A Man Stands Up
It wasn't until two years after his ordination as a Roman Catholic priest that the Rev. Fred Daley acknowledged he might be gay.You know, I've gotten a lot of flack for saying that not every gay priest is a Ryan Erickson waiting to happen -- an exurban legend, and a bad one at that. (Even now, it seems, he's still the conservatives' dream priest. Ugh.) And I know that, by the time this is posted, there will already be five vexed-out e.mails in my box from people who really should have better things to do than scream at me. But, as I see it, it all comes down to the sheer fact that the overwhelming majority of the gay priests I've known have just been incredibly good priests and, in my experience, their orientation lived in chaste celibacy has been no impediment whatsoever to the sterling service they've provided to the People of God.
"I was coming down the stairs for morning Mass, and I felt this real deep ache and pain in the pit of my stomach," he said. "It was the first time I was recognizing an ache within that my activity and work and ministry was covering up, and avoiding something."
A light went on, he said.
"I began to become aware of my sexual feelings and desires," he said. He was 27.
Almost 30 years later - after a painful, prayerful and mostly lonely journey - he disclosed his sexual orientation to his Utica congregation in May 2004. As speculation grows that the Vatican is preparing a document that would bar gays from ordination, Daley says he's proud to be a celibate, gay priest.
He said news of the forthcoming Vatican document and visits to American seminaries worries many people - clergy and lay, gay and straight - that the Roman Catholic Church does not welcome gays in its pulpits or pews.
"The church is least faithful to Jesus when it is in the business of excluding," Daley said. "The church should be rejoicing that gay men are ready and willing to use their talents to energize the church. To deprive the church of these gifted men would be a terrible loss."
OK, so there was the one who tried to come onto me during a liturgy at which he was the celebrant -- he was one of those big bells, smells, fiddle-back and adoration types, hmm-hmm -- but, honestly, I thought nothing of it and it was actually good for a laugh. (And, guess what, it still is.)
Maybe I'm either too well accustomed to reality or my ecclesiastical travels have made me comfortable with clerical camp, but at the end of the day, priests are people, too. And I'll just shrug my shoulders and recognize that while Mount St. Blog's erupts with vengeance.
Also from Syracuse, we've even got a straight supporter playing backup -- welcome company for me
The Rev. Brian Lang, pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Camillus, said he has received more than 120 e-mails and letters affirming the piece he wrote for his church's Sept. 18 bulletin.Hmm-hmm. If I had a dime for every time I heard an ecclesiastical institution referred to as a "pink palace"....
"If they do bar gays, they are making a mistake," said Lang, who said he is heterosexual and celibate. "They are insulting a number of men who are in the priesthood who are in chaste and holy lives."
In his essay, Lang wrote that Vatican visits to American seminaries seem to be positive. But he questions the motivation and criticizes the comments of the organizer of the seminary visits, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, who has said gays should neither apply to nor be accepted in the seminary.
O'Brien later qualified his point, saying he was speaking for himself and not the Vatican.
Lang said initial news accounts of the controversy may have been inaccurate, but he stands by his main points. He said the clergy abuse scandal unfairly links homosexuality and pedophilia, and the scandal's root causes are about church structure and power and transparency.
"I think my point of view is a fairly common perspective," Lang said. "People are saying, 'Hold on, let's look at the interior of the church and what are the real issues here?' "
Lang, 45, was ordained in 1998. He attended St. Mary Seminary, in Baltimore, a school he said had a reputation as "a pink palace," a reference to a gay subculture.