I Was a Gay Priest for 25 Years

By Bill Dickinson

Catholic bishops don’t have to wait for a change in doctrine in order to help, instead of hurt, LGBT people. Here are four proposals.

At age 54, and after 25 years as a Roman Catholic priest, I left the priesthood in November 2014, and came out as a gay man.

Seeking to be more honest with myself, and understanding the limitations that come with being a gay priest, this was a choice that was healthiest for me. There is no infrastructure within the Church to support me as a gay man. And the Church is not at her best when speaking to and about people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT), or even questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Before leaving, I had a unique role in priesthood in that I provided leadership training, development, and consulting primarily for bishops and priests throughout the country. I served them, I assisted them, and I coached them.

Because I thought I had a credible relationship with bishops, in particular, I invited them to seize an opportunity regarding the LGBT community and the recent Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and October’s Synod on the Family at the Vatican, in which bishops and cardinals will discuss a range of issues related to family and evangelism.

The Church, and the bishops who lead it, have an opportunity to more thoughtfully and sensitively understand who we are as LGBT persons—and to use language that is responsible and respectful when speaking to us and about us. So, this past April, I reached out to the bishops I knew and offered my counsel.

Alas, only one of the 82 bishops I contacted has chosen even to respond. I found the non-response to be a great disappointment.

Still, as someone who was a Roman Catholic priest and who understands my own sexual orientation, I am offering to be a part of the solution for the Church leaders in their struggling relationship with LGBT people.  Here are four things the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church can do, without changing Church teaching on sexuality:

001First, as the Hippocratic Oath holds, they should do no harm: pause the public statements that deny LGBT people’s experience of themselves, that fan the flames of fear regarding religious freedom in America, and that perpetuate misunderstanding. Enter a period of silence and reflection—not hesitation, but consideration.

Second, to open such a period of reflection, bishops should organize an ad-hoc committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) that seeks to understand the LGBT community and persons—hopes, contributions, concerns, and self-identifying language. This understanding, then, influences a common national plan to use language and Catholic terminology that is pastorally respectful and inclusive whenever the LGBT community is addressed or discussed.

The next step would be to revisit the 2006 pastoral document, Ministry to Persons with Homosexual Inclinations, and the Pope John Paul II letter to bishops, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, so as to update recommendations and language. For instance, gay persons are not persons who have “homosexual inclinations.” To refer to our expression of sexual love as “intrinsically disordered,” is neither helpful nor useful.

Finally, put in place an education process, through the USCCB, to enable all ecclesial leadership—ordained and lay—to live a life of ministry and/or celibacy with more authenticity and self-acceptance. Currently, gay and bisexual priests and bishops, for the most part, are quietly closeted, even amongst themselves.

This sort of leadership can reap significant benefits for the Roman Catholic Church, both tangible and intangible:

First, bishops will finally be able to effectively demonstrate pastoral care and relevance to LGBT persons and all those with whom they relate and associate. Many members of the flock, the people of God, are LGBT. They are a part of families, and many of them worship as Catholics. And, of course, many of them have left the Church. This is an opportunity to exercise care and leadership and sensitivity.

Second, understanding LGBT persons and respecting their identities facilitates sensitivity when speaking about issues, concerns, and hopes—whether it applies to the Church or society. In theological terms, it manifests the love of God.

Third, it strengthens episcopal credibility. Ordained and professional ecclesial leaders will better respect bishops, and seek them out for guidance on how to better care for, speak about, and minister to LGBT persons—and how that translates into a holistic ministry for the full people of God.

Even in the absence of doctrinal change, promoting understanding, sensitivity, and proper language, are acts of profound ministry. Through them, all of us become more inclusive, understanding, and respectful—even if we don’t always agree on issues or teachings.

My purpose is to be of service to the Church on this issue. There is a unique opportunity here given the events that are shaping people’s lives in the Church and throughout the nation. The right and responsible thing to do, as an act of leadership, is to understand LGBT persons, and to use language that respects them by listening and seeking to understand the joys and challenges they face in their lives. Everyone benefits, and face of God is experienced more deeply.

Complete Article HERE!

Pope Francis dumps 2 more bishops as housecleaning continues


Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of a Mexican bishop who reportedly shielded a priest accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old boy, and on Wednesday (July 15) the Vatican announced that a Brazilian archbishop who spent $600,000 on renovations to his home and offices had been dismissed.

The moves are the latest signs that Francis is pursuing a hierarchical housecleaning that aims to address the heart of the clergy sex abuse scandal — accountability for bishops — while also removing prelates who don’t reflect the humble and simple lifestyle he says is key to promoting the gospel.

Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo
Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo

Both Bishop Gonzalo Galvan Castillo, 64, of the Diocese of Autlan in Mexico, and Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri, 63, of the Archdiocese of Passo Fundo, Brazil, were well under the canonical retirement age of 75.

They both also resigned under the canon law that says a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office.”

That is the statute that is usually cited when a bishop has been forced to step down by Rome because of a scandal.

Galvan’s resignation was quietly noted in a Vatican bulletin on June 25, but Mexican media reports noted that the bishop had been under fire for years for refusing to report to police or remove from ministry a priest, the Rev. Horacio Lopez, suspected of abuse.

Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri
Archbishop Antonio Carlos Altieri

In 2009, a 24-year-old man identified only as Eric reported to Galvan that Lopez had sexually molested him when Eric was 11. Eric’s parents also demanded that Galvan take action to prevent the priest from harming other children, but Galvan reportedly transferred Lopez to another parish. The priest’s current whereabouts were not known.

Over the past year, Francis, who was elected pope in 2013, has taken increasingly forceful and unprecedented steps to hold bishops accountable if they do not protect children from abusers.

Earlier this year he established a Vatican commission — which includes two victims of clergy abuse — to set policies for the wider church, and in June he set up a Vatican tribunal to judge and possibly discipline bishops who cover up for abusers, a first.

Two U.S. bishops have also been forced to resign in recent months in the wake of clergy abuse scandals on their watch.

The announcement on Wednesday that Altieri had resigned followed a Vatican-ordered investigation of his archdiocese by Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes.

According to Catholic World News, Altieri had alienated many priests for spending $600,000 on a renovation of his residence, the archdiocesan offices and the seminary. He also instituted a 10 percent diocesan “assessment” on parish income and had questionable policies on accepting seminarians who left other dioceses and religious orders.

In March of last year, Francis accepted the resignation of a German bishop, Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, who was dubbed “the Bishop of Bling” after revelations that the price tag on renovations to his home and diocesan offices had skyrocketed to some $40 million.

They included luxury amenities such as a $300,000 ornamental fish tank, $2.4 million for bronze window frames and $240,000 for a spiral staircase.

The bishop also had a free-standing bathtub, created by French designer Philippe Starck and featuring headrests at both ends, installed at a reported cost of about $20,000.

That all came to light just a few months after Francis was elected pope and began inveighing against churchmen who live like princes instead of leading humble lives marked by simplicity and service.
Complete Article HERE!

Vatican trial for Józef Wesołowski a pivotal moment for Pope Francis

Now-defrocked Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, papal nuncio for the Dominican Republic, led a Mass in Santo Domingo in 2013.


Ultimately, it’s the threat of criminal sanctions from Vatican tribunals that underlies new accountability measures Francis has created to face the two most chronic sources of scandal he inherited when he was elected in March 2013 – sexual abuse and financial misconduct.

The Wesołowski trial is the first major test of that criminal justice system under Francis. And it will have a great deal to say about whether this pontiff’s celebrated vow that there will be no “daddy’s boys” on his watch, meaning clerics able to remain above the law, actually has teeth.

Now 66, Wesołowski was born in Nowy Targ, Poland, in 1948, and ordained a priest by Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Krakow, the future St. John Paul II, in 1972. Wesołowski served as a papal diplomat in a variety of nations in the late 1990s and 2000s, eventually being named the nuncio, or ambassador, to the Dominican Republic in 2008, holding the rank of archbishop for papal envoys.

He resigned as the nuncio to the Dominican Republic in 2013 amid allegations of child abuse, including charges that he was in the habit of picking up underage “shoeshine boys” in Santo Domingo, the Dominican capital, and paying them for sexual acts.

Wesołowski was recalled to Rome in August 2013 and faced an internal ecclesiastical probe, which led to his being laicized, or removed from the priesthood, in June 2014. In itself, laicization is a rare step for a bishop, and a clear signal the Vatican believes the charges against him have merit.

Since the scandal broke, the question has arisen of why Wesołowski hasn’t been sent packing back to the Dominican Republic to face criminal charges. While the Vatican has said it would comply with any extradition request, it also insists that because Wesołowski was holding a Vatican passport at the time of the alleged crimes he first has to face sanctions under the Vatican’s own criminal law.

In effect, Francis himself created the legal basis for the trial in July 2013 by issuing an edict known as a motu proprio specifying that criminal laws of the Vatican City State are also applicable to employees, such as ambassadors, stationed in other parts of the world.

Last month a Vatican spokesman announced the Wesołowski trial would open on July 11, and predicted it would wrap up early in 2016. In addition to his conduct in the Dominican Republic, Wesołowski faces charges related to pornographic images reportedly discovered on a personal computer while living in Rome after his recall.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said the trial would draw upon both information transmitted by investigators in the Dominican Republic and IT analysis by Vatican experts. The Vatican’s criminal tribunal is headed by a lay jurist named Giuseppe Dalla Torre, a longtime professor of law at the University of Bologna.

The Vatican does not have jury trials. Hearings are conducted before a judge, and if the initial procedure results in a conviction the accused party can appeal to a three-judge tribunal and ultimately to a Corte di Cassazione, or Supreme Court. Accused parties have the right to a public defender.

If he’s convicted, Wesołowski could face a sentence of six or seven years in prison on each count as well as a steep fine. That term could be served in a Vatican facility, though in the past when a Vatican court has imposed a lengthy sentence it’s generally been served in an Italian prison.

Aside from the details of Wesołowski’s personal situation, his case is key because no matter what happens it will set a precedent.

The last time a Vatican criminal court held a high-profile trial it was October 2012. And it lasted only four days. Former papal butler Paolo Gabriele admitted to stealing Vatican documents and leaking them to an Italian journalist, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was given a full pardon by Pope Benedict XVI two months later.

This time around, presumably, if Wesołowski is convicted a pardon seems highly unlikely.

With Gabriele, Benedict himself was the injured party and fully within his rights to decide to let the perpetrator off the hook. With Wesołowski, the real injured parties are the minors he allegedly abused, and Francis probably would not take it upon himself to waive the legal consequences of Wesołowski’s actions.

Ultimately, it’s precisely those consequences that form the bedrock of the pope’s new accountability systems. Both with sexual abuse and also various financial crimes, such as money-laundering and embezzlement, the new systems envision preliminary investigations by Vatican agencies, whose ultimate power is to refer the matter to the Vatican’s criminal prosecutor for possible charges.

Insiders and outsiders alike thus will be watching to see how Wesołowski’s trial plays out.

If the impression is of foot-dragging and cover-up, the take-away will be that promises of accountability ring hollow. If the trial unfolds in a transparent manner and, assuming guilt is established, a sentence commensurate with the crimes is imposed, then reasonable observers will conclude that the era of “daddy’s boys” in the Church really is over.

Francis, of course, knows what’s at stake. That’s why throughout this busy week on the road, he’ll no doubt keep one eye on what’s happening back in Rome.
Complete Article HERE!

Priest removed from Seton Hall breaks his silence, comes out publicly as gay


Warren Hall was recently removed from Seton Hall for the perception that he was supporting same-sex marriage.

Warren Hall was removed from his post at Seton Hall after he posted a Facebook message supporting the anti-bullying message of the NOH8 campaign. Now he opens up for the first time since his removal, coming out publicly as gay.

Just before graduation last year, campus priest Warren Hall was walking across Seton Hall’s grounds sipping some coffee when a student ran up to him. The student thanked Hall for his tutelage and posed a question he hadn’t heard before.

“Are you gay?”

Hall nearly dropped his coffee cup. She reminded him that he had always taught his students to be honest with themselves and others about who they are. But he had never been asked about his sexual orientation by anyone at Seton Hall. He couldn’t let slip away the opportunity to walk his talk. He nodded his head.

“That student was right,” Hall said. “I have to be myself. I can’t worry what other people think.”

It wasn’t because of his sexual orientation that Hall posted a Facebook message supporting the pro-LGBT NOH8 Campaign last autumn. It was in the middle of a growingly intense national conversation about race that he posted the message, focusing mostly on the idea of opposing race-based hate. A month later his boss asked for a meeting. In the meeting he was ordered to explain the Facebook post.

“Warren, we can’t have this.”

The church was against same-sex marriage, his superior explained, and they couldn’t have priests supporting an organization that was designed to promote marriage equality (the NOH8 campaign rose from the 2008 California vote ending same-sex marriage). Hall provided the context – that he posted it as a commentary on bullying and hate focusing on race and other demographics; Support for same-sex marriage wasn’t intended as part of his message. The next day the vicar general asked to meet with Hall, and again he explained the photo. That seemed to quell the furor.

It wasn’t until five months later – last Monday as he was administering an exam to his sports and spirituality class – that he received a note to call the Archbishop.

“None of us want bullying,” the Archbishop told him, “but you have a further agenda here, and I can’t have you at Seton Hall because of that.”

He was devastated. His position at Seton Hall had lifted him out of a bad situation when he was the president of a private high school years earlier. He had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, and the local media and others in the community pushed him out of the job. The church had refused to abandon him despite his dangerous transgression. The Archbishop gave him a second chance at Seton Hall.

Yet the same Archdiocese that had stood by him after his DUI felt the possibility of simply being perceived as supporting same-sex marriage went too far.

This wasn’t the tradition of Christian universities he knew. For Hall, Catholic schools had for centuries signified a willingness to learn, places to exchange ideas and enhance intellect. Shutting down conversation because the Pope or Archbishop didn’t like the direction of the conversation? That is not Hall’s understanding of a Catholic university.

“Let’s discuss gay marriage as an anthropological and sociological issue. What’s wrong with that? Why can’t we talk about that? We’re a better place when we have people who have studied these issues. The idea that ‘we can’t talk about that’ makes no sense. If the students want to talk about that, let’s talk about it with them. When we say we can’t talk about something, that goes against he very nature of what a Catholic university is. That conversation should happen here with the students and the faculty, not firing somebody because of their view on an issue.”

His image of Seton Hall shattered, he took to social media. He had thought about staying quiet, sweeping under the vestments the real reason for his departure from the campus he had grown to appreciate and the students he had grown to love.

“I was going to to say I chose to leave, or that my time here was finished,” Hall said. “But that wasn’t true. It wasn’t. I’ve never lied to a student about anything. I couldn’t lie about this.”

It wasn’t 48 hours before Hall got wind of another move made by Seton Hall – the signing of openly gay shooting guard Derrick Gordon to the men’s basketball team. In his role as director of the campus ministry, Hall has ministered to various Pirates sports teams. He didn’t just sit on the bench during games or offer a pre-game prayer, he worked with the athletes creating retreats for them where he could engage them on a deeper spiritual level. He explored the ties between faith and athleticism, teaching classes on sports and Christianity like the one he was instructing when he got that fateful note two weeks ago.

Being removed from this role on campus has brought a sense of irony for Hall.

“I’ve been accused of being against he Catholic mission, and here I thought I was supporting it.”

Hall said he has spoken to many LGBT students at Seton Hall, and not one of them reports being mistreated by any of the students or faculty. He thinks Gordon will experience the same treatment from most of the campus.

“With Derrick Gordon going to Seton Hall as an openly gay athlete, I don’t think he’ll have trouble here with the student body or with the faculty,” Hall said. “How the administration handles that, I do not know. When he’s walking across campus holding hands with his boyfriend, what is the administration going to think of that? But the student body here is very open and welcoming.”

Hall isn’t sure what’s next for him. He has written to the Archbishop asking for a six-month sabbatical. He had no prior indication that a big change might be coming his way, so he would like some time to think about his next big move within the church before being reassigned. Whether he gets that time before another official assignment is entirely up to the Archbishop.

I ended my phone interview with Hall by circling back to his story about the student who asked him if he was gay. While he had professed and reiterated his commitments to the church (priests, after all, make a commitment to celibacy), He wasn’t “out” in a public sense. A select few knew, but telling me was very different from telling a student shortly before she embarked on her life’s journey.

“The best way to live is to live honestly. Honesty with oneself is the most important thing, but you have to be honest with other people.

“I’m not afraid of those questions anymore.”

Complete Article HERE!

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin: ‘I encourage everyone to vote and to reflect carefully’

 ‘My position is that of Pope Francis, who . . . made it very clear that he was against legalising same-sex marriage, yet he was consistent in telling people not to make judgments on any individual’

Diarmuid Martin