We made it!
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.
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.
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 societal 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 other church leadership 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?
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 in 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.
Responding to recent events on Earth, God, the omniscient creator-deity worshiped by billions of followers of various faiths for more than 6,000 years, angrily clarified His longtime stance against humans killing each other Monday.
“Look, I don’t know, maybe I haven’t made myself completely clear, so for the record, here it is again,” said the Lord, His divine face betraying visible emotion during a press conference near the site of the fallen Twin Towers. “Somehow, people keep coming up with the idea that I want them to kill their neighbor. Well, I don’t. And to be honest, I’m really getting sick and tired of it. Get it straight. Not only do I not want anybody to kill anyone, but I specifically commanded you not to, in really simple terms that anybody ought to be able to understand.”
“I don’t care how holy somebody claims to be,” God said. “If a person tells you it’s My will that they kill someone, they’re wrong. Got it? I don’t care what religion you are, or who you think your enemy is, here it is one more time: No killing, in My name or anyone else’s, ever again.”
The press conference came as a surprise to humankind, as God rarely intervenes in earthly affairs. As a matter of longstanding policy, He has traditionally left the task of interpreting His message and divine will to clerics, rabbis, priests, imams, and Biblical scholars. Theologians and laymen alike have been given the task of pondering His ineffable mysteries, deciding for themselves what to do as a matter of faith. His decision to manifest on the material plane was motivated by the deep sense of shock, outrage, and sorrow He felt over the Sept. 11 violence carried out in His name, and over its dire potential ramifications around the globe.
“I tried to put it in the simplest possible terms for you people, so you’d get it straight, because I thought it was pretty important,” said God, called Yahweh and Allah respectively in the Judaic and Muslim traditions. “I guess I figured I’d left no real room for confusion after putting it in a four-word sentence with one-syllable words, on the tablets I gave to Moses. How much more clear can I get?”
“But somehow, it all gets twisted around and, next thing you know, somebody’s spouting off some nonsense about, ‘God says I have to kill this guy, God wants me to kill that guy, it’s God’s will,'” God continued. “It’s not God’s will, all right? News flash: ‘God’s will’ equals ‘Don’t murder people.'”
Worse yet, many of the worst violators claim that their actions are justified by passages in the Bible, Torah, and Qur’an.
“To be honest, there’s some contradictory stuff in there, okay?” God said. “So I can see how it could be pretty misleading. I admit it—My bad. I did My best to inspire them, but a lot of imperfect human agents have misinterpreted My message over the millennia. Frankly, much of the material that got in there is dogmatic, doctrinal bullshit. I turn My head for a second and, suddenly, all this stuff about homosexuality gets into Leviticus, and everybody thinks it’s God’s will to kill gays. It absolutely drives Me up the wall.”
God praised the overwhelming majority of His Muslim followers as “wonderful, pious people,” calling the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks rare exceptions.
“This whole medieval concept of the jihad, or holy war, had all but vanished from the Muslim world in, like, the 10th century, and with good reason,” God said. “There’s no such thing as a holy war, only unholy ones. The vast majority of Muslims in this world reject the murderous actions of these radical extremists, just like the vast majority of Christians in America are pissed off over those two bigots on The 700 Club.”
Continued God, “Read the book: ‘Allah is kind, Allah is beautiful, Allah is merciful.’ It goes on and on that way, page after page. But, no, some assholes have to come along and revive this stupid holy-war crap just to further their own hateful agenda. So now, everybody thinks Muslims are all murderous barbarians. Thanks, Taliban: 1,000 years of pan-Islamic cultural progress down the drain.”
God stressed that His remarks were not directed exclusively at Islamic extremists, but rather at anyone whose ideological zealotry overrides his or her ability to comprehend the core message of all world religions.
“I don’t care what faith you are, everybody’s been making this same mistake since the dawn of time,” God said. “The Muslims massacre the Hindus, the Hindus massacre the Muslims. The Buddhists, everybody massacres the Buddhists. The Jews, don’t even get me started on the hardline, right-wing, Meir Kahane-loving Israeli nationalists, man. And the Christians? You people believe in a Messiah who says, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ but you’ve been killing everybody you can get your hands on since the Crusades.”
Growing increasingly wrathful, God continued: “Can’t you people see? What are you, morons? There are a ton of different religious traditions out there, and different cultures worship Me in different ways. But the basic message is always the same: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism… every religious belief system under the sun, they all say you’re supposed to love your neighbors, folks! It’s not that hard a concept to grasp.”
“Why would you think I’d want anything else? Humans don’t need religion or God as an excuse to kill each other—you’ve been doing that without any help from Me since you were freaking apes!” God said. “The whole point of believing in God is to have a higher standard of behavior. How obvious can you get?”
“I’m talking to all of you, here!” continued God, His voice rising to a shout. “Do you hear Me? I don’t want you to kill anybody. I’m against it, across the board. How many times do I have to say it? Don’t kill each other anymore—ever! I’m fucking serious!”
Upon completing His outburst, God fell silent, standing quietly at the podium for several moments. Then, witnesses reported, God’s shoulders began to shake, and He wept.
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