ST. LOUIS (RNS) On the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Rev. Gary Meier addressed a congregation of sorts – people who wanted to hear what the Roman Catholic priest had been thinking since, nearly a year ago, he last stood before a flock.

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The Rev. Gary M. Meier, author of the book, “Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest, speaks during a recent event on May 21, 2013, at UMSL. Photo by Michael K. Butler Sr./UMSL


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

That was last June, when Meier told his parishioners at Saints Teresa and Bridget Church in north St. Louis that he would take a leave of absence “to discern what ministry God was calling me to do.”

Meier, 49, had told his archbishop that he could no longer teach the Catholic church’s stance on homosexuality.

“I have tried over the years to reconcile my silence as a gay priest with that of the Church’s increasingly anti-gay stance. I have been unsuccessful,” Meier writes in his book “Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest.”

“I was hopeful that I could find a way to have integrity while remaining part of a hierarchy that is anti-gay — I was unsuccessful.”

Meier originally published the book anonymously in 2011. But last week, he republished it with his own name on the cover. He’s now studying for a master’s degree in counseling at UMSL.

Since his public declaration of his sexual orientation, he has received much support on his Facebook page, Meier told his UMSL audience of 80 or so parishioners, priests, former priests and gay-rights activists. One woman, though, scolded him for accusing the church of a “lack of love.”

“That’s not at all what I’m saying,” said Meier. “But I am accusing the church of a lack of tolerance and acceptance.”

In doing so, he is risking his priesthood, while also drawing attention to the church’s stance on homosexuality and gay priests.

Priests in active ministry rarely state their sexual orientation, in part because it’s supposed to be beside the point for men who have taken lifetime vows of celibacy. The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large at America magazine, says there are only two or three priests in the U.S. who have said publicly that they are homosexual.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of celibate gay priests working in the Catholic church today who are beloved by their parishioners,” Martin said. “And there are a number of reasons why almost all of them feel unable to be honest. They are either uncomfortable themselves, or they’re told specifically by their superiors not to talk about it.”

Meier’s decision to go public came, he said, after watching the church’s position harden over the last decade.

“My position is that our teaching is causing harm,” he said in an interview.

The church does not have an official position on gay priests, but bishops in the past have mostly argued that celibacy is celibacy and a good priest is a good priest.

In 2005, the Vatican issued new guidelines barring men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from being considered for the priesthood. In 2009, a Vatican probe of U.S. seminaries that was ordered after the clergy sex abuse scandal concluded that “difficulties” related to “homosexual behavior” have been largely “overcome.”

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‘Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest” written by Gary M. Meier. Photo by Michael K. Butler Sr./UMSL


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church calls homosexual acts “acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered” because they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.” But the catechism also says that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

Speaking at UMSL, he said he believed the bishops’ teaching on homosexuality had been a contributing factor in growing suicide rates among gay teenagers.

“We ought to own some of that,” he said. “The church’s hard line against homosexuality causes that kind of damage.”

The St. Louis Archdiocese did not respond to a request for comment about Meier’s book, but Archbishop Robert Carlson released a statement saying that Meier, “as a man who experiences same-sex attraction,” had “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 his control,” Carlson said.

Meier, who recently celebrated the 15th anniversary of his ordination, said his sexuality had never been a secret to his family and friends. He said that when he was interviewed during the screening process at Kenrick Seminary, he answered truthfully to the six interviewers (of nine, total) who asked about his sexual orientation and history. When they asked him if he believed he could be celibate, he answered, “I think so.”

The priest now says that his only relationship is “with the people of God,” and that he’s been faithful to his vows. “Celibacy is a rule the church imposes on its clergy. It’s always part of the package,” he said. “This is not about celibacy.”

A woman gets her copy of ‘Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest” signed by author Gary M. Meier. Photo by Michael K. Butler Sr./UMSL

A woman gets her copy of ‘Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest” signed by author Gary M. Meier. Photo by Michael K. Butler Sr./UMSL


This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The question for Meier — the question all his friends and family have been asking since he put his name on the book’s cover — is, “What now?”

Meier said he would like to remain a priest, but he knows that’s unlikely.

“To be a priest and active in ministry, you can’t say what I’m saying,” he said in answer to a question at the UMSL event. “I don’t think I’ll be getting any more paychecks from the archdiocese.”

The Rev. John Beal, a professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, said that if a priest rejected the idea that “homosexual acts are gravely immoral, that would be a reason they can’t continue in ministry, because they’re dissenting from the teaching of the church.”

If Carlson finds anything in Meier’s book that contradicts church teaching, Meier could be suspended from ministry, and his license to act as a Catholic priest could be removed.

Meier already has, in essence, removed himself from ministry. In an act of solidarity with gay Catholics against the church’s teaching, he has refrained from administering the sacraments since taking a leave of absence. Recently he elected not to celebrate his aunt’s funeral Mass.

In his book, Meier said he had to go public as a matter of personal integrity.

“I see my speaking out as an act of love toward a community which was born of God’s radical inclusivity,” he wrote.

(Tim Townsend writes for The Post-Dispatch)

KRE/LEM END TOWNSEND

 

10 Comments

  1. I am thankful for the Gary Meier’s integrity such that he will not try to represent Christ and His Church, while still promoting a lifestyle contrary to the Natural Order created by God and sanctified by Christ and His Church. If homosexual acts can be consonant with God’s plan for mankind, then are there any sexual acts that can be disapproved outside of Rape? We recently heard from a friend who went to a night club where there was public sex on the dance floor (She had to hide to escape the advances from men)? Is this any worse than the acts of grave depravity which are inherent to homosexual activity? People have completely abandoned reason for sentimentality. Yes, we need to be understanding and loving towards people who suffer from Same Sex Attraction, not to enable them in Sin, but to draw them up to the Glory of God! It’s the same approach towards all sinners and all Sin. As Christ Jesus told the Adulterous woman “Go, and Sin No MORE”. This is the call of the Church to Homosexual’s. We love you, we do not condemn you because of your suffering sinful inclination, but “Go, and Sin No More”. The Church follows the Example of Jesus Christ in calling all sinners to repentance, forgiveness and New Life! Gary Meier, please preach this to homosexual’s, “Go and Sin NO MORE”.

  2. Bravo to Meier for coming out. Finally someone in Catholicism who is honest. I really hope Meier knows that the Catholic Church doesn’t own Christianity, and there are plenty of Christian Communities that will welcome him with open arms and celebrate his gifts of ministry.

  3. What’s next? A priest being “honest” about his adultery or fornication? (Yes, a unmarried priest can commit adultery if he has sex with an unmarried woman.) I’ll believe Meier is truly honest when he refuses any more support from the Church whose teaching he no longer accepts.

  4. He certainly is contributing to the confusion of Catholics. His superiors did nothing wrong. He is called to live a life of celibacy. So instead of saying I am living through the challenges of same sex attraction just like any other human being seeking a life of holiness, now I am saying I don’t believe what the church teaches. He is tired of not being himself? What self does he want to be? Here is the entire problem of not supporting the bishops’ stance that men with the slightest SSA should not be in the priesthood. It opens up a can of worms. Everyone is called to a life of chastity. If you’re not in a man-woman marriage, you live a celibate life. What makes it allowable for those with SSA to reject this? We may have weaknesses in other areas of life so that gives permission for those with SSA to just sin? Pray for a better understanding people of our Magisterial Teaching. It did not happen overnight. Our sins, though, happen overnight and we cling to them like it is a right.

  5. an given set of moral standards is arbitrary, there is no standard written in nature unless it is the law of the jungle. for either side in this debate to claim the moral high ground is absurd.
    this man has a disagreement with the church, then he should leave the church.
    the Catholic church has just as much right to their set of standards as he has to his own standards, it’s just that simple, therefore he is pushing an agenda just as the church is pushing an agenda. live and let live.

  6. i left the catholic church and joined a unitarian church. my mental health has improved since doing that with an abusive and hypocritical religion. I freely follow Jesus and feel closer to his teachings along with a closer understanding of right and wrong i respect the catholic church, but they hold NO monopoly over christianity. Its time they looked into the harm they are causing people.
    God bless

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