top of page
  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Thursday, June 5, 2024: Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences

Thursday, June 5, 2024: Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences


Fr. Bryan Massingale, left, and Fr. Greg Greiten are pictured in 2017 photos. (CNS/Fordham University/Bruce Gilbert; Courtesy of Greg Greiten)


Fr. Bryan Massingale first admitted to himself he was gay at age 22 but came out many years later as a priest after hearing stories of LGBTQ Catholics from regions of the world where people face imprisonment, torture and death because of their sexuality.

 

He'd listened to delegates living in fear of such realities while attending a 2019 meeting of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics, a coalition of organizations from multiple continents.

 

"I knew I couldn't ask them to continue to do their difficult, courageous and heroic work without taking a risk myself," Massingale, a theologian at Fordham University in New York, told NCR. "I was moved to make a public declaration on my sexuality as a way of saying I need to also be willing to take a risk for a better church."

 

The priest said the work needed to build up a better church was on his mind following the news that Pope Francis reportedly used a derogatory term when referring to gay men.


La Repubblica and Corriere della Sera, Italy's largest circulation dailies, both quoted the pope as saying seminaries, are already too full of "frociaggine", a vulgar Italian term roughly translating as "faggotness".

 

"I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way," said Massingale. "Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult. Sexual slurs dehumanize people and are a denigration of my humanity and of the humanity of other sexual minorities."

 

Italian media quoted unnamed bishops who claimed that amid a closed-door meeting with the Italian bishops' conference May 20, the pope, as he strongly reaffirmed the Catholic Church's prohibition on gay men entering seminaries or being ordained priests. After a flurry of news and negative reactions, the Vatican issued an apology May 28.

 

"The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others," said Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni, who did not confirm or deny that Francis had used the term.

 



The alleged slur was most personal for gay priests, and in the days following the media firestorm, Massingale and Fr. Greg Greiten, a pastor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, described their thoughts and emotions about it — and about the gifts and pain of being an openly gay priest.

 

Greiten came out to parishioners in 2017 during a homily, saying at the time he no longer wanted to live "in the shadow of secrecy." "I wanted and needed to be honest and authentic about who I am," he told NCR in an interview May 29.

 

The immediate reaction to Greiten's disclosure was a standing ovation, with one parishioner saying after Mass she "could care less" and loved him "for the person he is."

For Massingale, too, responses from "those in the pews were absolutely, overwhelmingly supportive." The negative repercussions came from church officials, including bishops, the priests said.

 

Massingale recalled at least two occasions where, on account of being openly gay, a bishop told him he could not give a talk in his diocese and said several times he'd been disinvited from delivering an address. In one case he was not allowed to speak at a local seminary.

 

"How it was reported to me was the bishop was concerned that it would be giving a bad example to seminarians," said Massingale.

 

'I was shocked and saddened that a pope would speak this way. Because if what he said was true, this went beyond simply reaffirming traditional beliefs about sexuality and was an insult.'

 

Greiten said the biggest fear for him was always local church leadership. "In other places people have been removed for being public about their sexual identity, and I know gay priests who've gone into deep depression because a bishop was so horrible to them," he said. "I was worried but I was ready because I wasn't lying anymore."

 

Greiten said he has not felt accepted or supported by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki — who in 2022 issued a sweeping policy on so-called gender theory — but the priest declined to share specifics on record so as not to jeopardize his ministry position.

 

"Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences," he said.

 

Massingale and Greiten both told NCR they appreciated the pope's apology following his reported slur.

 

"I accept the fact that he did not intend to speak maliciously," but it is important to draw a distinction between "the intent of this word and the impact of this word," said Massingale. "And the impact of this word can only be negative. 'Speaking up and being open in the context of the church has its consequences.'

—Fr. Greg Greiten

 

The vice president of the Italian bishops' conference said the pope's comments were taken out of context and that Francis "is not homophobic and never was." Vatican reporters also noted Italian is not the Argentine pope's first language and that he regularly uses slang and speaks informally.

 

Greiten added that it is "extremely painful and hurtful" for LGBTQ individuals like himself, "who have been on the receiving end of these offensive comments and attitudes for years while growing up."

 

BY KATIE COLLINS SCOTT

Staff Reporter, National Catholic Reporter

View Author Profile


Read the entire article using this link:




 


11 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page