:  AS IF!

 

Archbishop Charles Chaput also stated that gay Catholics should also ‘live chastely’ in new rules issued after Pope Francis urged more acceptance of others

 

Charles Chaput, the Philadelphia archbishop, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church.

Charles Chaput, the Philadelphia archbishop, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church.

Catholics in Philadelphia who are divorced and civilly remarried will be welcome to accept Holy Communion – as long as they abstain from sex and live out their relationships like “brother and sister”.

New guidelines published by the conservative archbishop of Philadelphia this month also called on priests within the archdiocese to help Catholics who are attracted to people of the same sex and “find chastity very difficult”, saying such individuals should be advised to frequently seek penance. Because same-sex attraction takes “diverse forms”, the archdiocese also said that some people can still live out a vocation of heterosexual marriage with children, notwithstanding “some degree of same-sex attraction”.

The guidelines, which took effect on 1 July, come three months after Pope Francis urged bishops to be more accepting of Catholics who lived outside of the church’s social teaching and doctrine, including people who have divorced and remarried, and people in same-sex relationships. The pope’s views were published in April in a document titled Amoris Laetitia (Joy of Love), which was hailed as potentially groundbreaking. Because the document called on bishops to show greater mercy and flexibility to bring Catholics back to the church, while also calling on bishops not to veer from church doctrine, it was seen as giving both traditional and more progressively minded bishops the chance to interpret the document as they saw fit.

The Philadelphia archbishop, Charles Chaput, is known as one of the staunchest conservative leaders in the US Catholic church, a view that is reflected in the rules the archdiocese published.

John Allen, a veteran Vatican journalist, said he believed Philadelphia was among the first archdiocese to publish such rules based on its interpretation of Amoris Laetitia.

“My suspicion is that those who are inclined to a more progressive reading [of Amoris Laetitia] are not going to put out documents to say so. It will quietly be made clear to priests that it is OK under certain circumstances, for example, to allow some people to quietly come back to communion,” Allen told the Guardian. “My suspicion is that the more traditional line [adopted by some bishops] will be more public.”

Allen said that he did not think Pope Francis would be surprised by Chaput’s reading of the papal document, since he is likely aware of traditional interpretations of his document.

In its examination of homosexuality, the Philadelphia guidelines state that two people in an “active, public same-sex relationship, no matter how sincere, offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only produce moral confusion in the community.

“Those with predominant same-sex attractions are therefore called to struggle to live chastely for the kingdom of God. In this endeavor they have need of support, friendship and understanding if they fail,” the rules state.

But the greatest attention in the guidelines are focused on couples who are divorced and civilly remarried who have not obtained an annulment of their first marriage.

While divorced and remarried couples should be welcomed by the Catholic community, and not be seen as outside the church, the archdiocese said they are required by church teaching to refrain from all sexual intimacy.

“This applies even if they must (for the care of their children) continue to live under one roof. Undertaking to live as brother and sister is necessary for the divorced and civilly-remarried to receive reconciliation in the Sacrament of Penance, which could then open the way to the Eucharist,” the archdiocese said.

Priests are also directed to consider Catholic couples who are living together but are not married, including whether the couple have had children born in these “irregular unions”. If a priest senses that one person in the couple is reluctant to take the plunge, the archdiocese recommended trying to break up the pair.

“Often cohabiting couples refrain from making final commitments because one or both persons is seriously lacking in maturity or has other significant obstacles to entering a valid union. Here, prudence plays a vital role. Where one or another person is not capable of, or is not willing to commit to, a marriage, the pastor should urge them to separate,” the guidelines state.

If the cohabitating couple seems ready to tie the knot but is just a bit slow, the priest should encourage them to practice chastity.

“They will find this challenging, but again, with the help of grace, mastering the self is possible – and this fasting from physical intimacy is a strong element of spiritual preparation for an enduring life together,” it said.

 Complete Article HERE!

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07/19/15

In his first remarks since resigning, Nienstedt denies allegations in affidavits

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By and and

The former archbishop makes his first remarks since resigning in June.

Former Archbishop John Nienstedt said he remains “dumbfounded” by the allegations of personal misconduct that emerged last year during an internal church investigation of his behavior — a report that the archdiocese now is considering making public.

“It pains me deeply that my good name and reputation have been put into question by allegations that are entirely false and based wholly on rumor, hearsay, or innuendo,” said Nienstedt last week, in written responses to questions from the Star Tribune.

Commissioned by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the probe looked into claims that Nienstedt had engaged in behavior that was inappropriate for a priest. The Star Tribune has learned that investigators collected affidavits from priests, former seminarians and a former priest alleging actions, some dating to the Detroit area in the early 1980s, that range from inappropriate touching to visiting a gay nightclub.

Nienstedt resigned June 15, after Ramsey County prosecutors filed criminal and civil charges against the archdiocese, alleging “failure to protect children.” Nienstedt said he hoped his resignation would “give the archdiocese a new beginning.”

But the existence of the investigation has become yet another dilemma for a church sharply criticized for its handling of dozens of cases of alleged sexual abuse by priests. Earlier this year it filed bankruptcy to help deal with the mounting financial toll of those cases.

Some priests and parishioners are pressing interim Archbishop Bernard Hebda to make last year’s investigation of Nienstedt public. He must balance those demands against the promise of confidentiality granted to those who participated in the investigation, as well as the possible implications — if any — it could have in the criminal case brought by Ramsey County.

Hebda has pledged to “resolve the matter in a way that is reasonable and fair.” Nienstedt said he wants the issue behind him so that his name can be cleared.

“It is frustrating, both for me and the public, that this process has gone on for so long,” Nienstedt said in his first remarks to the media since his resignation. “I was dumbfounded because the allegations were so far-fetched and utterly untrue.”

Investigation begins

The archdiocese declined to answer questions about the investigation. Last year, it hired the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis to look into allegations of clergy misconduct involving Nienstedt and adults. The law firm’s work ended last summer, and the chancery hired Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Peter Wold to complete the probe.

Greene Espel has publicly disputed claims by the archdiocese that Nienstedt did not intervene in the investigation.

The firm conducted interviews and collected affidavits, or sworn statements, from people who worked with or knew Nienstedt. The Star Tribune has confirmed that five Catholic priests, one former priest and a former seminarian were among those who provided affidavits.

In one affidavit, a priest in Harrison Township, Mich., reported seeing Nienstedt at a gay nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit in the 1980s. “I recall seeing John — and there is no doubt in my mind that it was him based on my prior interactions with him — at the Happy Tap,” the Rev. Lawrence Ventline wrote in his affidavit. “He appeared to wave me off as I was coming — and I backed off because I did not want impose on him.”

Another affidavit from a Michigan priest said that Nienstedt pulled up to his car in an area frequented by gay men one December in the early 1980s and asked him if he had any “poppers,” an inhalant used by gay men to enhance sexual pleasure. When he got into Nienstedt’s car, and Nienstedt recognized him as a former student, he changed the subject, the priest told the Star Tribune.

A former seminarian at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, James Heathcott, also filed an affidavit. He said that Nienstedt — who was the seminary’s rector — expelled him after he refused an invitation to join Nienstedt and two other seminarians on a private weekend at a ski chalet in the late 1980s.

In addition, the Star Tribune obtained a 2014 letter sent by a former student at Sacred Heart Seminary to former auxiliary bishop Lee Piché, who oversaw the Nienstedt investigation, alleging that Nienstedt touched his buttocks after a dinner together one night between 2000 and 2002. Joseph Rangitsch said he protested and Nienstedt replied he could “make things unpleasant for you very quickly.”

Nienstedt denies claims

Nienstedt denied all the allegations, point by point and in general. He also stressed that none of the people who filed affidavits claimed that he “ever abused any minor, had a sexual relationship with any individual, or committed any crime.”

The former archbishop insisted he never set foot in a gay nightclub or visited gay cruising spots. He said he was not even in Detroit in December 1982, when the Michigan priest claims he asked for the “poppers.” He was assigned to the Vatican Secretariat of State in Rome and was not allowed to come home for the holidays.

He acknowledged he drove by the park in question somewhat regularly — by necessity.

“When I was Cardinal John Dearden’s secretary, the Cardinal’s residence where I lived was near the alleged park,” he wrote. “I had to drive through the park to get to other destinations within the city of Detroit.”

Nienstedt said Heathcott was not expelled from the seminary but left on his own after informing the seminary he did not feel called to be a priest. The ski trip, added Nienstedt, was open to seminarians and faculty — not a “private chalet.” “Anyone who wanted to go could sign up,” he said.

Nienstedt said he had no memory of meeting Rangitsch and said he was no longer rector at the seminary at the time of that alleged incident. Nienstedt’s attorney points out that Rangitsch has a criminal record in Montana, including misdemeanor convictions for sexual assault.

Nienstedt believes some of the accusations are “retribution” for his stance on social issues. As auxiliary bishop in Detroit, he ended the gay community’s use of a Catholic church for liturgies. In Minnesota, he led an unsuccessful campaign to amend the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriages.

“Certain groups in Detroit began spreading untrue rumors about me following difficult decisions I made as the rector of the Detroit seminary and as an Auxiliary Bishop,” he said. “Some priests in Detroit also vehemently disagreed with my positions and decisions.”

Nienstedt added that he didn’t air all the evidence he has against those who made charges “because it would be a disservice to the people who cooperated with the investigation under a promise of confidentiality.”

The affidavits are among many documents and interviews compiled by investigators last year that Hebda is now reviewing.

Next steps

Meanwhile, Ramsey County still has an active investigation in its criminal prosecution of the archdiocese, which charges that the “highest level of leadership” failed to protect children from pedophile priests. St. Paul police confirmed it executed a search warrant on the archdiocese chancery in June. A court hearing in that case is set for Aug. 25.

If and when the church’s internal investigation is released, said Nienstedt, “I remain hopeful that, in the final evaluation, I will be exonerated.”

Since resigning June 15, Nienstedt has been spending time with friends and family. He said he would like to “continue in ministry in one form or another.”

The former archbishop said he’d like his legacy to be the archdiocese’s strengthened child protection protocols developed with clergy abuse victims, the hiring of excellent leadership to oversee ministerial standards, and initiatives to strengthen parishes and schools.

What the archdiocese decides to do with the investigation is being monitored by Twin Cities Catholics as well as national Catholic authorities, who say the St. Paul situation is extremely rare.

Facing scores of priest abuse claims, bankruptcy, civil and criminal charges — and the Nienstedt investigation controversy — the archdiocese is in uncharted terrain.

“I rarely say anything is unique in the Catholic Church, but this is a pretty unique situation,” said the Rev. Thomas Reese, senior analyst for National Catholic Reporter.

Complete Article HERE!

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02/25/15

Confessions of a Gay Jesuit: How I Was Forced To Leave My Church—And Calling

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Ben Brenkert wanted to be a priest, but confronted by the hypocrisy and prejudice of the Catholic Church he had to quit. Here, in a powerful, heartfelt essay, he explains why.

By Ben Brenkert

Today, at 35, I am a gay seminarian who still needs human touch. For me the best place is the Episcopal Church. Some day I will be a priest, hopefully married with children. That’s what I’m looking for, love; it falls under the rubric of modern love. I am a modern gay Christian in search of love, one who still wants to become a priest.

From 2004 to 2014 I was a Jesuit, a member of the Society of Jesus in good standing, an order gone global by the election of Pope Francis I. I left the Jesuits because I left the Roman Catholic Church. I would not be an openly gay priest in a Church that fires LGBTQ employees and volunteers. I left in protest: How could I be an openly gay priest who fires LGBTQ employees and volunteers?

Here’s my story; it is an experiment with truth telling, as much as it is about justice for LGBTQ Christians and non-Christians, men, women and children who have been deeply affected by the millennia of anti-gay theology and hate speech espoused by the Roman Catholic Church. The effects of this violence linger today.

My story takes on closeted gay priests, Jesuits or not, and tells them to come out. My story ends by radically calling upon Pope Francis I and his brother Jesuits, indeed anyone who has fired an LGBTQ employee or volunteer, to reinstate them today.

Since I was a teenager, 15 years old, I longed to be a priest as seriously as others dream of a vocation or a career: to become a doctor, a teacher, a writer. Just because I was gay, I felt it was no reason for me not to pursue my dream.

I grew up in Valley Stream, a suburban village on Long Island, the son of an FDNY fire inspector and a mom that worked for Nassau Downs Off Track Betting. More than anything else we were a Roman Catholic family who ordered our lives around the life of the Church, as much as we did big Italian meals and Broadway shows.

Mine was a decent childhood, but at home I could never fully be myself, the Church’s teaching on homosexuality burdened any genuine relationship between my parents and me and my four siblings and me. This is still true today.

In 2002, at 22, after seven years of happily discerning a call to become a Roman Catholic priest, I almost threw in the towel. I’d had enough dinner meetings with bishops and priests from the Diocese of Long Island and the Society of Mary (the Marists) to know that I could not be an openly gay man in their course of study. No one ever spoke to me about the subject of sex or sexuality: This drew enough red flags for me.

“I’ll never ever go back into the closet. I’ll never again be a scapegoat for anyone’s war with culture, not nature.”

Still desiring to be a priest, I prayed for guidance and remembered two Jesuit priests, Fathers Mateo Ricci and Walter Ciszek, members of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), members of what I would quickly learn was the largest, most progressive and gay-friendly religious order in the Church.

Both Frs. Ricci and Ciszek were missionaries who responded to God and served the Church in Asia; both were formed according to the spirituality of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the Basque nobleman who founded the order in 1540. Loyola set his men apart from other religious orders by giving them the tools to mix in with the upper classes at universities or in courts, but bound them also to serve the poor and least among us, children. In these men I saw myself.

As I discerned entry into the Jesuits, many close friends debated me about homosexuality and Catholicism, essentially questioning my calling. My friend Katie asked me how I could dedicate my life to an institution that labeled me as intrinsically disordered, one who saw gay sexual acts are evil.

But I saw homosexuality and Catholicism in the most holistic way, and I put my needs for self-preservation last because I wanted to make a difference in the life of LGBTQ youth. I thought I could change things from the inside, but to do this right I had to enter the Church’s most gay friendly order, an order with political and social connections that rivaled the Beltway.

Even then I knew it would take years and years to undo the damage done to the LGBTQ community by the Church, damage I hoped to help repair in my lifetime as a priest.

I too wanted to help people, especially gay people like myself, who belong to a church that doesn’t accept them. I knew Catholicism was anti-gay (just read the Catechism of the Catholic Church), but soon enough the gay Jesuits I’d meet rejected the prevailing ethos on that. But I was naïve, too idealistic and pious, sold a bill of goods when I didn’t realize how big the rock was that I’d be pushing up the mountain. I entered the Jesuits in 2005 at the age of 25.

In 2006, at 26, we Jesuit novices studied together in Denver. During this summer gay Jesuits met periodically, in secret to discuss the lack of hospitality and welcome by our straight brothers. Many spoke about how this led them into the dark night of the soul, to what some interpreted as an unhealthy uses of pornography, when what they really wanted was genuine human connection.

Of course, using porn contradicted one’s vow of chastity. One immature novice said that for him gay porn was but one means to keep his “gay self” alive and still connected to a community so often alienated by the Church; for me, he was erroneously projecting his own sense of isolation and alienation by the Church onto the gay porn industry.

In those secret meetings we discussed why it was OK for our straight brothers to make crude jokes about women during dinner while we could not discuss ex-boyfriends or what it meant to be healthy, chaste gay man. Our callings we opined were from God irrespective of our sexual orientation.

We discussed how often we succumb to our natural feelings through masturbation, which some of our novice directors tried to teach us to control. We felt we could live our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience just as authentically as our straight brothers.

That summer E.S., a youngish, blue-eyed, piano-playing boy from Massachusetts and I had an affair that lasted several weeks. We never had sexual intercourse, but we did just about everything else. As I professed vows my voice quavered. What was I doing? Why was I, a healthy integrated gay man, choosing life in a hostile environment, self-selecting, and freely responding to a vocation in a church that practices “don’t ask, don’t tell” through the imprudent guise of hate the sin, love the sinner?

But God had called me, and before I knew it I was, at 27, on my way to St. Louis for further training. In St. Louis I learned firsthand about the secret, scandalous world of gay Jesuits.

While in St. Louis I met a fraternity of men just out of similar novitiates, whose newfound freedom led them to gay or straight bars, but also to “the 4th house” where we would all gather for libations and pizzas. I was shocked by how much drinking went on that first year. I was more shocked by the stories I’d hear of younger Jesuits fathering babies, and gay Jesuits fondling each other in vans on the way to retreats.

These men were gay Jesuits whom the Church and the Society of Jesus embraced, gay men who according to the church’s teaching were still objectively disordered, intrinsically deviant from the natural world and social order.

Was the Society of Jesus doing us, or the LGBTQ community, any favors by keeping us?

While in St. Louis I was told by my superiors not to write about LGBTQ issues, that such a commitment to social justice, while helpful, would draw red flags and possibly delay my ordination to the priesthood. Outside the classroom I had other things to worry about. I inherited the unhealthy sexual appetite of a young Jesuit who entered religious life right after high school.

M.B. was a strikingly attractive young Polish man from St. Louis whose sexual appetite was rapacious, and whose attraction to me never ceased. With time his advances grew more aggressive. We spent a weekend at a vacation home in Green Hills, when M.B. asked me to sleep with him.

During that weekend M.B. told me about at least one affair with another Jesuit, M.P. Later, when M.B. suggested we have a threesome I knew that our own sexual intimacy in the basement of the “4th house” had stirred his addiction to sex, and to me.

Before long we were skipping meals and paper writing and finding our usual spot on the campus of St. Louis University to embrace, and kiss and dry hump. He told me his nickname for his penis, “the Amazon.”

Once when I told my acting superior Fr. S. about M.B.’s advances he shrugged his shoulders and said, “Why resist? To him you’re so exotic.” I surmised that I was exotic because of my good looks and charm, but was that an excuse to break my vows and give in to M.B.’s aggressive advances?

As I left St. Louis, in 2010 at the age of 30, to work in our Jesuit prep school in New Jersey, I more and more decried my inability to work for LGBTQ justice and equality. To do so I had to talk about civil rights and the experience of African Americans at the expense of talking about issues relevant to the LGBTQ community.

I could talk about racism but not homophobia. I could mix in with African-American students, but be reprimanded when I worked too closely with Breaking Barriers, the school’s “gay-straight alliance.”

Every time I heard a prep student use the term “faggot,” or counseled a gay student bullied by his peers, I thought of James Baldwin’s essay, ‘Stranger In The Village,’ (PDF) where he writes, “The children who shout ‘Neger!’ have no way of knowing the echoes this sound raises in me.”

Recently, a married lesbian former colleague chided me, “Why didn’t you do more when you were with us?” My answer: to work from within I had to play the game. That answer was not sufficient: Was I a coward? No, I don’t think so. To do something I needed to be ordained, I wasn’t there yet. Over time I grew tired of waiting for ordination.

About the secret world of gay Jesuits: I could go on and on about gay Jesuits playing the piano in the West Village’s Duplex or about the nights I spent at NYC’s Splash Bar or Eagle Club. I could talk about how older gay Jesuits swam nude during summers at villa homes, about Jesuits who groped each other in hot tubs, or Jesuits who were gay in the order but who are now safely married. I could talk about gay Jesuits that had online Avatars and memberships to gay online dating sites. I could talk about failed Jesuit hook-ups, my own and others.

There were the gay Jesuits who were so closeted that they hid behind conservatism, leaving the Jesuits for formation programs in dioceses across the United States. There were gay Jesuits who were put in clerical prison for embracing undergrads too long, and others who attended Sexaholics Anonymous, or whose personal collection of pornography was mistakenly played during high school lectures.

I myself was groomed for sex by several older Jesuits. I saw the vehement internalized homophobia of some Jesuits, and knew of certain gay pastors removed from jobs so that less out and more passable gay Jesuits replace them at gay-friendly parishes.

There were gay Jesuits who traveled the world to scuba dive or taste French wine. One gay Jesuit offered to marry me as I departed the Society of Jesus. I lament that these gay Jesuits remain silent while their gay or lesbian lay colleagues are fired from jobs and brought closer to poverty.

At 35, I continue to ponder the question: Why is it fair for the Church to ordain gay men who sneak out at night just to be with other men of their community, while the Church condemns gays who want to marry and to express their love?

One week ago at Posh, a popular New York City gay bar, a gay Catholic who worships at the Paulist Church near Fordham University’s Lincoln Center Campus told me not to be angry with the Church. He added that the Paulist Church does wonders for him and his peers because they identify the LGBTQ community in the bulletin and other public announcements. Is that a measure of victory for the LGBTQ community?

This gay man said that he had finally decided to move in with his partner of seven years, but that they would never marry. When I asked why, he said marriage is not the be-all and end-all of life for gay Catholics. This same man told me he’s spotted the Jesuit pastor of a local parish at Posh a number of times over the past year.

This conversation haunted me for the next few days. Here is a gay man who doesn’t want to receive a sacramental marriage or be recognized by his church community, himself observing a gay priest secretly frequenting a gay bar. These two men should meet: Maybe my new friend could help my Jesuit brother to come out of the closet.

At every new stage of formation, I met more and more gay Jesuits who were happier sipping scotch, ordering cigars, opera tickets, and shoes, publishing books or holding secret masses with LGBTQ sympathizers (that followed unsanctioned liturgical rubrics) than publicly confronting the injustice experienced by members of their community. Their silence pained me. Why won’t these gay priests just come out?

I believe these gay Jesuits won’t come out because they live comfortable lives, with access to so many things, like the latest technology or villas abroad or tenured positions at universities, not to mention the unlimited gas cards that make domestic travel really easy.

In other words, these gay Jesuits are living better lives than the estimated 320,000 to 400,000 homeless LGBTQ youth in America. Why they don’t speak up is beyond me. Which is why I left the Church in protest over its continued ill treatment of LGBTQ Christians and non-Christians.

My final coming out in the Jesuits came last spring; it was 2014, months after I learned about the firing of heroes like Nicholas Coppola and Colleen Simon from two of our Jesuit institutions. Coppola and Simon are married to partners of the same sex.

I contacted my superior, and other leaders of the Jesuits and started a conversation about justice and equality. I said, we have to do something, we must stand up publicly against the firing of LGBTQ employees and volunteers.

I realized nothing would be done, as such I penned an open letter to Pope Francis.

In it I asked him to help save my vocation by calling for an end to the firing of LGBTQ employees and volunteers. I questioned why he would allow the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to fire people, and bring them closer to poverty, some of whom make less than $15 an hour (without health care).

In July, I mailed Pope Francis and the Jesuit Superior General Fr. Adolfo Nicholas hard copies of the letter. They never responded. I thought: Wasn’t this the era of “Who am I to judge?”

But the pope who called so many others never called me. Of course, I wasn’t as naive as to think this problem would be solved in one phone call. But that’s the impression the pope gives—that any one statement ushered by him solves problems that have had negative consequences for millennia. To me, that is the Francis defect.

Employees and volunteers like Coppola and Simon were fired for who they are. Even as Pope Francis prepares to visit the United States, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is intolerantly strident in its opposition to Francis’s liberalism. Look at the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s recent proposal to implement morality clauses in employment contracts.

The pope and the Society of Jesus must reinstate men and women who have been fired from jobs (and volunteer activities). This is not some radical ideal. After all, this pope has changed the discourse about human nature, and while the tone is fresh and new the substance must match that spirit.

As I look into doctoral programs in theology, I practice clinical social work for a major nonprofit in the Bronx. I work with teenage boys who are bullied by the peers, negatively labeled as gay or called “faggots.”

“Why?” I often think about the Roman Catholic Church and her influence on secular society. I have no regrets about leaving the Jesuits. My family does, but their lamentations speak to their own discomfort with my sexuality and same-sex desire generally.

That’s not my battle anymore; I am a happy, confident, and grateful gay man. Like the Church, my family has their own skeletons to deal with, but I’ll never ever go back into the closet. I’ll never again be a scapegoat for anyone’s war with culture, not nature.

What do I desire? Well, I’m back on the market, dating, and using Apps like Tinder, to look for a man with whom I can share the joys and sorrows of life, a man with whom I can marry, and love, and raise children. I realize now it is love that is universal, not celibacy.

I continue to respond to God’s invitation to me to be a priest. For me, that could be in the Episcopal Church. At the Easter Vigil liturgy, I’ll be received into the Episcopal Church. I am happy to call St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village my spiritual home.

While I’ll always be priestly, priesthood is less important for me than defeating social sin and structural evil, both of which have unnecessarily contributed to violence against the LGBTQ community, the community I deeply admire and deeply love.

My story is an experiment with truth-telling in so much as it reveals the hypocrisy of an institution beholden to a rhetoric and a theology that is far from meeting people where they are.

That Jesus held his beloved disciple John close to his breast at the Last Supper tells me something about where the Church should be. It should hold those LGBTQ men, women, and children closer to her breast, and thank God that some of them still journey the communion line to say “Amen,” and not “Adieu.”

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