Faith

Catholic Priest Receives Standing Ovation after Coming Out as Gay to His Congregation

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Pledging to help members of the LGBTQ community be their “authentic self,” a Wisconsin priest has come out as gay.

Gregory Greiten, the pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Milwaukee, informed his congregation about his sexuality this past Sunday. According to HuffPost, the congregation gave him a standing ovation. The next day, the National Catholic Reporter published a long article written by Greiten.

With a heading that includes the confession, “I am weary of holding it in,” the priest unburdened himself in the long article. In it, he explains the turmoil that he’s lived with as a closeted gay priest, and then promises to be an outspoken ally for LGBTQ Catholics. He ends the introduction to his article with the revelation that “today, I break the silence and emerge free from the shackles of shame placed upon me at a young age. There is so much to speak about, to repair and to heal — much beyond the limits of these words in print. I am gay.”

From there, Greiten recounts how he was taught during high school that “homosexuality was something disordered, unspeakable and something to be punished.” He goes on to recall,

Since my traumatic experiences in the high school seminary, I immersed myself into my college and graduate studies exploring my vocation to ministry within the church. In reflecting back on those years, I didn’t realize how I was repressing my feelings in an attempt to live life as a straight man. This was until one day, at the age of 24, on a five-hour drive back to seminary, when the truth broke through the denial. I finally admitted to myself, “I AM GAY!” I was driving down a road trying to keep from veering out of my lane or off the road itself, repeating to myself again and again, “I am gay!” Years of built-up, toxic shame came pouring out of me as the tears were flowing down my cheeks.

He admits that embracing his sexuality “felt … like a life sentence.”

After twenty-five years in the priesthood, Greiten has decided that now is the right time to come out of the closet. He believes that “by choosing to enforce silence, the institutional church pretends that gay priests and religious do not really exist. Because of this, there are no authentic role models of healthy, well-balanced, gay, celibate priests to be an example for those, young and old, who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation. This only perpetuates the toxic shaming and systemic secrecy.”

He ends his article claiming:

I will not be silent any longer; the price to pay is way too great. I must speak my truth. I have lived far too many years chained up and imprisoned in the closet behind walls of shame, trauma and abuse because of the homophobia and discrimination so prevalent in my church and the world. But rather, today, I chart a new course in freedom and in integrity knowing that there is nothing that anyone can do to hurt or destroy my spirit any longer. First steps in accepting and loving the person God created me to be. I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest. And, yes, I am gay!

It remains to be seen if Greiten will face any disciplinary action from the Roman Catholic Church. At the moment, it appears as if he has the support of Archbishop Jerome Listecki, who said in a statement, “We support Father Greiten in his own, personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation. As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion. As priests who have made a promise to celibacy, we know that every week there are people in our pews who struggle with the question of homosexuality.”

It’s hard to see how the Roman Catholic Church can reconcile its official beliefs and teachings about sexuality with the words and actions of Greiten. Helping people become their authentic self, using the words of Greiten, seems like a recipe for embracing all kinds of sinful desires and wishes. Jesus came to save us from our sins, not to give us an excuse to wallow in sin under the guise of authenticity.