So an Anonymous Priest Walks Into a Studio...
I was just getting off the phone with a friend a little after 8, so I put the phone down and, on a whim, turned up the speakers and flipped on my new love, my Sirius Satellite Radio.
Luckily, it was tuned to the NPR Now channel -- Sirius has two NPR feeds on the dial -- and I saw it was Fresh Air, which is produced here in Philadelphia by our own WHYY. I gave Terry Gross about 10 seconds and heard, "Well, what will the effect of this Instruction be on gay priests?"
So I was waiting to hear John Allen or, well, John Allen -- he's the only one of our kind who appears on NPR. But, instead, I heard this very pleasant voice, one I couldn't immediately place.
He really sounded knowledgeable -- for a moment, I thought he was a colleague at some news org I had talked to in my work. And then he said, "As a gay priest..."
And I thought to myself, "WHAT?!"
Thank God I bought that radio -- I had fallen ass-backwards into a goldmine.
Yep, Terry Gross had a gay priest on today for half an hour -- one who remained anonymous, but spoke with the "consent of his superiors," provided his name was not used. And it was, well, incredible. He set out some great points, spoke with calm conviction, emotion, love for the church, love for the priesthood and, yes, he spoke with truth. It was unique among the many moments on this story we've seen over the last several months, and as the audio is not being placed online, it was a privilege to hear.
The priest referred to the document as being "an unmitigated disaster for the church." He spoke of confreres who are leaving over this, and the demoralization felt in the ranks over the whole hubbub. He also said that what it boils down to is this: that a man is honest and is made to leave his vocation, or that he lies, even while living chastely, so he can forge ahead. He also theorized that, due to the suffering and marginalization often experienced by gays, a gay man is better attuned to minister to the suffering faithful who call for the consolation of a priest.
Admittedly, I do have the distinct feeling that this priest is someone I have met along the way -- name, voice, vocab and face are all adding up in my mind. But even if I was able to confirm his identity through sub sigillo conversations, as a journalist I'd be bound by the convention of confidential sources -- which is under enough siege these days already -- and could never reveal it.
Sirius subscribers: Fresh Air is re-running at 2AM Eastern time. Listen while you can....
The second half-hour was taken by Fr. Joseph Fessio, calling in by phone.
Now, remember that Fresh Air is hardly the Conservative Kow-Tow Network, so Joe of San Francisco was grilled, as one would expect from Bill O'Reilly's favorite NPR host.
A couple things from Fessio stuck out. When asked about the effect the document would have on "the priest shortage," Fessio shot back, "There is no priest shortage!"
That got my wheels turning. Is someone misleading, or have we been misled? Or is there just no priest shortage to gripe about only when this document comes up for discussion? I'm very curious.
Fessio spoke about there being so many priests in Lincoln "they have to export them." I know I'm read in Lincoln, so I'm eager to know where they're being exported to -- well, besides Rome for studies.
Terry gave Fessio an opening to talk about his cause celebre -- the guys who were vetted and rejected from seminary formation "because they were seen as too rigid," and he harped on about that injustice for about 50 seconds. And then he was asked what his message would be to a gay man who felt called to priesthood, and he replied, "I would say the same thing that I would say to a woman.... You may feel called, but the Catholic Church does not validate those feelings." To a gay priest already ordained, he said he would say, "May the Lord heal all of us with our broken natures."
All told, it made for an eventful hour.
UPDATE: Thanks to RC, commenting over at Amy's, here's a list of links where the Fresh Air stream can be picked up at various hours. (N.B. All times are Eastern Time -4 GMT.)