At first I thought Father Gary Meier’s recent article at HuffPo, where he comes out as a gay Catholic priest, was just the usual narcissistic twaddle: damaging and scandalous, certainly, but forgivable enough for someone who’s been taught to think foggily and use words carelessly.
It’s now commonplace, for example, to use “love” in so vague a way that it could mean anything at all — so it’s not shocking that Fr. Meier believes that “to love as God created you to love” could ever involve using your reproductive organs in a way entirely contrary to the purpose for which they were created.
It’s strange, but wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows anymore, to call homosexuality “a life-giving gift” — even though homosexual sex is, by its nature, both barren and destructive. Any behavior which involves such a high probability of physical damage to both partners, and exactly zero chance of procreation, can hardly be called “life-giving.”
It’s confusing, but not surprising, when he talks about Catholics being “denied the sacraments….because of who they love.” Does he mean “love” in the Christian sense? Obviously not, since all are called to love all. Does he mean “love” in the sexual sense? A priest should certainly deny Communion to any publicly unrepentant fornicator, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Does he mean “love” in the romantic sense? I’ve never heard of anyone being denied Communion simply because he felt one way or another.
Indeed it is unclear not only what Fr. Meier is talking about, but whom. If there is any priest who’s denied Communion to a person simply because that person was attracted to the same gender, that would be a scandal indeed; but I’ve heard of no such instance, and if Fr. Meier has, he’s not telling.
All these are fairly standard forms of fuzziness. They show no ill will on Fr. Meier’s part. They only show that he is in the habit of taking counsel from the prevailing zeitgeist instead of from the wisdom of the Church, and that this habit has corroded his ability to think clearly.
What is truly offensive, though, is his apparent belief that some conditions are inherently shameful. Read this passage carefully:
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…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.
Why bring up alcoholism? Because alcoholism is a truly icky disease? Because any teenager who is an alcoholic should consider himself “damaged goods”?
If we follow Fr. Meier’s logic to its end, we are forced to conclude one of two things: either that some diseases (such as alcoholism) are and should be causes for shame — or that there is no such thing as a disease.
The truly Christian point of view is not that none of us are sinful, diseased, or damaged, but that all of us are. We are called to love damaged people — that is to say, everyone — not by pretending that disease is health, but by recognizing that the damaged person is not identified with his damage.
So we love people who commit adultery, but we don’t call their adultery “one of the infinite ways God’s love can be manifested in our world,” and we don’t stop at identifying them as Adulterers. We love people who are chronically tempted to abuse alcohol, but we don’t tell them that their alcoholism is “a life-giving gift,” and we don’t stop at identifying them as Alcoholics.
The last time I called myself a homosexual, my spiritual director asked me: Are you in a romantic or sexual relationship with another man? Do you visit gay bars or bathhouses? Do you habitually view gay pornography? Do you purposely indulge in gay fantasies? Since the answer to every question was “No,” he replied: “Then I’m sorry to tell you, Steve — as a homosexual, you’re a terrible failure.”
I hope Father Meier is a terrible failure as a homosexual, too. I hope he honors his vow of chastity, even if he has ceased to honor the Magisterium. I hope he has people in his life who love him enough that they will not permit him to reduce his identity to a set of urges.
And I hope he learns one day that to be damaged, whether by homosexuality or alcoholism or depression or any other disorder, is not to be diminished in dignity. It is to be human.
Cover image credit: shutterstock.com