Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What I Learned from Father Dan; Many Gay Priests Have Served and Continue to Serve Our Church Well. Let's Not Make Them Scapegoats for the Sins of Others

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

What I Learned from Father Dan; Many Gay Priests Have Served and Continue to Serve Our Church Well. Let's Not Make Them Scapegoats for the Sins of Others

Article excerpt

IN OUR CHURCH AND IN THE MEDIA THERE HAS BEEN much talk about the recently released Vatican instruction on vocation discernment and gay seminarians. As a middle-aged, married woman and the mother of two teenage children who has worked for most of her professional life in ministry, why should I care to add to that debate? Shouldn't I just leave the commenting to a gay priest or seminarian?

As a mother, I find it lamentable that the church, whom we call our mother--indeed our holy mother--would judge some of her sons unfit and therefore unworthy to be ordained because of who they are. There is more than sufficient evidence that homosexuality is not a choice but an innate condition, probably genetic. There is also sufficient evidence that gay priests have long served the church and her people faithfully and well.

I have been a hospital chaplain, worked for a liturgical publishing company, and now am in university ministry. I can say without hesitation that gay priests are among our best and most gifted presiders and leaders of prayer, musicians, liturgists, pastoral caregivers, and teachers.

When I was just beginning to explore ministry as a vocation or life work, I was mentored by a priest--I'll call him Father Dan--who helped me develop my pastoral identity and skills. I had worked with him for a number of months before learning he was a gay man. As I observed him minister to a wide range of folks--students, patients, doctors, and nurses--I began to realize that his willingness to be truthful to who he knew himself to be was foundational to his effectiveness as a priest, pastoral caregiver, and supervisor.

In Father Dan's example I saw that being a gay man is not incompatible with the priesthood. Rather, knowing and accepting oneself as created in the image of God and loved by that same God is a prerequisite to developing the "affective maturity" (this term is used in the new document) necessary if one is to devote one's entire life, one's whole person, to service of the church and God's people. I believe this is true for all who minister, whether clergy, religious, or lay; whether gay or straight.

I am saddened, if not surprised, by the document. …

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