Roman Catholic priest risks priesthood, comes out as gay in book

Roman Catholic priest risks priesthood, comes out as gay in book

ST. LOUIS — A Roman Catholic priest in St. Louis has written a book about his life as a gay priest, a move that could risk his priesthood.

The Rev. Gary Meier, 49, took a leave of absence last year as pastor at Saints Teresa and Bridget Church in north St. Louis. His book, “Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest,” was published anonymously in 2011. But Meier republished it earlier this month with his name on the cover, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Rev. Gary Meier

“I have tried over the years to reconcile my silence as a gay priest with that of the Church’s increasingly anti-gay stance. I have been unsuccessful,” Meier writes in the book. “I was hopeful that I could find a way to have integrity while remaining part of a hierarchy that is anti-gay — I was unsuccessful.”

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and editor-at-large at America magazine, says there are only two or three priests in the U.S. who have said publically they are homosexual.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of celibate gay priests working in the Catholic church today who are beloved by their parishioners,” Martin said. “And there are a number of reasons why almost all of them feel unable to be honest. They are either uncomfortable themselves, or they’re told specifically by their superiors not to talk about it.”

Meier celebrated the 15th anniversary of his ordination on Thursday. He says his only relationship is “with the people of God,” and that he’s been faithful to his vows.

“Celibacy is a rule the church imposes on its clergy. It’s always part of the package,” he said. “This is not about celibacy.”

The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church calls homosexual acts “acts of grave depravity” and “intrinsically disordered” because they “close the sexual act to the gift of life.” But the catechism also says that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.”

The church does not have an official position on gay priests, and some bishops have argued that celibacy is celibacy and a good priest is a good priest.

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Meier said he believed the church’s teaching on homosexuality has been a contributing factor in growing suicide rates among gay teenagers.

“We ought to own some of that,” he said. “The church’s hard line against homosexuality causes that kind of damage.”

St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson released a statement saying that Meier, “as a man who experiences same-sex attraction,” had “an opportunity to be an example and mentor to Catholics in the archdiocese who struggle with the same feelings.”

“Whether he will seize this opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Life, which offers the truth about the beauty and sanctity of human sexuality, is entirely within his control,” Carlson said.

Meier said Carlson is the only bishop he’s had face-to-face conversations with about his sexual orientation. He said Carlson had been affirming, decent and kind.

Meier said he would like to remain a priest, but he knows that’s unlikely.

“To be a priest and active in ministry, you can’t say what I’m saying,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be getting any more paychecks from the archdiocese.”

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