By Fr. Gary M. Meier
NO LONGER ANANYMOUS
I don’t know where to begin exactly, so let me begin with a quote from the statement I posted on my website and on Facebook this past Wednesday, May 15:
On May 23, 2013, I will be celebrating my 15-year anniversary to the priesthood as a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, MO. On the eve of this anniversary, I have released the 2nd edition of my book “Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest,” which was originally published anonymously in 2011. The second edition is now available, and has one main difference – it is no longer anonymous. The decision to release the book under my name was not an easy one to make but one I felt was necessary.
It has been difficult to remain part of a hierarchy that has been so hostile towards homosexuals in recent years. This is especially true considering nearly 30% of all successful teenage suicides are attributed to sexual identity issues. Our church once stood for and represented the radical nature of God’s love for all people. That is not the true today – especially towards the LGBT community, and therefore I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those Catholics who have lost their jobs, have been denied the sacraments, have been excommunicated or who have been made to feel “less than” by their church leaders because of who they love.
After posting the statement on Facebook, I sat back and monitored the response.
Wow. Within seconds, people began to respond. Within hours I had received nearly 100 likes, comments, emails, texts, and phone calls combined – and it hasn’t stopped. The local media asked for interviews and comments, which I was happy to give. It has been a frenzy of activity since. I have been overwhelmed by the amount of communications I have received from people everywhere and it has been unbelievably supportive.
Crazy! Who knew? Is this really a story? Do people really care? Why is it, that in a society that continues to move toward tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals, anyone would be interested in my “coming out”? And then I remember: Oh yeah, I’m a priest. A Catholic priest – and everyone knows, Catholics are anti-gay, right?
I have tried over the years to reconcile my silence as a gay priest with that of the Church’s increasingly anti-gay stance, but I have been unsuccessful. At the heart of every authentic call to ministry is the desire to live a life of integrity. It was my desire to live a life of integrity that led me to the priesthood and it is that same desire that has led me to where I am today. In the end it became clear that I could no longer be anonymous – that is, I could not live as a gay priest, which means living in silence while publicly pretending to support the hierarchy’s teachings on homosexuality.
A teaching that has caused and continues to cause harm to many gay men and women, young and old, who are looking for acceptance and love but instead find silence and shame. I am especially concerned for our LGBT youth. It’s hard enough to be a “straight” teenager dealing with the standard ups and downs of hormones and emotions, but to be a teenager with same-sex attractions in a community where your spiritual leaders, the people you look to for guidance and affirmation, are telling you that you have a disease like alcoholism and that you’re a threat to life. Can anyone survive it intact? Yet that’s precisely the message our Church is sharing. LGBT youth are hearing that they are disordered, diseased, defective, damaged goods, wrong when they should be right.
Several years ago, a friend once asked me, “What is it you really want?” After a moment I replied, “I want to be out.” My response caught me by surprise because the moment I said it, I knew it was true. I want to be out. It came with such clarity. I want the world to know the truth about who I am.
Outing the Truth
In the weeks that followed that conversation, I began to realize that what I really want is the truth to be out. I want the truth about homosexuality to be out. I want others to know that homosexuality is a gift. That you can live and love as God created you to love. We are created by love for love. Homosexuality is not a cross, it’s not a curse, it’s not an intrinsic disorder; it is a gift, created by love for love. It is a life-giving gift from God that embodies the infinite ways God’s love can be manifested in our world. That’s what I want. I want the truth to be out. I want people to know, to love and to respect one another by accepting this truth.
That is why I wrote the book and that is why I am no longer anonymous – because I want people to know the truth.
This article was originally published on May 21, 2013, in the Huffington Post. Fr. Meier has written two follow-up articles for HuffPo – “Questions After Coming Out” (May 30) and “My Journey as a Gay Catholic Priest” (June 26).