11/22/15

40 years ago today!

This happened.

Well that didn’t turn out like I hoped or imagined it would.

I wanted to be a priest ever since I was a little boy and I overcame the greatest of odds to achieve my life’s goal.  On Saturday, November 22, 1975, I was ordained a Catholic Priest at the Cathedral of Saint Francis de Sales in Oakland, CA.

Sadly, it all came crashing to a halt only 6 years later with the publication of my doctoral dissertation.ordination

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate, my religious community at the time, assigned me to post graduate studies in San Francisco in 1978.  I completed that assignment in January 1981 with my dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance.  A media firestorm erupted shortly there after when I publicly identified myself as gay. (I had come out to my provincial superiors before I was ordained six years earlier.)

When word got to Rome, however, the Oblates began a process to dismiss me from the community.  They erroneously accused me of “living a false lifestyle” because of my public declaration a month earlier.  The community leadership claimed that anyone who would self identify as gay must also be sexually active.  In their defense, it was 1981, and I had just studied a population of gay priests in the active ministry, years and years before the Church could even bring itself to admit that there were such a thing as gay priests in their midst. Nonetheless, my efforts to explain myself and the nature of self-identification fell on deaf ears.  I was to be made an example of how others would be treated if they came out.

Priesthood was my whole life.  To be cut off from the community and ministry in an instant, without due process nearly killed me.  And thus, began a grueling 13-year battle with the Church to save my good name, my priesthood, and my ministry.  I chronicled this odyssey in a book published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church.

1976I lost the battle in 1994; I was dismissed from the Oblates.  But I believe I won the war.

Martin Luther King, Jr once said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”  Looking back on the last 40 years, I can see clearly that Dr King was right.  LGBT people have gone from pariah status to having their relationships granted the same legal and socitial status as straight people.  Acceptance of LGBT people is at an all-time high in this country and throughout most of the world.  And young U.S. Catholics overwhelmingly accept LGBT people.

Unfortunately, Church leadership continues to drag it’s feet.  While there are some enlightened bishops, and certainly the Pope is pointing the way, most of the otherbishops have their head in the sand.  The rear-guard action of trying to defend the indefensible continues unabated.  Gay priests are still persecuted for coming out and the clerical closet continues to make Catholic priest sick, sometimes even to death,  One has to ask; how can anyone preach the Good News while living a lie?

1989

Forty years after ordination, I believe that I now know the real meaning of priesthood and ministry.  And I can safely say that it has nothing to do with the ritual depicted in the photos above.  My priesthood and ministry are rooted knowing who I am and knowing that God called me as I am.  My priesthood is to the people on the margins and the sexual fringe.  And my priesthood means speaking truth to power and supporting others to do the same. I continue to stand against the fear, ignorance, and repression that destroys God’s people and if I have to do my priesthood standing this distance from the altar, then I’m ok with that.

 

01/17/13

Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church (Book Review)

I am delighted to repost an insightful review of my book that recently appeared in the Quest Bulletin, no. 65 (Winter 2012-13). It now appears on their site, questgaycatholic.org.uk.

By Rev. Dr. Bernárd J. Lynch

Richard Wagner. Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in the Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction of an Oblate Priest. ISBN 978-1-61098-212-2

SS&GS_CoverJesus tells us “The truth shall set you free.” What he forgot to add ‘It shall also crucify you.’ Richard Wagner would have done well to know this before he set out on the perilous and dangerous study of Gay Catholic Priests: A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance. I have been aware of this study from the early eighties. Nothing had been published before then (1981) concerning the sexual attitudes or behaviours of Catholic priests serving in public ministry. The veil of secrecy surrounding this vocation, as well as the presumption that priests are celibate, has provided a camouflage for the sexually active priest. As this study illustrates, this situation is not without its negative consequences. The sexually active priest is faced with a paradox. The same circumstances that guarantee secrecy also perpetuate the need for secrecy.

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. This often creates an atmosphere of extreme isolation and loneliness that can and does drive these men to desperate measures to find emotional and moral support they should be receiving from their Church. These men love their Church, but hate what it is doing to them. As bad as the situation was back in the early eighties, it is worse today.

Richard Wagner’s groundbreaking research broke the code of silence surrounding this delicate topic. The Church’s single minded effort to quash the emerging story and silence him by getting rid of him is what he writes about in his book Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex in The Catholic Church. The latter part of the book is given over to the actual study that led to what he calls his “systematic destruction as an Oblate priest.” If other priests started coming out of the closet and demanded 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 within that paradigm.

The irony is of course that as Father Wagner was being hounded out of his Religious Order an unimaginable scandal, involving hundreds of Catholic priests, Cardinals, Bishops and Religious Superiors worldwide were and are involved furtively shuffling paedophile priests 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. This cover up as has been well documented goes right to the very top and involves the present occupant of the throne of Peter.

The double irony is that the expulsion of Wagner was done “to try and protect the Church from scandal”: THE SCANDAL OF THE SIN OF HONESTY. Honesty about one’s sexuality seems to be the only sin the institutional Church will admit to! The public panic and shameful silencing and worse among Church officials towards openly gay priests – is in stark contrast to the apathetic and anaemic response to the systematic sexual abuse of children that now engulfs the Church.

When Church magisterial teaching about who we are and what we do as LGTB people is based on a lie, then, is it any wonder that the domino effect is disaster. Honesty by Catholic priests about their gayness is punishable by job dismissal. Secrecy lies and deceit are rewarded. The thing that sours all relationship is secrecy. Secrecy eats at the soul. Some people are surprised that religion is so corruptible. They should not be. When secrecy is used to protect a ‘higher order of knowledge,’ it can make the keepers of the secret think of themselves as a higher order of human being. ‘Corruptio optima pessima,’ goes the old saying. Blight at the top is the deepest blight. Most of the hierarchy of the Church are more interested in the Church’s image than the truth in Christ. Twenty years ago I founded a support group for gay Catholic priests and religious here in London. The group is in existence to the present day. We have had well over a hundred priests pass through our doors in that time. Despite numerous efforts and a personal letter from our secretary to the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Westminster we are ignored and refused any publicity of our services by the ecclesiastical authorities. As far as they are concerned ‘we do not exist’ just like the abuse of our most vulnerable children.

Lesbian and gay children until very recently had no models of how to be fully human in an anti-gay world. While in western democracies this is becoming easier, it is not so in the Catholic Church. Our gay priests who by vocation should be ‘alter Christus’ are by force and choice models of the ‘great lie’ . . . When Father Richard Wagner came into the truth of who he is in God’s eyes is it any wonder that a Church that models lies and deceit with regard to its LGBT children casts him out into the wilderness? A wilderness that I hope he finds is alive and flourishing with the freedom of the daughters and sons of God…

Full Review HERE!

08/15/12

Weighty Matters

I’m cross-posting, here, an exchange I had with a correspondent on my sex advice site this morning. I believe it will be both relevant and insightful to my audience on this site. — Richard

Name: Seattle Guy
Gender: Male
Age: 27
Location: Seattle
Dr. Dick – Were you really a Roman Catholic priest? I’m Catholic – and trying to figure out where I stand sexually. I’d be gay in a second if I had confidence that was my authentic self. I’m definitely bi – somewhere in the middle. Anyway, have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality? But I guess I should ask, do you still believe in God? How did you find your way to producing porn? How does God figure in everything, in your opinion? Do you think a soul has a sexuality? Are these too many questions? Any response you have would be very appreciated!

Yes, Seattle Guy, you have way too many questions! But because you asked so nicely, I’ll do my best to answer each and every one. Because I’m such a friggin sweet guy.

“Were you really a Roman Catholic priest?” I were, I really were! I was a Catholic priest for 19 years. Technically I still am a priest, but I no longer practice in that capacity. Here’s a little known fact, I am the only Catholic priest in the whole wide world with a doctorate in Clinical Sexology. How about them apples? That and a $1.50 gets me a ride on the bus.

I completed my doctorate with the publication of my thesis concerning the sexual attitudes and behaviors of gay Catholic priests in the active ministry in 1981. This was unprecedented research back then. Hell, it’s groundbreaking even now. Needless to say, there was a firestorm of international publicity upon publication. I was soon to be known as “The Gay Priest.” Like if I was the only one. This notoriety (some would say infamy) effectively ended my public priesthood. I fought the Vatican for the next 13 years, from 1981-1994, in an attempt to salvage my priesthood and ministry, but they would have none of it. I published a book about my ordeal, Secrecy, Sophistry And Gay Sex In The Catholic Church; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest. It came out last summer. (Click on the title for more information about the book.)

I was kicked out of the religious community I belonged to, but I was never defrocked. So, like I said, technically I’m still a man of the cloth. Scary huh? And what a difference 30+ years makes. The political climate in the church is even more repressive than it was in the early 80’s, but now openly gay men serve as priests all over the world. I can’t explain it either.

So you’re a Catholic too, OK. But you’re still (at 38) trying to figure out where you stand sexually. I’m not sure I know what that means. You say you’d be gay in a minute if you thought that was your authentic self. You’re bi for sure…somewhere in the middle. In the middle of what, may I ask? You’ll pardon me, darlin’, but you sound suspiciously like a mugwump. Do you know what that is? A mugwump is a fence-sitter, someone with his mug on one side and his wump on the other. The reason I say that is if your were authentically bi, you’d leave it at that, as do all authentically bi men.

“Have you discovered any insights in your experience how God fits into our sexuality?” You betcha I have! But I have a completely different take on this then you apparently do. Ya see I would have phrased the question in the reverse. How does our sexuality fit into god? The way you have it, suggests that the infinite can fit into the finite. And this is precisely where most religious people go very, very wrong. We do god a disservice by trying to stuff the divine into the mundane.

My sexuality fits into god when I am honest and authentic with myself about who I am and acknowledge my insignificance in the greatness of creation, I fit into god when I honor my sexuality, when I celebrate it, when I give it as a gift. I do not fit into god when I am dishonest with myself, or others, when I falsely claim my own significance in the mind of god and when I belittle god with my pettiness and insecurity.

You’ll notice that I was careful not to mention anything about sexual orientation, even though I think that’s what you were ultimately asking me about. Mugwumps are so predictable. Ya see sexual orientation, as we currently understand it, is a relatively new phenomenon in human history. And all of human history barely registers in cosmic history. Why do you suppose we’re so consumed about something so irrelevant to the big picture? And god is the ultimate “BIG PICTURE.” What concerns me is that you’ve come this far in your life and still haven’t been honest to god…or yourself.

Do you still believe in God? Yes, in a manner of speaking! I tend not to use the word “god” as much as I used to, because it comes with too much cultural baggage. I prefer the term, “divine. But whatever I call it, I’m positive my god is nothing like your god. Your god is made in your image. My god is not made in my image. In fact, my god so unlike me — a mere fallible, insignificant mortal — as to make my god incomprehensible to the likes of me. But that doesn’t mean there’s no appreciation. There is!

“How did you find your way to producing porn?” God led me! Just kidding. Actually, I’m not kidding. It all started back in 1981, believe it or not. My career as a therapist in San Francisco coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS . Not surprisingly, my practice evolved into working primarily with sick and dying people. In the mid-90’s I founded a nonprofit organization called, PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach and resource for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. Despite the fact that this was brilliant cutting-edge work, I couldn’t find the funding I needed to keep the nonprofit alive. This precipitated a massive mid-life crisis and a rather sudden move to Seattle in 1999.

I continued to work with sick and dying people here. I developed programming for women newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and men with prostate cancer. This lead me to develop concepts for videos for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses; to help them deal with reintegrating sex and intimacy into their life post diagnosis. But I needed to find funding for this ambitious project. I soon realized that no mainline foundation would fund an overtly sexual project like this. I would have to fund this on my own. But how? Friends prevailed on me to start by making porn. I’d make a load of money and then I could turn my attention back to the original project — death and dying work. Thus Daddy Oohhh! Productions was born. Unfortunately, the load of money has yet to materialize. But while I was shooting porn, my focus is to create projects that are different in style and tone from what currently rules the marketplace.

“How does God figure in everything, in your opinion?” Once again, I think you’ve got that backwards. The better question, to my mind, is: How does everything figure into god? And here my answer echos my previous answer. If there is a god, then everything figures into god with ease and grace.

“Do you think a soul has a sexuality?” Nope, I don’t. Sexuality is part of the finite material world. It’s a bodily function that apparently goes away when our body dies. A soul, as it is popularly understood, is something other. What precisely? I can’t really say. Hey, maybe something else takes the place of sexuality in the spiritual world, if there is a spiritual world. I guess you and I will just have to wait to find out.

In the meantime, wouldn’t it be great if you freed yourself up to be exactly who you are? And not wait on someone, especially someone of a religious bent, to give you permission to do so, or tell you what you can and cannot be.

Good luck

06/29/11

Book Available Worldwide and as a Kindle eBook

More good news about my new book: SECRECY, SOPHISTRY AND GAY SEX IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH; The Systematic Destruction Of An Oblate Priest.

  • The soft cover version of the book is now available on all the Amazon sites around the world — UK, France, Germany, Canada and Japan.
  • For all you really trendy folks out there, the Kindle version of the book is now available in the US and will be available worldwide by 07/6/11.


I welcome your comments and thoughts. It’s been so heartwarming to hear from so many of you already. And remember if/when you buy the book on Amazon you are entitled to write a review. Reviews boost me in the ratings. And if I get a dozen good reviews I’ll be, in the immortal words of Marlon Brando, “a contenda”. 😉

Richard

06/18/11

PUBLISHED!

I’m delighted to announce!

(Click on the book art above to purchase.)

Synopsis
================
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.

Brief Bio
================
Richard Wagner, Ph.D., ACS — Psychotherapist, Clinical Sexologist in private practice in Seattle, WA. I’ve been a practitioner of Sex Therapy and Relationship Counseling for 30 years.

I am the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in Human Sexuality. My practice has included a special outreach to survivors of clergy sex abuse and I’ve had many opportunities to work with clergy offenders. I am available to clergy abuse survivors and their advocates as a consultant, expert witness and/or therapist.

I design, develop and produce long and short-term seminars and workshops for healing and helping professionals including religious leaders. And I’ve have facilitated support groups for gay clergy of numerous denominations for many years.

I’m involved in numerous sex education and sexual enrichment projects. One such outlet is my online sex advice column that I’ve been writing for the past 15 years. During that time it’s been syndicated on a number of sites. Now my column and weekly podcasts has a home of their own: drdicksexadvice.com. I am also a guest columnist on several other websites.