Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tom Rastrelli on Priests Who Lie; the Dilemma of Sexual Orientation and the Priesthood

My friend "Mudball" pointed me to  a story that interested me as an ex-seminarian. Tom Rastrelli writes:
"People don’t expect their priests and bishops to lie, but as Michelangelo Signorile’s recent post illustrated, clerics do lie. Some even make a virtue of it. I know this from experience, for I was ordained a Catholic priest on a lie.

“I’m coming out of the closet,” I said.

My spiritual director loosened his clerical collar and lit a cigarette. “Where’s this coming from?” he asked. A couple of chattering wrens whooshed past. ..."
CONTINUED, and well worth reading for Catholics .... "
The story itself is important for understanding today's Roman Catholic Church as it really is, not as it advertizes itself.
The comments following the story are also enlightening for their sad and desperate dinialism. One of the first commenters says that he was straight and had never been asked to lie, implying that such a thing no longer occurred. But elementary logic tells us that it is irrelevant to state that one's own experience in the seminary did not include being asked to lie about sexuality; first, it is unremarkable that a straight would never confront that choice and, second, that one's experience may be different does not falsify the lived experience of the original poster.

What most struck me about the story is that it is, at the deepest level, not about sexuality so much as it is about honesty. In my short (4 year) stay in seminary, I do not recall one time being told, "If you are gay, go home; you are wasting your time and ours." Not once! Such an elementary message would have been very helpful; of my graduating class, at least 20% have come out as gay and there were likely more who either haven't come out or who haven't bothered to send me a Hallmark "I'm So Gay!" card. That's a lot of wasted time, especially for those who were eventually ordained and then booted.

Institutional dishonesty is bad enough as a support mechanism for sexual abusers, but it may be even worse as a rot that invalidates the entire enterprise.

To that point, a final story: one priest-instructor at my seminary eventually left, to go marry. It was a mildly romantic story, giving up the priesthood for love, and my memories of this man as a priest was that he was an exceptionally inspirational leader. He lived a long life, active in his hometown church, and died beloved by many.

Imagine my surprise to read in his obituary that his career included not only no mention of his priesthood, but a falsehood about where he was teaching at the time. It stated that he went from college to teaching at a private school in another state, and then moved to the town he lived in the rest of his life. His time at St. Edward in Kenmore Washington was less than tears in the rain.

Surely a requirement that you lie even in your obituary is a terrible indictment.

No comments: