December 1, 2005
Volume 4, Issue 17
the Vineyard is a twice-monthly publication
of Voice of the Faithful, Inc. We welcome your
inquiries and comments at email@example.com.
myself will search for my sheep, and will seek
them out....I will rescue them from all the places
to which they have been scattered.” Ezekiel
VOTF at Work in the
note that many of the online publications require
registering before viewing the articles mentioned.)
National comments on the USCCB’s under
funded Causes and Context Study and
the seeming “witch hunt” conducted
on US seminaries by the Vatican.
USCCB web site has posted
the text (PDF) of “Concerning the
Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with
Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies
in View of their Admission to the Seminary
and to Holy Orders.”
and a statement from USCCB (PDF)
president Bishop Skylstad.
perspective on the November 2005 USCCB meeting – Marci
Hamilton asks “Has the Catholic Church
put the clergy abuse crisis behind them?” Hamilton
by a long shot.”; also see the lead
editorial in the Nov. 25 issue of National
Pohlhaus, national secretary for VOTF, comments
on the continuing reference by Church leadership
to homosexuals as “objectively disordered.” Read “A
Disordered Objective” in Commentary.
John Kinkel, VOTF Michigan, asks in an open
letter to Pope Benedict XVI. See Commentary – “Why
Isn’t Celibacy Enough?” Reprinted
with permission from the Los Angeles Times.
remarkable coalition of Christians and Jews
gathered in Philadelphia on 11/27 at St. Charles
Borromeo Seminary to protest the leaked Vatican
instruction that appears to link the abuse
crisis in the Catholic Church to homosexuality.
Organizers planned their peaceful protest to
coincide with the arrival of the seminary Visitation
Team at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. See “Walking
the Talk in Philadelphia.”
USCCB initiated a “Response and Prevention
Project” under the Office of
Child and Youth Protection. It’s findings
are on the USCCB
web site. What do you think?
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
of integrity continue to speak out:
In Mesa, AZ, a priest resigns in protest against “aggressive
anti-gay positions” coming from his bishop
and the Vatican. Click
here; one priest has found a different
way to stay – on his own terms. Read
gay priest speaks out. Jesuit priest Fr. Thomas
J. O’Brien’s decided to “come
out as a gay priest.” Read his statement
in Commentary – “A
Flawed and Disordered Document”).
It was sent to Voice of the Faithful and also
appeared in the Detroit Free Press.
VOTF notes the 25th anniversary of
the deaths of Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke
and Ita Ford, Ursuline Sister Dorothy Kazel
and Lay Missioner Jean Donovan at the hands
of Salvadoran government troops on December
2, 1980. VOTF Boston members
are gathering to share a memorial Eucharist
on Sunday, December 4 at Boston College, 2
pm, St. Ignatius Church. Let us know how your
faith community remembered Maura, Ita, Dorothy,
and Jean. Write to email@example.com.
anniversary of the churchwomen’s deaths
will be marked internationally with a four-day
commemoration in El Salvador, as well as events
in Rome, Washington, DC, Chicago, and at both
the Ursuline Sisters’ convent in Cleveland
and the Maryknoll headquarters in Ossining, NY.
from National - VOTF National
Representative Council reports that Campaign
2006 is taking shape; VOTF member Bill Casey
reports on the filming of “Twist of
Faith” during the NRC meeting weekend
in Arlington, VA; VOTF officer nominations
and elections are fast approaching.
See details; VOTF National Office to
commence a monthly communications conference
call in order to identify and, eventually,
media train VOTF spokespeople from around
the US. Communications manager John Moynihan
provides details for interested members.
Ohio faces a struggle over SB 17 in the Ohio
State House of Representatives. The
state Senate unanimously approved this legislation
last Spring, extending the statute of limitations
to 20 years for victims to file civil charges
against their alleged abuser. The bill was
originally introduced to require clergy and
church officials to report suspected abuse
or neglect of a child; it was facing opposition
as the House Judiciary Committee hearing approached
on Nov. 22. See Kris Ward’s background
remarks and update in Commentary – “Civil
and Not So Civil.” Also, check SNAP’s
web site for updates.
Litzler of the St. Chris affiliate has arranged
for a showing of “Twist of Faith” to
run from Dec. 9 to Dec. 15 at the Detroit Theater
in Lakewood. Call 216-521-2245. SNAP is a co-sponsor.
Maine member and mother of a survivor
won a settlement out of court in her case against
the Portland, Maine archdiocese. Read her statement
in Commentary –“ In
a Mother’s Words.”
Boston, MA legislative update: Contrary
to expectations, SB 2313 did not make it to
the floor on the last day of the House session
Nov. 16, 2005. Supporters, however, are calling
it “victory delayed” and will focus
their energies on the next session. [For some
background on this legislative effort, see
the Nov. 17 issue of In
Anchorhold in the diocese of Los Angeles, CA has
joined a coalition including Stones of Silence and
Survivors of Silence. Representatives gathered on
Nov. 22 at the Archdiocese office to deliver a letter
to Cardinal Roger Mahony. An incident involving survivors
being physically bullied outside of a local Catholic
Church brought these representatives together asking
the Cardinal to direct all Archdiocese Churches to
openly decry the recent violence against victims
and supporters of clergy sexual abuse. Read
federal prosecutor has ended a probe of the
protection of sexually abusive priests by the
Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston without
seeking indictments of former top officials,
including William Murphy, now bishop of the
Diocese of Rockville Centre, and Cardinal Bernard
Law, who resigned as Boston archbishop almost
three years ago.” VOTF Long Island, NY’s
Dan Bartley asks, “At what point does
Rome become responsible for allowing someone
with Bishop Murphy’s background to remain
in office?” See full story in Newsday ;
and in the Boston
Globe, Anne Barrett Doyle
of BishopAccountability.org noted, "At
the very least, you would think that someone
who falsifies information in a federal document
to allow a credibly accused priest to get a
government job should be moved from a position
Cardman, professor of Church History at Weston
Jesuit School of Theology, spoke at a rally
organized by Our Lady’s Friends outside
Holy Cross Cathedral, Boston – seat of
the Boston Archdiocese. Read Francine’s
remarks, as well as others who spoke, and see
photos of this “very red” rally – go
to the Our
Lady’s Friends web site.
sexual abuse crisis just emerging – See National
Alerts - The need for heightened vigilance is
evident as news reports of accusations and
convictions of priests and others working with
young people continue to occupy the nation’s
media. See news items from the Joliet, Ill.;
Bedford, Mass., and Phoenix, Ariz; do you have
your Christmas Cards? Support survivors and
greet the season with these original-art cards.
Visit the VOTF Winchester web site at www.votfwinchester.org or
contact Bob Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
reminders: BishopAccountability.org is
internationally recognized as a document resource.
Also, check in with SNAP.
If you don’t receive National Catholic
Reporter, check their on-line news at www.nationalcatholicreporter.org.
See www.zenit.org for
news as it happens in the Vatican. America magazine
at www.americamagazine.org and Commonweal at www.commonwealmagazine.org are
also valuable resources in our faith community.
a Mother’s Words.” – Marie
Tupper, VOTF Maine
Flawed and Disordered Document” – Fr.
Thomas J. O’Brien
Isn’t Celibacy Enough?” – by
VOTF member John Kinkel, reprinted with permission
from the Los Angeles Times
and Not So Civil.” - Kris Ward
Prayer for Children” - Jack Rakosky (Readers
might remember Jack’s January 2005 Vineyard
Childermas reflection and prayer.)
for our time:
“ Our society is obsessed by sex and the Church should offer a model of
a sane but not compulsive acceptance of sexuality. The Catechism of the Council
of Trent taught that priests should talk about sex ‘with moderation rather
than copiousness.’ We should be more attentive to whom our seminarians
may be inclined to hate than whom they love. Racialism, misogyny and homophobia
would all be signs that someone could not be a good model of Christ.” As
noted by Timothy Radcliffe, OP in The
next issue of In the Vineyard and the
final issue for 2005 is Thursday, December 15.
Copy deadline Monday, December 12.
Civil and Not So Civil
Report from VOTF vice president Kris Ward
A critical hearing on a Statute of Limitations bill was held in the Ohio House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 22.
Members of the Ohio affiliates have worked alongside survivors and members of their families with great dedication and sacrifice throughout 2005 toward the goal of passage of this bill, which passed the Ohio Senate unanimously in March 2005. It ran into trouble in the House. The bill includes: an extension of the civil statutes for 20 years after a survivor reaches the age of 18 (with a provision that the clock stops if a perpetrator leaves the state and restarts upon a return); the addition of clergy as mandatory reporters; and a provision for a one-year window of access to justice for those for whom the current statute has passed (this is a “look back” of 35 years).
The bishops of the six dioceses of Ohio, through the attorney and the lobbyist for the Ohio Catholic Conference, have expressed opposition to the window portion of this bill.
The window is essential to hold bishops accountable. It would provide opportunities for bishops to speak under oath on a witness stand, thereby entering the public record.
With this information, the whole Church – and society at large in all sexual abuse of children and minors’ cases – would get that much closer to the truth. This is a potent tool
to hold accountable those who abused as well as those who covered up and enabled.
These opportunities do not present themselves with criminal statutes because
windows for the filing of cases in a look-back period are not part of criminal statute extensions.
We have, as have all of you, heard Catholics question the need for the windows that would allow access to justice. There is an argument put forward that these windows will mean settlements that will bankrupt the Church.
The windows provide access to justice. They do not guarantee an outcome of innocence or guilt. No part of the judicial process ceases to exist because of the window. The windows do not lessen the evidence standard for proving a case. Without the truth, all of us today and all Catholics in the future will continue to operate in the dark. The bankruptcy we need to prioritize is the moral bankruptcy that comes of shirking the pursuit of truth.
On November 22:
Over 115 people came to testify and support those who testified – many of them Voice of the Faithful members from throughout Ohio. The crowd overflowed from the hearing room into an adjacent room – this on very short notice and on a week day.
Ohio Senate Bill 17, whose sponsor, Senator Robert Spada, is now a member of Voice of the Faithful and was with us in Indianapolis, was scheduled for a House Judiciary Committee hearing from 9:30 am to 4 pm. So many survivors, family members and supporters registered to testify that the hearing was extended to 9 PM; even that wasn’t enough since only 43 people were able to testify. Twenty-seven registered speakers were not able to testify.
The Chair of the Committee has scheduled another hearing date for proponents of this legislation – December 8! I find that a very interesting selection of days. We ask for your prayers again as you celebrate Eucharist on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
A Disordered Objective
by Gaile Pohlhaus
The Roman Catholic Church calls homosexual persons objectively disordered.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that all persons bear “the stain of original
sin.” Thus homosexual persons are no different from all other persons. We are
all objectively disordered. Voice of the Faithful believes that all men should
be considered for ordination if they recognize a call to such a vocation. Pedophiles
come in all sizes and shapes and sexual orientations. To claim that barring
homosexuals from the priesthood would get to the root of the present crisis
in the Church is to disparage all the young women who have suffered at the
hands of abusive priests. Neither will this solve the basic problem of covering
up sins and crimes which cry to heaven for redress.
An Open Letter
to Pope Benedict XVI: Pope Benedict, why isn’t celibacy enough?
By R. John Kinkel, VOTF Michigan
[R. John Kinkel, a former priest, teaches sociology at Baker College in Michigan
and is the author of Chaos in the Catholic Church (Xlibris, 2005). The
commentary below is reprinted with permission from the Los Angeles Times.]
THE CATHOLIC Church seems to be unraveling at an astonishing rate. The latest
threat to its future comes next week, when the Vatican’s Congregation on Catholic
Education officially begins scapegoating gay priests — believed to make up
30% or more of the U.S. Catholic clergy — for its sex abuse scandals.
That’s when the Vatican has said it will issue regulations banning men who
are actively homosexual or have “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from the
priesthood. Catholic seminarians — priests in training — who say they are gay
will be ordained, under the new rules, only if they have not had sex with another
man for four years.
As a former priest who left the church to marry and raise a family, I am
sadly sympathetic to gay priests who may quit rather than put up with these
absurd and unenforceable homophobic requirements for ordination.
Isn’t it enough that the church insists on a celibacy vow? Must it now also
insist — for gays only — on celibacy even before entering the priesthood?
The greatest challenge to the Catholic Church is not gay priests, it’s the
Catholic Church. The record is consistently dismal. In the late 1960s, the
Vatican ignored reality and banned birth control. Droves left the church. In
the 1970s and ‘80s, heterosexual priests like myself who wanted families and
had hoped for a change in the rules on celibacy were told to pack up and find
work elsewhere. We did, some 20,000 strong.
The result has been a dire shortage of priests and a big increase in the
percentage of priests who are gay, a function of mathematics and social trends.
Now the Vatican has cooked up this brilliant idea: exclude homosexuals from
the priesthood. According to media reports, the new directive will give gays
a chance of being ordained if they have “overcome” their homosexual tendencies
for four years before becoming priests. If a priest’s “disorder” is deemed
to be “transient” and he forswears gay culture and behavior, he could be cleared
for ordination — the “it was only a phase” provision.
It’s not completely clear yet how the new rules will be implemented and administered.
But how does one prove that something didn’t happen, or that one didn’t have
impure thoughts? This new policy may well be the tipping point in the church’s
long and painful decline in the U.S. The many ordained priests who are gay
will feel pressure to leave the church or, more likely, go further underground.
Others will be falsely suspected or accused. Many sincere aspirants to the
priesthood will be discouraged from pursuing a clerical career by the prospect
of such an unpleasant and intrusive ordeal.
What’s wrong with being a gay priest? If you’re celibate, as the Catholic
Church already requires you to be, then what’s the difference if you’re gay
or straight at heart?
Perhaps most important, we should ask why this policy is directed only at
homosexual priests. Yes, most of the sex abuse cases documented in the church
scandal involved incidents between priests and boys. But I’ve read some of
the grand jury documents and have been struck by the fact that many priests
abused young schoolgirls as well. Yet this new instruction from the Vatican
seems to give a free pass to heterosexuals who have been sexually active.
The only rational response is to reflect on how insane church leaders have
become. In the last several decades they have failed miserably whenever they
have been asked to solve problems and move the faithful on to greater commitment.
They have consistently insulted married couples with the birth control issue,
ignored the legitimate aspirations of priests and women, and now seek a new
role as sex police.
I hope that gay priests and their gay bishops will choose not to run or hide
but instead, as some suggest, call a strike, a work stoppage. The American
Catholic clergy needs to send a strong message to Pope Benedict: Tear down
this wall of prejudice! Catholic clergy everywhere should declare the new regulations
dead on arrival at every seminary and diocese. It may be the last chance the
church has to save itself from becoming completely irrelevant.
The testimony of Donald Bondick, and that of other victims/survivors/family members/supporters, was courageous and powerful. Fr. Tom Doyle and Patrick Wall also spoke with their expertise and conviction evident from their first words. Several survivors spoke for the first time in public.
A survivor and his mother from the VOTF Dayton affiliate were the last to speak on November 22. They very much understand that what’s said last has the power of staying with attendees. They have been passionate in this cause. Something very interesting happened before their testimony: the Chair of the Committee excused himself from presiding and passed the gavel to a colleague. He left the committee seating area and came forward into the center of the room and shook the hands of the survivor – David Hoehne and his mother Ginny Hoehne. His colleagues waited for a few moments until the Chair returned to his place and the hearing continued.
While we in this movement know of the pain the survivors and their families carry, it takes the survivors fortitude to keep bringing this knowledge to those who have the power to create good public policy. Our gratitude to them cannot be measured.
There will be a day for opponents of this legislation. Sadly, we expect that the Bishops of the six dioceses of Ohio will testify, most likely through their attorney and lobbyist, in opposition to this bill.
For your prayers and for all you do to keep the faith and change the Church, this comes with gratitude, and a wish for a happy and faith filled Advent.
In a Mother’s Words
When the Portland, Maine diocese settled Marie Tupper’s
case against the diocese, Marie released a statement excerpted
Two years ago, and for the first time in 25 years, my son revealed
to me that Rev. Thomas Lee sexually molested him when he was
a toddler. My mother (my son’s grandmother) worked for Lee as
his housekeeper at the parish rectory. When I visited my mother
at the rectory, Lee would ask if he could take my son into his
office. I did not know then that Lee was abusing my child.
My grief and sadness for what Lee did to my only child has
been overwhelming. I filed a lawsuit against the Diocese of Portland
after my requests for Bishop Joseph Gerry and Bishop Richard
Malone to tell the truth to the public about my son’s abuser
were repeatedly ignored. I want other victims to know the truth.
During settlement negotiations for this lawsuit, I asked Bishop
Malone over and over again to help Lee’s victims. I asked him
to make public the number of allegations brought against Lee.
I asked Bishop Malone to go to all the parishes where Lee served
(including Maine Youth Center). I asked him to stand at the pulpit
and speak clearly, forcefully and candidly to the parishioners.
I want him to tell the truth about Lee’s abuse of children.
It is irresponsible for Bishop Malone to keep making excuses
by saying that he can’t tell the truth about Lee’s abuse because “Lee’s
case has been forwarded to Rome for further investigation.” The
bishop knows that Lee abused children. … Victims who hear the
truth about what Lee did to children may begin to say, “That
happened to me too.” It is an opportunity for them to find the
courage and strength to begin talking about their shameful secret.
I tried as hard as I could to make Bishop Malone understand
how important it is for him to tell the truth to the public about
Lee’s abuse of children. I tried as hard as I could to get Bishop
Malone to do these simple things that can help so many victims.
Unfortunately, Bishop Malone would not agree to do any of these
NEWS from National
Convocation Implementation Team/National Representative
Campaign 2006 Taking Shape
VOTF leaders are putting the final touches on what is expected
to be VOTF's primary focus in 2006. The process begun in Indianapolis
in July has produced nine resolutions, reviews by members and
affiliate leaders, drafts of action plans, and feedback from
VOTF's national officers and National Representative Council.
The membership's cry for focused, coordinated actions has been
heard and responsible options have been evaluated against the
Indianapolis resolutions. These activities are being coordinated
by the Convocation Implementation Team (CIT), which was given
the job of ensuring that the ideas from Indianapolis were translated
into focused and specific operational plans communicated clearly
to affiliates and members for implementation. Affiliates are
reviewing the revised plans in December and evaluating local
applicability. The goal is to develop a coordinated national
effort, with "template" plans that can be used for regional and
local action as well. It is expected that Campaign 2006 will
be formally launched in January.
The CIT will be supporting this first-time national effort
by providing affiliates and members coordinated and consistent
assistance through this campaign.
A note on the showing of “Twist of Faith” –
On November 13, 2005, the eve of the Bishops’ annual meeting
in Washington, DC, the Northern Virginia affiliate (VOTF-NoVA)
held a screening of the HBO Academy Award-nominated documentary,
Twist of Faith. About sixty members of VOTF affiliates in the
Washington metropolitan area and other interested guests watched
the documentary in a public library, just a few miles from where
the Bishops were gathering.
After the screening, attendees had the opportunity to share
their reactions with national leaders of VOTF and SNAP who were
in town for the Bishops’ meeting— Kris Ward and Gaile Pohlhaus
(National Vice-President and Secretary respectively), Ray Joyce
(Executive Director), David Clohessy and Mary Grant (SNAP Executive
Director and National Director respectively). Despite all of
the numbing revelations of abuse and cover-up since 2002, viewers
were visibly anguished by the long-term effects of the abuse
and of Church leaders’ stonewalling on Tony Comes, the survivor
whose life is portrayed in the documentary, as well as on his
family, his community, and his faith.
In the name of the five metropolitan area affiliates, Evelyn
Mercantini, co-leader of VOTF-NoVA presented an Award of Courage
to Tony Comes. Since Tony’s duties as a firefighter precluded
him from accepting the award in person, David Clohessy accepted
the award on his behalf.
The documentary serves as a powerful counterpoint to Episcopal
claims that the abuse crisis is behind the Church. VOTF-NoVA
scheduled the screening on this date as a witness to the life-long
struggles of survivors to recover. Bill Casey
NATIONAL Communications Update –
Executive Director Ray Joyce announced the hiring of John Moynihan
as Communications Manager for National VOTF with an emphasis
on the press. John has served as interim manager since the Convocation
From John Moynihan: VOTF affiliate leaders via regional
coordinators have been advised of a new initiative in communications
that will identify VOTF spokespeople at the affiliate level.
We will commence in December with discussions on Wednesday Dec
7 @ 7:00 pm EST and Dec 8 @ 8:00 pm EST. Please choose the one
that is most convenient to you and get back to me at email@example.com.
I will email you prior to the date with an agenda and instructions
on how to access the VOTF Conference Call system.
Discussions will be held on a monthly basis. Hopefully there
will be a “Wednesday night group” and a “Thursday night group” so
that we might build a sense of community among us, but occasional
shifting between groups would be anticipated when schedules demand.
VOTF members frequently pass on local/regional news items
that point to the need for continued vigilance in the protection
of children. We note three of these below. Please also see
the West Suburban Boston, MA affiliate’s Nov. 17 meeting minutes
for a substantive accounting of where state and local efforts
merge in the shared work of protecting children. Go to XXXXXXXX
(waiting for PV response).
VOTF Naperville, IL member Dee O’Neal alerted us to
a disturbing development in the Joliet diocese as reported in
Tribune: “A clinical psychologist who reviewed sexual
abuse complaints for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet has
resigned amid allegations that he molested two brothers when
he worked for the DuPage County Health Department almost 30 years
ago.” Go to ; additional disturbing news comes from Phoenix,
AZ “The only Valley Catholic priest to risk trial on child
abuse charges paid dearly Thursday when a jury found him guilty
of six sex crimes that carry an 81-year minimum sentence.” Go
Valley Republic ; and another priest meets the hand of
the law in Barnstable, MA. Read
WALKING the TALK in
[From VOTF member Dick Taylor: Whereas VOTF members participated,
this was not a VOTF-sponsored event. About 100 people came with
signs and rainbow banners. Among the participants were
gays and straights, Catholics, Protestants, Jews and non-affiliated
people. We stood along the seminary fence by the entrance and
prayed in silence (with a bell tolling) for those inside -- the
Rector, the Apostolic Visitors, seminarians, faculty -- that
their minds might be opened to greater truth, their hearts to
greater compassion and their consciences to greater responsibility.
The overall theme was that the bishops need to take responsibility
for their cover-up of sex abuse, rather than blaming the crisis
on gays. At the end, we had an open mike for anyone to share
further thoughts or prayers. Among many stirring moments, a Jewish
transgendered teenager asked for prayers for Church leaders.
We closed with a Quaker participant leading us in a lovely song.
My hope is that people around the country will find the itinerary
of the Apostolic Visitation and greet them in a similar way when
they come to town.]
A group gathered in a peaceful demonstration on Nov. 27 from
1-2 pm at the gate of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.
Notice was short since the organizers had just found out about
the Apostolic Visitation two days earlier. Examiners arrived
Nov. 27 and will stay one week.
The purpose of the gathering was to “express our profound dismay
at the Catholic Church's linking of the clergy sex abuse crisis
to homosexuality. Although the Visitation is to examine various
aspects of priestly formation, the “Instrumentum Laboris” which
spells out the process clearly, asks “Is there evidence of homosexuality
in the seminary? (this question must be answered.)” It also mandates
that the moral doctrine taught at the seminary must conform to
the Vatican's document, “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” which
called homosexuality “an objective disorder” and a “tendency
ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.”
The organizers agreed with Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton's warning
that a major fallout of the clerical sexual abuse crisis and
the bishops' disastrous cover-ups "is the scapegoating of homosexual
priests and seminarians."
Concerns for a permit to demonstrate were met by the Lower
Merion Police who noted the constitutional right to such peaceful
protest, so long as vehicular or pedestrian traffic would not
be blocked and profanity would not be used. The Seminary Rector
was advised (an excerpt from the letter sent to Rev. Prior is
below), as well as the press, about the demonstration.
Most of us are Catholics, but all those gathering on the
27th will be expressing our profound dismay at the way the
Church is linking the clergy/bishops' sex abuse crisis to homosexuality.
We agree with Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton that "one major fallout
of the current crisis of leadership in the Catholic Church
is the scapegoating of homosexual priests and seminarians" (America,
9/30/02, pg. 10). We are appalled (although no longer surprised)
that Church leaders, who covered up sexual abuse and thereby
vastly increased the number of children who were grievously
harmed, would try to shift blame from their own shoulders to
homosexuals, a vulnerable group, already marginalized by our
society. Jesus spent time with the outcasts of his day; Church
leadership seems intent on condemning and blaming them for
the leadership's own sins. This even though we are sure that
Church leaders - intelligent men all-must realize that there
is no connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse. The
abuse problem is not caused by homosexual priests, but by seriously
underdeveloped, mentally and morally ill priests, and by the
bishops who covered up their crimes.
Many of us know wonderful, dedicated gay priests who are
true to their vows and who serve others with compassion and
fidelity. Will the Catholic leadership's next step be to expel
them from the priesthood? We can only imagine the devastating
effect on them of the Church's increasingly harsh attitude
toward homosexuality. Do we really want to deprive the Church
of the blessed ministry of priests - yes, and of bishops -
who are gay?
This harshness, which shows nothing of the love of Jesus
Christ, only contributes to the homophobia so prevalent in
our society. When bishops condemn gays, ordinary people are
more likely to harass and discriminate against them; bigots
feel more of a license to mistreat, even to kill them, as has
We appeal to you to help turn the Church away from this disastrous,
ADVENT PRAYER FOR CHILDREN
Response: O SON
OF MAN save the children of humanity!
O Son of Man, you had nowhere to lay your head. Give a safe
and comfortable home to all children. R.
O Son of Man, you and your disciples fled from city to city.
Give refuge to all children who flee persecution and injustice.R.
O Son of Man, you said to the paralytic "Get up, pick up your
bed and go home." Give medical care and hospitality to all children
who are sick and dying. R.
O Son of Man, you came eating and drinking. Fill the starving
children with good things. Give them safe water to drink. R.
O Son of Man, you are the Lord of the Sabbath. Give freedom
to all children who labor in sweat shops. R.
O Son of Man delivered into the hands of men, deliver the children
who are victims of sexual or physical abuse from the hands of
their perpetrators. R.
O Son of Man send forth your angels. Throw out of your kingdom
all those who commit lawlessness against children. R.
O Son of Man betrayed, expose all those who have betrayed our
children. Bring them out into the light of truth and justice. R.
O Son of Man coming in your kingdom, grant that children who
have experienced physical and sexual abuse will not taste death
before they see your justice and truth dawn. R.
O Son of Man, you spent three days and three nights in the
heart of the earth. Grant everlasting life to all children who
die in poverty, abandonment or abuse. R.
O Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of power, coming on
the clouds of heaven! R.
A Flawed and Disordered Document
From Rev. Thomas J. O’Brien, SJ – November 29, 2005
I am coming out as a gay, chaste Jesuit priest because it hurts
too much not to.
I deeply love the Church and the Jesuits.
I have experienced unconditional love from Cardinal Maida in
granting me permission to function as a priest in this Archdiocese.
I have experienced unconditional love from my Jesuit brothers—especially
those who know me well.
I have experienced unconditional love from my friends and family.
Being a priest in the Society of Jesus has been a joy for me.
I have found it to be life-giving and a vehicle through which
I can love God and neighbor. I love the Catholic Church. It is
only this issue that disturbs me profoundly and I feel moved
by the Holy Spirit to speak out.
I understand that the document concerning seminary visitations
is a response to the request of the American Bishops as they
try to come to grips with the sex abuse scandal. However, I believe
this document will do more harm than good in the long run, and,
in fact, is a kind of smoke-screen to say that the official church
has “done something.”
First and foremost, some officials of the Church need to apologize
to the victims and all the Catholic faithful for this incredible
breach of trust. I’ve not heard any apologies coming forth. Indeed,
Cardinal Law of Boston was promoted to a major church in Rome.
The group that began in Boston, Voice of the Faithful, seeks
to aid victims of sexual abuse by priests, brothers and sisters.
The local group here in Detroit has found it very difficult to
minister to these victims because they are, understandably, so
full of rage at what officials of the Church have done to them.
They need and deserve ministry, compensation and an official
apology. Having been sexually abused myself by a young man who
was a neighbor to me, I have some understanding of how their
lives have been so disrupted.
The document “Concerning the criteria of vocational discernment
regarding persons with homosexual tendencies in view of their
admission to seminaries and ordination” from the Congregation
for Catholic Education Instruction, will not help the victims
or prevent further abuse. Rather, the document has almost equated
pedophilia with being gay. Statistics on the number of gay priests
is in dispute. However, it’s clear that the vast majority of
gay priests live chaste lives. Pedophiles can be, and in fact
have been, heterosexual as well as homosexual. And we know that
most sexual abuse occurs in the home.
I find the document flawed in particular ways:
- It requires three years of a chaste life by homosexuals applying
to Catholic seminaries. It says nothing about requiring chastity
from heterosexual applicants.
- The document invades the sacred privacy of the internal forum
of spiritual direction. The same sacred confidentiality of
the confessional has always been applied to spiritual direction.
But the document now wants to insert a specific agenda into
this privileged relationship between two people.
- It reaffirms its judgment that homosexual tendencies are “objectively
disordered.” Being homosexual “obstructs (them) from properly
relating to men and women.” There is plentiful evidence that
this is not true. Lesbian sisters and gay brothers and priests
have, indeed, been models of relating to people—especially
to the disenfranchised and excluded of society.
- The document prohibits anyone from “support(ing) the so-called
gay culture.” Does this mean that I cannot support civil rights
for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender people and transsexual
individuals? Jesus taught us that God loves all people. Indeed
in his ministry, Christ reached out to those excluded by the
Jewish religious leaders of his day. Perhaps the most striking
example of this can be found in the healing of the Roman Centurion’s
- The document declares that it would be “gravely dishonest
(for an applicant to a seminary) to hide his own homosexuality.” Given
the consequences of revealing himself to be gay, what other
choice would there be for someone who wants to be a priest
and happens to be gay?
This document re-affirms the teaching of the Church that simply
being gay is “objectively disordered.” All Christians believe
that, as Psalm 139 says, “God knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.” Many
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual individuals
have experienced “being different” from other people at a very
young age. The human struggle of coming to terms with their sexuality
is common for both heterosexuals as well as homosexuals.
This document reveals a fundamentally disordered view of gender
and sexual orientation. It forces many people to hide the fact
that they are gay. This is popularly known as being “in the closet.” How
many popes have been gay? How many cardinals and bishops have
been gay? Since this is such an embarrassing topic to church
officials, they simply don’t speak about it. Scholars such as
Jeannine Gramick and Thomas Thurston have documented evidence
of gay and lesbian church officials throughout history.
I understand with great compassion why gay priests and brothers
and lesbian sisters stay “in the closet.” Acknowledging their
sexual orientation could carry terrible consequences for such
individuals. Those people of courage who have spoken about their
sexual orientation have been silenced by church officials.
Thankfully, God is greater than any religion or any church.
Thankfully, God’s love for all people is the foundation of Jesus’ teaching
and ministry. And, thankfully, organizations such as Dignity
have supported, encouraged and deepened the spiritual faith of
thousands of people over the years by providing them with a safe
place where they can worship as Catholics with others who are
gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual.
I love the Church. I ardently desire to continue ministry as
a priest in the Society of Jesus and in the Archdiocese of Detroit.