Tom Rastrelli: Priests who lie; the dilemma of sexual orientation and the priesthood

People don’t expect their priests and bishops to lie, but as Michelangelo Signorile’s recent post illustrated, clerics do lie. Some even make a virtue of it. I know this from experience, for I was ordained a Catholic priest on a lie.

In spring 2002 I walked with my spiritual director along the blacktop road encircling the seminary. He’d been my confessor and guide for two years, helping me discern God’s presence in all aspects of my life, intimate and mundane. Over our heads, a canopy of newborn leaves rustled in a sunny breeze, a welcome relief from the bitter fog that had engulfed the church and my vocational surety.

For the previous two months an unprecedented number of bishops and priests, starting with Cardinal Law of Boston, had fallen from grace for participation in the sexual abuse of children and the ensuing cover-up. Their duplicity was palpable in my knotted back and abdomen. In a few months I’d be ordained a priest. I didn’t want to do so on a lie.

“I’m coming out of the closet,” I said.

My spiritual director loosened his clerical collar and lit a cigarette. “Where’s this coming from?” he asked. A couple of chattering wrens whooshed past.

I backtracked through six years of seminary formation. At events I had hobnobbed with supposedly holy men, some of whom had been harboring pedophiles. A few had done the deed themselves. By shaking their hands, mine were dirty. I knew the ecclesiology, how the bishops’ authority stemmed from a direct line to Jesus, but they were still criminals. Who were they to declare homosexuals “intrinsically depraved”?

When I’d applied for seminary, the director of seminarians — the priest who’d recruited me — explained that orientation didn’t matter, only celibacy. But on my intake interviews he’d told me to answer “yes” when the archdiocesan psychologist asked if I was attracted to women, and “no” when he asked if I was attracted to men. It was for the greater good, he said. Frightened of being cast out and ashamed of my true nature, I had lied as instructed.

In light of the sexual abuse scandal, lying about my orientation was no longer acceptable. I thought of what a gay friend who’d left seminary had said. His words became my own: “I don’t know if I can separate my private and public selves. Isn’t integration the goal of spiritual direction?”

“Of course it is,” my spiritual director said, more gravelly than usual. He stopped and turned to me. A tree cast a web of shadows over his face. His strawberry nose grew flushed, as he gestured with his hands. “Here’s the thing, Rastrelli. You have to ask yourself: Am I going to be a gay priest, or a priest” — he rolled his fingers and cigarette through the air like a barrel — “who happens to be gay?”

“What’s the difference?” I turned my head to inhale, trying to avoid his secondhand smoke. “Either way I’m gay. It’s a part of me.”

“But are you gay first, and then a priest? Or a priest first, and then gay?” He smiled, satisfied with the distinction.

“Both/and.” I’d hit him with what he’d taught me in class. “Both/and” was the paradoxical answer for every ultimate question in Catholic theology: Scripture or tradition? Faith or works? Is Jesus divine or human? Are we sinful or good? is faith a solo or communal experience?

“Touché,” he said. We walked. He sucked his cigarette. “You’re a smart guy, Rastrelli. Give it some thought.”

I kicked a pebble onto the grass. “I have. I don’t want to lie about my sexuality.”

“It’s not lying if those asking don’t have a right to the information.”

He hadn’t even flinched. I wanted to shake the nicotine from his bones, to scream, “It was that kind of thinking that landed the bishops in the papers!” Still, part of me wanted him to be right. Silence was simpler, easier, and maybe my need to come out was just pride at work. My promise of obedience demanded that I surrender my ego. My vocation was about God, not my orientation. But couldn’t we priests be honest with one another? I had to try.

“Gay Catholics don’t have positive role models,” I said. “I don’t know of a single gay priest that’s healthy. Do you?” I stopped. He kept walking. This was as close as I’d ever come to asking him if he was gay. I suspected he was. He’d lived with another priest for decades. They vacationed and picked out carpeting together. They spoke about their cat as if she were their child. Even if he and his housemate weren’t having sex, they were a couple. I stepped in stride with him. “How am I supposed to be an integrated gay priest when I have no one to look up to? How does celibacy actually work?” I stopped again. “I’m asking you.”

He turned to me. His face became whiter than a funeral pall. “I’m sorry, Rastrelli, but that’s not a conversation I’m comfortable having with a student.”

He resumed his pace. I followed silently.

The breeze picked up. The undulating trees sounded like the ocean breaking on the shore. I choked back the urge to ask, “Are you gay?” I felt like a sinking ship in a fleet that had wandered into a minefield. After laying the mines himself, the fleet commander had ordered radio silence.

I didn’t want to drown alone. I didn’t want to hear him lie. I wanted the truth, but the truth was dangerous. Were I to come out amid sexual-abuse headlines, homophobic Catholics wrongly blaming gay priests for the scandal would demand my dismissal.

My spiritual director was right. Who were they to judge, to put my orientation before my vocation? They had no right to that knowledge. It was safer to be a priest who happened to be gay. Perhaps it was God’s will. The fear accompanying us back to the seminary told me so.

That day, I learned the unspoken rule passed down through generations of priests: the doctrine of justification for lying by clergy. I went on to be ordained a priest. I preached that “the truth will set you free” while living in silence and shame. After a long journey and much pain, I came out. I left the priesthood, finally refusing to live the lies that I’d been taught to venerate.





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  1. Mary O Vallely says:

    “I wanted the truth but the truth was dangerous.” For some reason that scene from Spartacus came into my mind. You know the one where Crassus demands Spartacus give himself up to save the captured slaves from crucifixion. Dozens of comrades stand up and insist, “I’m Spartacus!”
    What a fantastic image of comradeship, loyalty and love. Wonder if that could ever happen in the ordained priesthood.
    “I’m gay!”
    “I’m gay! etc;
    That would soon eliminate any fear of coming out of the closet.
    “To thine own self be true.”
    Is this not what the Christian message preaches? Isn’t this what Sean O’Conaill in his excellent article asks us to remember. If we could only be honest with each other about our human weaknesses,our needs and desires, we could save future generations from needless, pointless suffering.We are each made in the image of God. Is it not an insult to God to pretend to be what we are not?
    Dr Rosemary McHugh raises some very valid questions, probably uncomfortable for many in the hierarchy but why can these concerns not be discussed? Why keep these concerns and problems in closets too? There should be no need for any closets at all in the Kingdom.
    Mary V

  2. PS I would also like to add that for him to ask this man that if priesthood, or his being gay comes first, is to show the ‘director’s’ further ineptitude.

    Sexuality is core to our humanity, and so much a part of us that it does impact on the overall self to a high and wholesome degree; that very self being made in the image of God; which, as God is Love, is itself the very capacity for being loved (as God loves us first) and to love. Infinitely, if God is really God.

    Being a priest first, in my view, does not come first. Realising the truest self, the image of God, the capacity for being loved, and to love is our highest calling, all else serving that. It’s in the great commandments.

    Effectively the ‘spiritual director’, in my opinion, was advising this poor man to deny that self to a degree, the image of God, the very capacity for loving to its greater potential; asking him to disobey Jesus’s commandment to, “Love….. your self.” If you can’t learn the beginnings of that you won’t get very far ‘spiritually’.

    This seminarian had the far greater wisdom. God has and will surely bless him.

    His truth has set him free though God love him it was very hard I am sure and will be for a time. But love and truth mean sacrifice.

  3. PPS I re read this with intent posting elsewhere. I referred to the man as a ‘seminarian’ mistakenly. Sorry about that. But perhaps in a way he has been and is now headed towards true ‘priesthood’. I cannot not have the greatest respect and admiration for him for his honesty, and what it’s cost him to make this decision.

    I am not implying all gay priests should leave or shout from rooftops. But to, “Love your…. self,” IS a great commandment.

    Applies to all priests.

    And if something or someone tries to stop you disobeying Jesus – well.

    This kind of dishonesty expected applies right across the board. I’d say the same of imposing/forcing celibacy, and I am in no way anti celibate.

    A man or woman can be celibate when they are mature enough to have begun the real love of self.

    Can’t find link to article.

    Thanks for posting. Very informative on so very many levels about hypocrisy within the ranks, higher at that, of Rome.

    God bless him whomever he be. You did the right thing !!! 🙂

  4. Fr. Kieren says:

    I have been carefully considering my response to this article. I am actually very disturbed by it for two reasons, firstly because it happened and secondly there is the suggestion that this is the norm. I am not gay, but I am a priest, I was ordained in 2003, and I can say that in my seminary we were encouraged to reflect upon our sexuality, and we were never prior to acceptance told to lie regarding our sexual preference.
    Our sexuality is part of our humanity, but we are not (as modern society seems to suggest) defined merely by our sexuality. This is why I must disagree with Perry. We do not hear much about gay soldiers, police, doctors etc … why because it doesnt matter. Yet a big thing must be made out of a ‘gay priest’.
    The experience expressed in the article is a sad one, but it doesnt reflect my seminary experience, and I object to the suggestion that we are ‘taught to lie’.

  5. “Our sexuality is part of our humanity, but we are not (as modern society seems to suggest) defined merely by our sexuality. This is why I must disagree with Perry.”

    I have not said we were, are, or should be defined by our sexuality, and am indeed in whole agreement on that belief with you. I said sexuality is core to who we are as human beings – not everything about being human – tough I know plenty of gay, bi and straight who talk about it as it were, ad nauseum. I am not seeing where you saw my saying what I did by suggesting that our sexality defines us. Can you elaborate – thank you ? It was not my intent at all as I don’t and never have believed that.

    I am not making a big thing about our/the ‘gay priest’. Rome does. And when I hear what they say I can’t repeat here what like love to say, or do, do to most of them themselves ihbabitants of Narnia. The ‘gay’ priest is first and foremost and always a human being. His orientation should have no bearing on his humanity or his priesthood.

    I am in a very inept way trying to defend the gay priest. He does not need to be and never has to be treated so diabolically.

    I am also happy that the experience in your seminary was not one of denying one’s sexual orientation – rather embrace it as God intended. Not cause it defines him – the cleric. Rather it does have a large part in how he can and will love in this world. In my opionon. In a healthy way – or possibly harmful to himself and others. Same for straight priests.

    By all means if I am not any clearer – feel free to put it out there.

    God bless

  6. Ann Lardeur says:

    Like Fr. Kieren I find this whole business sad. Sexuality is part of our human make up. Straight, gay, transgender, neutrality is extremely rare. I can only think of one priest who might be in the final category – highly intellectual, great company, but ‘virginal’; I suspect an emotional age of about 10! Personally I cannot see why orientation has anything to do with ordination; the only question is whether one is going to undertake a life of celibacy with full heart and endeavour to stick to it. It is just the same a sticking to marriage vows. One may fall in love with someone – one of you could be single, both could be married – it does not mean you have to do anything about it.

    Neither can I see why the church should be so worried about attraction to men; if the concern is abuse, then the married can be abusers too; liasons with other men/priests, any different than liasons with women/nuns? I am cynically amused that the Church has found a use for those dangerous creatures, women! A test for ordination of men!

    To me the vocation is summed up by Lacordaire

    “To live in the midst of the world
    without wishing its pleasures;
    to be a member of each family
    yet belonging to none;
    to share all suffering;
    to penetrate all secrets;
    to go from men to God
    and offer him their prayers;
    to return from God to men
    to bring pardon and hope;
    To have a heart of fire for charity,
    and a heart of bronze for chastity;
    to teach and to pardon,
    to console and to bless always.
    My God, what a life;
    and it is yours
    O Priest of Jesus Christ.”

    ‘men’ is in the original so I have stuck to it.

  7. Fr.Kieren says:

    My apologies, I must have misread your post. I realise that over the last ten years the Vatican have issued various statements regarding homosexuality and seminaries, I have always interpreted them as focusing on homosexual lifestyle rather that orientation. My issue with the article is that of dishonesty, and that future priests are perhaps encouraged to lie about themselves in order to get ordained, this may have occurred in the seminary attended by the author, but it is promoted across the board – in my experience no. Finally, I feel that the author attacks (strong word perhaps) the name and reputation of his former spiritual director, he makes inappropriate assumptions that I find unnecessary.
    There are probably plenty of priests who happen to be gay, but why does that really matter?
    Sorry again for misreading your post.

  8. Joe O'Leary says:

    “we were never prior to acceptance told to lie regarding our sexual preference.”

    “the Vatican have issued various statements regarding homosexuality and seminaries, I have always interpreted them as focusing on homosexual lifestyle rather that orientation”

    I think the Vatican heavily discourages (or actually forbids) priests from declaring themselves to be gay or homosexual.

    The Vatican document signed by Cardinal Grocholewski a few years ago certainly says that those with homosexual orientation cannot become priests, but Timothy Radliffe and others used hermeneutical ingenuity (or hermeneutical violence) to make it refer only to “lifestyle”, whatever that is.

    In Japan students are tested for heterosexual interest, and even if it is very low or non-existent it does not seem to matter. I don’t think they are asked direct questions about their orientation.

    Priests often lie when face with such direct questions.

  9. No apology necessary at all. It’s nigh impossible to understand anything half the time on the internet. I am seriously considering giving it up to save myself an early coronary from ‘listening’ on some of the sites I visit. If it were the only access to human interaction an ET had to depend upon – he/she’d scream, “Beam me the hell outta here Scottie.” 🙂

    I don’t think he was harsh with his ‘spiritual director’.

    Those people should not be directing at all. One reason the whole thing is such a mess. Not gay priests or directors – dishonesty, from supposed ‘spiritual leaders’, any and all, who are dishonest by the very nature of the system, belonging that way to it, not least with themselves, on so many matters and no one they can turn to to really talk things through.

    I applaud his strength and honesty for leaving such dishonesty and wiping the dust from his feet.

  10. PS Maybe he should not have specified a particular director, and that was not appropriate. But the system itself is rotten – at least you seem to be suggesting so too. I might be reading wrong.

    Newsflash. Rotten to the core.

    Wasn’t there a gospel story about those honest in little things being trusted with kingdoms and vice versa ?

    Not only applies on this issue – so many others too.

    No harm meant to any of them. But I’d be more inclined to seek out a tarot card reader for ‘spiritual direction’ these days. Or a good secular – agnostic, even atheistic psychologist if possible. At least they are far more likely to know what they are doing, dealing with and give more honest advice.

    Not that it makes me give up. Hope springeth eternal, with faith – and, God willing – love wins, in the end. 🙂

  11. I knew a priest once. A very good man in many ways.

    Later learned he was bi, gay or at least confused. Did not matter that he acted upon his ‘inclinations’ or not – though that is important if a person is mature and ready to make some kinds of ‘vows’, obviously.

    He spoke to no one ‘cept maybe those he felt ‘understood’ – who might not have been the best ones to talk to. He could not speak to his brothers in arms, other priests, religious, though I am sure at least, the very least, one of those had a similar dilema. His ‘boss’ whom I knew, bishop/superior told me after his death, he died from cancer and painfully too I was told. “He died hating himself…… ”

    I’ve seen a bit of death in my own time – not as a priest or religious.

    But hearing those words made me think, “Sweet Jesus what kind of set up is that when such a person can die such a death.” Not from cancer – from “hating himself” for being human. Even he’d been another sinless, and immaculate conception, they’d still have managed to get him to self loathe at some level.

    His priesthood may have been more important when he lived and he did much good in life. But being ‘whatever – gay, bi, confused or even an overly horny hetero’ was obviously foremost on his mind and heart as death came knocking.

    And it’s not about his or any priests being ‘gay’. It’s about his being a human being and the utter and diabolical tripe that those (it won’t be printed) in Rome try to tell such people.

    Dishonesty costs, in more ways than one, and sure as hell don’t make no ‘saints’.

  12. Ms. Barbara says:

    Dear Author and Father,
    Once a Priest, always a Priest. I understand your conflict of emotions, and perceptions.
    It sounds like Christ did call you to be a Priest, and to sacrifice yourself, like any other Religious, for Him. In doing so, had you obtained honest spiritual direction, you might still be a Priest. I am a Franciscan Third Order layperson, who chooses perfect chastity in thought, word, and deed. All Nuns and Priests are expected to do this.
    First of all, Homosexuality isn’t genetic. God doesn’t make mistakes in His creations. The reasons for this choice vary: Child abuse that creates fear of heterosexual relationships, Substance abuse that lowers one’s guard of inhibition (something that God really transubstantiates in us, not what we can do ourselves), Social coercian due to not tolerating others who don’t drink, drug, or oppose the 10 commandments) Sinners feel more comfortable when everyone around them is opposing God’s truth. They don’t want to feel uncomfortable or their conscious. This might bring up memories that might be difficult to feel, but ultimately heal. Once a person has experienced a homosexual contact, why does the world insist that this cannot be reversed? Why do scientists insist that this is genetic, when it isn’t? Even the research is split down the middle, with no valid conclusions. It is merely popular to state that gayness is genetic, as an excuse not to know or feel the truth. Psychologists deemed homosexuality as DSM normal. In truth, it doesn’t actually exist, therefore, I am in agreement. Deviance from God’s law doesn’t entail mental illness, however Jungian, Freudian, and Gestalt psychologies are based on the thoughts or philosophies of men, not God’s. They are anti-scriptural false psychologies that integrate evil into personalities in order to heal. We all know that God is ALL good. We have the mind of Christ. If we integrate evil internally, we invite satan into our minds, bodies, and souls, and become demon possessed. I wouldn’t mind visiting an exorcist Priest, if healing would be available to me, in addition to the Body and Blood of Our Lord.
    I don’t blame you for not accepting lies, avoidance, and coverups. It doesn’t feel right or good. I’m also sorry that you left the Priesthood, because you could have been healed, in the rold of Priest, with the truth. You can still be healed, no matter what. No effort is involved in being transubstantiated by Christ to be in perfect chastity. I didn’t know how I would be able to do this with my own efforts, either, after having been married, and abandonned. God does it, in us, not us. That has been my honest experience that I didn’t learn from anyone else, or from any text book, or cathecism.

    May you be healed with prayers and truth

  13. Mary, thank you for your excellent piece above. Honesty about who we are and what we are is surely crucial to our well being. Fr. Donald Cozzens in his beautiful little book, “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” speaks of the intimate connection that exists between spiritual vitality and sound human development. He also emphasises the importance of “the lingering question of the true self” which he maintains many priests try to avoid dealing with.
    Percy, you correctly stated above that our sexuality is core to our humanity. Of course it is. Yet that fact did not register with me until about 15 years ago when I read a piece by our most famous Irish psychiatrist, the late Dr. Anthony Clare who stated, very much in passing, that “our sexuality is the primary font of our humanity”. It is so obviously true.
    Kieran, the reason that it really does matter about being a priest and being gay — in fact simply being human and being gay — lies in the fact that our Church teaches that those who are gay or lesbian are “intrinsically disordered” or perhaps the word used is dysfunctional. Anyway, words to that effect. That is why, Kieran, it really does matter and why it really is important.

  14. Fr. Kieren says:

    Hi Paddy,
    I am not a psychiatrist, but I respectfully disagree with Dr. Anthony Clare. The Church does describe homosexual acts as intrinsically disordered, but the Vatican also encourages real pastoral care for homosexuals so that they may be fully part of the life of the Church.
    There is in my mind no difference between being human and straight or gay. I do not believe that we should label any human being by the sexuality, religion or colour. The author above is a priest who happens to be gay, or to be more precise he is a human being who happens to be gay. His sexuality in my eyes means nothing, and if you read the documents of the Church you will notice that the primary focus is our common humanity, and our shared dignity in Christ that transcends our sexuality.
    I have read all of Cozzens books, the changing face of the priesthood was essential reading in our spirituality classes.

  15. Fr. Kierans seminary teaching seems to have been sound and he explains the Church’s real teaching ( as opposed to the medias usual distorted version ) on human sexuality with great clarity/charity.

  16. Joe O'Leary says:

    The current teaching is that the homosexual orientation itself, as distinct from sexual acts, is “objectively disordered” (Homosexualitatis Problema, 1986, on the Vatican website). It is not a good idea to cover over this nasty fact. The Vatican document claims to be in line with the best teaching of the human sciences.

  17. Hello Kieren,
    Thank you for your reply. I have to say to you, however, that I intend to stick with the professionals who are properly trained and learned in this area when I try to grapple with some kind of understanding of the incredibly complicated field of our psycho-sexuality — the psychiatrists and the psychologists. I agree with you that there is no difference between being human and being straight or gay. We have all had it drummed into us since we were tottlers that God made us all in his image and likeness, and if we really do believe that, then we have to believe that He made 95% of us — roughly– heterosexual and the others homosexual. Will Jesus finally have to say ” I was naked and you did not clothe me …………. I was a marginalised and persecuted gay man or lesbian woman and you continued to persecute me ….”. I do not think that our institutional church shows much pastoral care for our marginalised homosexual sisters and brothers. Intrinsically disordered is an incredibly insulting label to stick on any group of people — whether it is their orientation or practice that is meant — and I bow to your superior knowledge of church teaching on that one, Kieren. However, I do agree with Joe O’Leary that it is nonsense to try and differentiate between the two. Fr. Owen O’Sullivan fairly hit the nail on the head in his Furrow article of March 2010 when he said — or words to the effect –that we are told our sexuality is an important part of who we are yet we cannot be part of our sexuality. ( Eddie will have the correct wording ) I am very impressed, Kieren, that you have read all Donald Cozzen’s books. I am only familiar with “Freeing Celibacy” and “The Changing Face of the Priesthood” which I think is a really wonderful book. The fact that it was essential reading in your spirituality classes at seminary amazes me –what enlightened teachers you must have had and what well educated students you must have been! It made me think of the contributions made by a few Irish seminarians to this site at the start of the year — Seminarian 1,2 and 3. ( I am disappointed, Kieren, that you too cannot share your full name with us though I don’t blame you — our Church is such a fearful, vicious place to be at the moment ) They — the Seminarians — really terrified me and I am sure everyone else who still dreams of a future when our Church might be able, once again, to convincingly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those lads certainly had not read much of Donald Cozzens. From now on the one other book that should be essential reading for all seminary teachers and professors is Marie Keenan’s excellent ” Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church — Gender, Power and Organisational Culture”. What a great piece of work that is. It certainly changed my attitude to a number of things.
    Kieren, it is nice to communicate with you. You are obviously a young man but well-balanced, moderate and enlightened in the practice of your priesthood. So many of our young priests exhibit an arrogant, self-righteous type piety which will not serve the church very well in the long-term. In Ireland we have so many wonderful priests — nearly 1000 now in the ACP for starters. But, sadly, virtually all of them in their 50s,60s or 70s and some in their 80s too. It deeply worries me to think of what kind of Church we will have when they are all gone and the young zealots are in charge. Come to think of it I will be gone too so maybe I should not worry too much thought it would sadden me if my children then had even less regard for the our Church than they have now. At least, Kieren, you, and if there are a few more like you, give us some reason to hope. Goodnight and God bless you.

  18. PS
    I had a feeling that I got it right first time and Joe now confirms that at 16.

  19. Ann Lardeur says:

    I am not sure I would accept any scientific paper 25 years old as still being current situation since research moves on. Homosexualitatis Problema may have been, as it claims, in line with human sciences of the day but may be no longer so. Let’s face it some strange and inaccurate claims have been made by the Vatican before.

  20. Fr. Kieren says:

    Hi Paddy,
    Thanks for your post. Just to clarify that the name I post under if in fact my real name. I do not publish my surname, not because I am afraid of the Church or my Bishop, but because I was stalked by a former parishioner for a number of years!
    Unfortunately I too have noticed that some seminarians are very black and white, but the same was true in my day, the reality of priesthood often shakes them out of such a narrow view.
    Like it or not there is a distinction between ones sexuual orientation and practice, there are many sexual orientations (I am not talking about homosexuality here) that I would not like to see practiced freely. Furthermore, the priesthood is asked to distinguish between sexuality and preactise through celibacy. I am heterosexual but I have chosen not to practice my sexuality, this does not make me less human … I hope.
    I believe that there are zealots on both side of the divide, neither willing to hear the opinions of the other, I like many, agree and disagree with many of the points raised by both sides.
    Sadly the seminary I trained in closed last year

  21. Fr. Kieren says:


    I have not read Marie Brennan’s book yet. I don’t think that my seminary was exactly enlightened, but it did take issues like sexuality very seriously. I believe that it is vital today for seminaries to focus on the totality of human nature when striving to form future priests. I think what saddens me is that many priests do not actually implement the teaching of the Church, we are very good at telling people not to do something, but sometimes we are not good at treating people as people. Going back to your comments about seminaries, I believe seminaries train us to be ordained but one learns to be a priest through the day to day realities of the Church.

  22. Ann Lardeur says:

    Your posts are really enlightening; I fear for the future when I see a newly ordained priest being proud of his biretta.

    If moderator allows this – there is wonderfully scented, beautiful, apricot climbing rose in my Surrey garden; grown from a cutting of one in the extremely overgrown garden of a great northern seminary which closed last year. Another cutting grows in the garden of St. Teresa’s Merstham. Acquired with permission! Cuttings came down over two days wrapped in my wet towel.

  23. For centuries homosexuals have been vilified and persecuted by the Catholic Church, but throughout all of its history the Church has had a very inconvenient secret. Many of its clergy and religious men and women, even those in the highest echelons of the Church, were and are homosexual. Little was known of the lives these religious people live until the publication, in 1981, of the groundbreaking, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance.

    I am the author of that study and I am a gay priest. But the media firestorm that erupted after its publication and the backlash within my religious community because of its publication eventually destroyed my public priesthood. The story of my 13-year battle with the Church to save my ministry exemplifies the spiritual isolation, emotional distress and ecclesiastical reprisals every gay priest most fears.

    A Brief Description
    Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church provides an intimate and disturbing look into the unseemly inner-workings the Catholic Church. It is primarily a story about how this institution deals with dissent in its midst, but it also shows to what lengths the Church will go to silence a whistle-blower. What I am about to recount happened between 1981 and 1994. It involves the highest levels of the Vatican bureaucracy, secret documents, corporate incompetence, canonical corruption, and institutionalized homophobia on an epic scale.

    The publication of my dissertation broke the seal on the Vatican’s gay secret. The press dubbed me “The Gay Priest,” but my research and what it implies made patently clear that I wasn’t the only gay priest. In fact, there is a sizable segment of the clergy population that is gay and these men are forced to live duplicitous lives of repression in secret.

    The Church’s single-minded effort to quash the emerging story and silence me showed that I needed to be “dealt with” in the most severe fashion; an example had to be made of me. If other priests started coming out of the closet, demanding to be treated with dignity and respect it would certainly undercut the entirety of Catholic sexual moral theology—there is no place for non-reproductive sexuality in that paradigm.

    The irony is that at the same time my story was unfolding an unimaginable scandal, involving hundreds of Catholic priests across the globe, was also brewing. Cardinals, bishops and provincials worldwide were, and still are, furtively shuffling pedophile priest from one crime scene to another. They were, and still are, involved in a massive corporate cover up of their own crimes and those of their brother clergy.

    While I am being singled out for 13 years of Church vitriol, public character assassination and communal shunning—my superiors claim that they are simply trying to protect the Church from scandal—these same Church leaders and others are lying, prevaricating and sabotaging any effort to uncover the burgeoning clergy sexual abuse scandal that would soon rock the front pages of newspapers all over the world.

    The public panic, among Church officials, exhibited toward me—a single up-front gay priest in their midst—is in stark contrast to their apathetic and anemic response to the systemic clergy sexual abuse that engulfs them.

    I am confident making the comparison between my struggle and the clergy sex abuse scandal, because I have first-hand knowledge of this abuse criminality. I was repeatedly sexually molested as a 14-year-old boy in an Oblate seminary in southern Illinois.

    My story is the story of a Church that will go to any length, even to violate its core principles—Gospel values that form the fundamental tenets of faith—to protect its public image. In other words, this is a story of a Church out of control.

    Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest, is presented in two distinct parts.

    Part 1 is a detailed account of my 13-year struggle with the religious community I once belonged to, The Missionary Oblates Of Mary Immaculate, to preserve my priesthood. It reads like an ecclesiastical who-done-it.

    Part 2 is my complete doctoral thesis, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance. I included it in this volume, because this is precisely what set this controversy in motion. It illustrates and reveals the plight of gay Catholic clergy and the fierce repression the Vatican imposes upon them. It is also the 30th anniversary of its limited publication as a monograph before the Vatican silenced me. It’s been out of print for well over 25 years.

  24. Tony Butler says:

    Some years ago – not here in Ireland – I was in the confessional and a penitent entered. He asked me if I spoke any other languages besides English. I said I spoke some Italian. As part of his ” story ” he wanted to let me know that he was homosexual but could not bring himself to speak about in his own language, English.

    He said ” I am homosexual “. I asked him his first name. He replied ” Sean ” ( here I use another name)’ I said ” You are Sean, that is your identity, that is who you are ” there was some silence and he replied, ” I would like to leave now, and if you are here later I will come back, start my confession again and start by saying ” I am Sean. I would appreciate that, thank you for telling me who I am”. He did return later.

    The late Bishop Michael Murphy ( Cork and Ross), I know from personal experience of talking to him had appointed one of his priests as a ” chaplin ” to the homosexual members of the Church community and I also know that if there was any difficulty in seeking a place in which homosexual men – as was the case then – could meet in an atmosphere of support together with the chaplain , he ( Bishop Murphy) would see that some diocesean property would be made available for meetings. It was the same Bishop Murphy who spoke, years ago of the necessity for a Synod for the Church in Ireland. May he rest in peace.

    Looking at the Gospel of last Sunday and at those whose hearts were hardened against Jesus one commentator made the point that we were loved from the very begining of our creation, all of us, without exception. Why were some not drawn to Jesus? Jesus the sacrament of God. Somehow the light of that original love within all had dimmed so much that they – the hardened of heart – were unable to see in Jesus the God-Human visible sign of that original love.

    ” Let not your hearts be hardened ” Allow all within the community of God’s people to say their names with pride and for them to know always ” Who ” they are is what is foremost and not a ” what ” they may be. That lovely line in the Gospel saying of Jesus ” They took him, “just as he was” in the boat….” just as he was.

    Everytime we meet in community to celebrate Holy Mass, The Eucharist gay men and women are present, otheres not there because they have been in one way or another that they are not welcome. Mat I say, all are welcome, all God’s people, you are in your right place here this day,let no one budge you, whether you are man,woman, worshipper or celebrant. Salvation is a community experience.You belong.

    I wish to suport civil unions of same sex couples and yes I wish to offer them the blessing of God and the support of the faith community. I have never forgoten ” Sean ” and his question, ” do you speak any other language beside English? ” Sean, you are never forgotten.

  25. Tony Butler says:

    just testing as i find great difficulty in using Captca Code…
    Tony B

  26. Raymond Hickey Bordine says:

    For what it’s worth, Richard, I agree with everything you have written here. I have studied the Catholic clerical sexual abuse and cover-up scandals since their inception. I have read thousands of legal documents and depositions; they all collaborate your words.

    It is obvious to me that the RCC has no real intention of systematic change in its theology or its doctrine. To do so would require a relinquishment of power and control, something it will never assent to. As we learned in the Jesuits, power is never voluntarily surrendered: it must be seized.

    As long as the current structure and duplicitous moral teachings remain in place, this church has nothing in common with Jesus, the Christ; rather it is merely a social institution masquerading as a church. It is truly as Jesus said, “a whitened sepulcher” and as the American novelist William Faulkner wrote “a sound and fury signifying nothing”!

  27. Wonderful piece, Tony, and, by the way, I also have also had, on occasions, great difficulty using the Captcha Code.

  28. Soline Humbert says:

    Richard,I think you undermine your own case and credibility by funding yourself through the pornography industry: very lucrative, but very exploitative of human sexuality

  29. Raymond Hickey Bordine says:

    Soline, what are you talking about! Thinking that possibly you knew something that I didn’t, I researched Richard Wagner’s career and sources of income. There is NOT one shred of evidence that he makes ANY money from the porn industry! That charge is outrageous. You certainly owe Richard Wagner a public apology.

    His book is his dissertation that he wrote to earn his Ph.D. This dissertation was approved by his religious superiors. Not liking what he discovered in his research, they proceeded to savage him in an attempt to make his life miserable. Finally, in an attempt presumably to save his sanity, he left the order. As a side note, I should add that this is the same history and crucifying that the hierarchy has attempted on the Dominican priest, Fr. Tom Doyle. Fr. Doyle was the first whistle blower about the sexual abuse scandal and cover-up. He has written extensively about it and is called upon globally in courts throughout the world to be an expert witness for the VICTIMS of Catholic clerical abuse. For his trouble, he lost his job in the Catholic institution as secretary to the Papal Nuncio in Washington,D.C.

    Soline, if you can’t accept what all research shows, at least have the courtesy of not attacking the individual who attempted to educate you! Remember, the only thing CERTAIN is a closed mind.

  30. Soline Humbert says:

    Raymond,I am not referring to Richard Wagner’s book/story.
    I am on public record as supporting a change in the church teaching on sexuality, including LGTB people.
    I am referring to the fact that he is also making/shooting pornography ,in his very own words, in an interview on http://gaycatholicpriests.org/
    I don’t think the moderator would agree to put a direct link onto Richard Wagner’s porn web site in question.

  31. Ann Lardeur says:

    Vatican persecution is not limited to clergy. Dr. Lavinia Byrne in 1994 published a book “Women at the Altar” supporting arguments in favour of ordination of women. It was ordered to be destroyed. Burning, actually modern version pulping, of books still happens in the church today. She was also ordered to make public retraction and also withdraw her views on contraception by affirming Humanae Vitae. Rather than compromise her integrity, she left the IBVM after 35 years rather than have her sisters presurised too.

    By the way I think it is really a Gotcha Code! I have had trouble too.

  32. Ann, I am so pleased you reminded us of Lavinia Byrne. Her appalling mistreatment is certainly one of the great scandals in the recent history of our Church yet we never hear any mention of her anymore. I hope she is well and happy in her new life.

  33. Joe O'Leary says:

    Lay theologians have also been persecuted by the Vatican.Being a theologian in Catholic institutions today is something like being a punk singer in Russia — one survives only by sidling along the wall. And the result is plain to see, in the theological impoverishment of Catholicism.

  34. Ann Lardeur says:

    Paddy, Lavinia is having an amazing new life; she leads tours to exotic places like Samarkand. You can find pictures of her on the web obviously enjoying herself. I’d love to go but have disabled husband. When I get a break it has to be rather more restful tho a couple of years ago I did a Nile cruise which was perfect. Ann

  35. Please help me elaborate on this. Sexual desires I must say is the actual struggle of the priest, or even to one who’s just discerning. I have come across this discussion thread as I myself am seeking enlightenment for my vocation. And as I have said. To me, sexual desires is one of the main things that make my head spin off to a thousand direction. One, atleast on my own percepetion, can categorize himself on the sexual preference. That and a lot of things could contribute, but mainly this. As anyone who is considering the thought of consecrating himself to the religious vocation. It is not the matter anymore of what is that sinful thought you have perceived. But the dilemma now should be. How it was perceived, how often and why. This might sound as absurd, futile jnd unfavored. But reflect and recall this thought, once you had just “participated” and “released” all this natural and physical urges you have in his body. Now i’m not saying to go out there, mingling and what not. All i’m saying is that too, we can achieve by ourselves “alone”. One doesn’t really despise masturbation for any reason except that it is not right (so to ourselves if we consider it impure and disgraceful to God). We hate it, because we know it reminds us that it could be better “actually participating” out there, rather than do it alone. We dont really, really hate it, all because masturbation induces the same feel having actual sex could offer. Now if I may to dare you. Ask this question to “am I a gay first then a priest, or just a priest then gay”, only to find yourself acknowledging. that yeah, it’s not a question of the details of my thought, but why and how I said it.

    Sorry, for those who find my comment as absurd, childish and nonsense.

    Servus Dei,

  36. Ann Lardeur says:

    I have just remembered there was an interesting talk by Brendan Callaghan S.J., Associate Fellow of British Psychological Society, about a year ago. Entitled “A Safe Church – Lessons from the Child Abuse Events and how they have been handled” it is rather more wide ranging than the title suggests, bringing in review of Church stance on sex and sexuality. It really is worth a read.
    My computer has developed a resistance to some document formats which prevent me posting direct link. Put Living Theology Brendan Callaghan into a search engine and you should find it. Google shows it as top item.

  37. Ger Gleeson. says:

    In his final paragraph at @24 above, Fr Tony Butler states the following.
    “I wish to support civil unions of same sex couples and yes I wish to offer them the blessing of God and the support of the faith community. I have never forgotten Sean and his question, do you speak any other language beside English. Sean, you are never forgotton”.
    Two points. You have not forgotten Sean Fr Tony, and I am quite sure, Sean has not forgotton you. Secondly, whatever hope you may have had in becomming a Bishop has now been dashed, with your blessing for same sex couples. What a breath of fresh air both you and your colleagues in the ACP bring to our Church. By your actions you preach the mercy of God, rather than simply adhereing to man made rules and regulations. God bless and keep you.

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