Fr Matt Wallace suicide ‘shows pressure on priests’

A Catholic priest has said the death of a colleague at the weekend has highlighted the growing pressures they face.

Father Matt Wallace, from the parish of the Holy Trinity in west Belfast, took his own life.Father Matt Wallace

The funeral of the County Wexford-born priest was held in Belfast on Tuesday.

It was told that the growing demand on a diminishing number of priests is physically and mentally challenging and for some it is becoming intolerable.

Father Martin Magill, from the nearby St Oliver Plunkett parish, said fellow priests were stunned by the nature of Fr Wallace’s death and he said the tragedy highlighted the difficulties facing many priests.

“I suppose the word torture would come to mind to some extent when there are mental health issues, when we’re battling with our own particular issues,” he said.

“It can be a sense of being plagued, it could certainly be a sense of being tortured as well.”

Fr Magill said the church and society now need to consider why a well respected priest like Fr Wallace could no longer cope with his own difficulties.

Fr Wallace, 69, was based in west Belfast for four decades. His death followed a number of months on sick leave.

Complete Article HERE!

Croatia Catholic Church forcing people to sign against gay marriage

Gay rights activists have accused the Catholic Church of corruption and manipulating the largely religious public in their fight against equality

By Joe Morgan
Archbishop of Zagreb Josip Bozanić is accused of forcing people to sign a petition against same-sex marriage, encouraging violence, and manipulating children into hating gay people.

archbishop-Josip-BozanicThe Catholic Church in Croatia is corruptly coercing people to sign a petition against same-sex marriage, Gay Star News can exclusively reveal.

Over 710,000 people have signed the petition – over one fifth of the population of the Eastern European country – demanding the government change the constitution to say marriage is defined as between a man and a woman.

But gay rights activists have accused the Catholic Church of immorally manipulating the public into signing their names to oppose same-sex marriage and also of encouraging violence.

If a straight couple wants to be married in a church, or have their child baptized or attend a Catholic school, in many places they are being told they must sign the petition demanding a referendum to ban same-sex marriage in Croatia.

As over 85% of people are Catholic, the religion is deeply embedded in the Croatian culture.

Marko Jurčić, anti-discrimination coordinator for Zagreb Pride, spoke exclusively to Gay Star News about how the Catholic Church is using a ‘fear of change’ to take away human rights.

As Croatia readies itself to join the European Union on 1 July, there have been protests fearing the country will lose its identity like when it was part of Yugoslavia.

Jurčić believes it started when the Social Democratic Party of Croatia, the largest central-left party, took power in 2011.

When the party revealed their plans for unions for gay couples – ‘life partnerships’ – as well as sex education in schools and artificial insemination for single women, the Catholic Church struck back.

Josip Bozanić, the Archbishop of Zagreb, declared ‘war’ against the ‘radical liberalization’ of Croatia.

He successfully got the Constitutional Court to rule children should not be taught sex education in schools, saying it was a ‘violation of parent’s rights’.

Campaign group In the Name of the Family was set up to combat same-sex marriage.

Around 6,000 volunteers have been gathering signatures in over 2,000 locations in the last month. They have denied having backing from the Catholic Church.

Jurčić said it was not the first time a religious ‘war’ against LGBT equality has happened in Europe.

‘It started in France, and [the Catholic Church] lost there. Imagine what is happening east of Croatia!

‘It’s a new war they’re creating. One side is secular, the other religious.’

Jurčić described, after this happened, how there was an increase in hate crime as there were homophobic ‘signs and billboards and places to sign [the anti-gay] petition everywhere.’

He said: ‘People have been recognized by their gender expression or their sexuality and been beaten up. It’s a horrific atmosphere.

‘It has happened especially in Zagreb as there is a growing scene there. A lot of LGBT people have come to the capital looking for a haven, but they have been met with vicious attacks.’

He also alleged the Catholics started religious classes for children to teach them to hate gay, bi and trans people.

Jurčić said he was ‘furious’ by the treatment to the LGBT community especially as there were improvements in the last decade.

‘We’re not afraid. We have experienced a lot of change in this country since 2002, and we are all a part of the movement.

‘We changed the face of this country. It’s frustrating, it’s empowering how people have come out, how many public figures have supported us.’

The anti-gay petition will be handed to the Croatian government on Friday (14 June), a day before Zagreb Pride.

Zoran Milanovic, Croatia’s social democrat prime minister, has admitted there ‘probably ought to be referendum, provided all the preconditions are met.’

To amend the constitution, there must be a parliamentary majority of two thirds.

Jurčić hopes Saturday’s Pride will be an antidote, a breath of fresh air against the Catholic Church’s corruption.

‘Our role is to empower LGBT people who are being threatened in the hostile environment,’ he said. ‘We will continue to empower them, but the problem is the damage has already been done.’

When contacted by Gay Star News, the Croatian Catholic Church chose not to comment.

Complete Article HERE!

The bishops’ big guns in Trenton

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board

What if, during his recent travels with a couple of Catholic youth groups, the Rev. Michael Fugee had a relapse and groped another child? There’s no evidence that happened, but it’s a legitimate concern. There’s a reason prosecutors made him promise never to work with children again.

john_myers_newarkYears from now, what if a child says Fugee crossed a line?

As we speak, New Jersey’s Catholic leaders are spending big bucks to make sure the church, its bishops and, most importantly, its bank accounts can’t be held responsible for crimes committed on their watch.

Princeton Public Affairs Group is the most high-powered, high-priced lobbying outfit in Trenton. That’s whom the New Jersey Catholic Conference has hired to fight legislation meant to give victims of childhood sexual abuse the time they need to seek justice.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), extends the statute of limitations from two years to 30 years for victims to file suit against their abusers and the institutions that failed to protect them. That includes the Catholic Church, but it also covers all religious organizations, state and local governments, and schools.

The priest sex-abuse scandal has cost the Catholic Church $2.5 billion. Its interest in limiting the damages is obvious.

For some victims of childhood abuse, time is critical. It may take years before they can talk about it. When they’re finally ready, they should find a justice system that’s ready to listen.

If Catholic leaders get their way, many will be told they’re too late.

It’s not a new tactic. The church has lobbied states for stricter time limits for victims to sue their attackers and those who protected them. In New York, for example, the church helped stop legislation that opened “windows” for victims to sue for past abuse.

The priest sex-abuse scandal has cost the Catholic Church $2.5 billion since it broke a decade ago. The church’s interest is obvious. By hiring Princeton Public Affairs, it is pulling out the big guns. Vitale’s job just got harder.

Cutting costs might be good business, but trying to escape sins of the past by silencing victims is cowardly. Lawsuits are chances for those child victims, now grown, to have a voice. We have to be ready to hear them.

Complete Article HERE!

New book alleges indiscretions in the Philippine Church

A book launched on Friday is set to send shockwaves through the Philippines Church, with serious allegations about the behavior of bishops and clergy.

“Altar of Secrets: Sex, Politics, and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church,” describes an institution cloaked in secrecy.

Aries RufoIt claims that Church leaders have been concealing wrongdoings committed by bishops and clergy, including sexual misconduct, financial mismanagement, and corruption, for many years.

Author Aries Rufo, who researched the book over 20 years of covering the institutional church as a journalist, said he does not intend to destroy the reputation of the country’s bishops and priests.

“Are we out to destroy the Church? Of course the answer is no. How can one book destroy a Church that has been in existence for more than two thousand years?” Rufo said.

He said he has dedicated the book to “those who remain steadfast in their faith yet ache for reforms within the Holy Mother Church.”

Among its revelations, the book recounts how protégés of the late Cardinal Jaime Sin of Manila committed “indiscretions involving the opposite sex.”

Former Manila auxiliary bishops Teodoro Bacani and Crisostomo Yalung were both promising prelates before their fall from grace.

Yalung, who was 47 when the scandal happened, fathered two children with a 23-year-old woman. He later escaped to the United States where he now resides, after failing to account for millions of pesos of Church funds.

Bacani resigned as Bishop of Novaliches in 2003 after being accused of sexual harassment by his personal secretary. He denied the accusations but admitted making an “inappropriate expression of affection.”

He retains his episcopal office and continues to say Mass in the Archdiocese of Manila.

“Their cases are a microcosm of how Church superiors handle cases of sexual dalliances involving prelates – a conspiracy of silence on the pretext of an internal Church investigation,” says Rufo in the book.

“They show a Church which put its blind trust on its erring members, amid the mounting evidence and calls by lay leaders for an immediate investigation; a Church that was more concerned in protecting the privacy of its erring members than the welfare of the victim or victims; and a Church that was quick to condemn the other party as guilty, yet just as fast to absolve its erring member.”

Marites Danguilan Vitug, publisher and editor of the book, called it “the first of its kind” in the country and an attempt “to bring some air and light into a musty place, where there’s so little circulation and transparency.”

Vitug noted that the Catholic Church is one of the most impenetrable and least scrutinized institutions in the Philippines.

“In raising these issues about the Church, we want to encourage an open discussion that, hopefully, will lead to a more discerning public,” he said.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic Priest Announces He Is Gay

By Jessica Lussenhop
In 2011, a slender book came out called Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest. The author was “Anonymous.”
“This book is for all of those who are being or have been driven away,” reads the introduction. “And that’s not just the gay population; it’s all of those who have accepted a member of their family, all of those who have allied as friends. They too have been silenced and shamed, ostracized by a Church teaching and hierarchal positioning that will not allow us to support, love, nurture and foster positive gay relationships in our Church.”

Father_Gary_MeierEarlier this week, Father Gary Meier, most recently of Saints Teresa & Bridget Parish in north St. Louis, revealed that he is the author. Although he says he was never truly “in the closet,” the announcement is a form of coming out.

“I know in my heart and my gut I need to stand in solidarity with those who’re being fired from their jobs, denied sacrament, excommunicated,” he tells Daily RFT.

Meier says that the church’s views on homosexuality were very different in the ’90s when he was in seminary. He says it was always known to his teachers, if not explicitly stated, that he is gay, and that so long as he was celibate, his orientation wasn’t seen as a problem. That changed when the pedophilia scandal broke in 2002.

“In 2005 they come with this hard stance of, ‘We’re not going to ordain gay priests,'” he says. “I was thinking I could try to find a way to reconcile my personal beliefs about being gay and what an incredible gift it is, not a cross, not an intrisic disorder…it was unsuccessful.”

He became frustrated enough to write Hidden Voices, then took a leave of absence in 2012 to earn his masters of counseling at University of Missouri-St. Louis. Finally, he resolved to stand behind his words in the book with his real name.

Here is what he posted to his personal website and to his Facebook page on Wednesday evening:


On May 23, 2013, I will be celebrating my 15 year anniversary to the priesthood. On the eve of this anniversary, I am releasing the 2nd edition of my book “Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest” which was originally published in 2011 anonymously. The second edition, now available, has one main difference – it is no longer anonymous. The decision to release the book under my name was not an easy one to make but one I felt was necessary.

It has been difficult to remain part of a hierarchy that has been so hostile towards homosexuals in recent years. This is especially true considering nearly 30% of all successful teenage suicides are attributed to sexual identity issues. Our church once stood for and represented the radical nature of God’s love for all people. That is not the true today – especially towards the LGBT community and therefore I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those Catholic’s who have lost their jobs, have been denied the sacraments, have been excommunicated or who have been made to feel ‘less than’ by their church leaders because of who they love.

I am not sure where exactly any of this will lead. It is a huge leap of faith and to be perfectly honest with you, very frightening. I know that while many will celebrate and be grateful for this publication, others will be angry and upset and feel as if I am betraying the church. I have no such intention. I am just a man trying to live a life of integrity and speak the truth that God has given me to speak. I do not mean the church any harm and in fact I still love the church very much. I see my speaking out as an act of love toward a community which was born of God’s radical inclusivity. Somehow we have lost that in our church, I would like us to get that back.

It is my hope that you will take a moment to read my book with an open mind and heart and see this as an opportunity to love, support and welcome all people regardless of their sexual orientation. In the meantime please know that I will be praying for you and our church and ask for your prayers as well. In addition, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments – I will look forward to hearing from you.

Meier says he also sent a copy of his book and a letter revealing himself as the author to the archbishop this week.

“Of course, the biggest obstacle is fear. The fear of the backlash, the loss of faculties, loss of income, loss of social status,” says Meier. “I don’t know what their response will be…whether the diocese takes away my faculties or not, I’m not going to use them.”

Here’s the statement from the Archdiocese of St. Louis in response to Father Meier’s news:

The Archdiocese of St. Louis just learned that Fr. Gary Meier authored the book “Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest” which was originally released anonymously in 2011. On May 22, 2013, Fr. Meier will release a 2nd edition of this book under his name.
Fr. Meier has been on leave for the past year for reasons of vocational discernment.

As a man who experiences same-sex attraction, Fr. Meier has before him an opportunity to be an example and mentor to Catholics in the archdiocese who struggle with the same feelings. Whether he will seize this opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Life which offers the truth about the beauty and sanctity of human sexuality, is entirely within is his control.

The Church does not condemn individuals for having same-sex attraction. It teaches that all people are called to responsibility regarding sexuality — whether they are homosexual or heterosexual, priest or lay person.

Our Catholic faith teaches that we are defined by something far deeper than sexual orientation; rather we are defined by our identity as children of God. We agree with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when he said, ‘Every human being is loved by God the Father. No one need feel forgotten, for every name is written in the Lord’s loving heart.’ We encourage Catholics and all people of faith to pray for our culture.

As to whether or not Meier will ever be allowed to have a parish again, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese says “there is no comment at this time with regard to Fr. Meier’s future.”

Even Meier himself doesn’t have much comment on his future — he’s not sure if he’ll attempt to continue being a priest or if he’ll enter a more secular existence. But he doesn’t regret his time so far as a man of the cloth.

“I have no doubt I was called into the priesthood,” he says. “Pretty amazing stuff has happened with God working through me.”

Meier is having a second book launch and discussion at UMSL on Tuesday.

Complete Article HERE!