A priest fired for opposing anti-gay bullying has written to Pope Francis, asking the pontiff to stem the expulsion of LGBT church workers which has harmed the U.S. Catholic Church for the past several years.
Fr. Warren Hall’s letter comes two months before Pope Francis makes his inaugural visit to the United States, where more than fifty church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related public incidents since 2008. In the July 14th letter, reported on by Religion News Service, Hall writes:
“I ask that…you find time to listen to the challenges faced by LGBT people, especially those who are Catholic and wish to remain part of the Church they have grown up in, which they love, and yet which it seems is alienating them more and more. Good teachers are being fired, pastoral and compassionate priests and religious women are being silenced and accept it out of fear of being disciplined by their superiors, and good, faith-filled people are leaving the Church as they witness to all of this happening. As a gay priest, I am personally experiencing all of these things.”
Hall himself was fired as the chaplain at Seton Hall University in New Jersey for posting a photo of himself with the “NOH8” logo on Facebook. He later came out as gay himself, saying he had to be honest with himself and with others, especially his students. Newark’s Archbishop John Myers has not reassigned Fr. Hall, leaving the priest without an income and “unduly punished,” according to Hall.
But Hall is hopeful that Pope Francis, famous for his “Who am I to judge?” comment might create change during his visit and stop LGBT people from being forced out of the church by the decisions of some leaders:
” ‘He could more strongly offer the message that this is your church, too. You are welcome here . . .He could at least help to slow down the firings. . .and help everyone sit back and take a breath. Perfection is our goal, but no one’s there. How can we move forward together for the kingdom?’ “
When Pope Francis visits Philadelphia, he will visit a local church wounded by the recent firing of lesbian minister Margie Winters. Archbishop Charles Chaput said he is grateful that Winters was expelled by the Sisters of Mercy, but Catholics nationwide have expressed their widespread disagreement with the discriminatory act. Winters’ wife has written to Pope Francis herself.
Another Philadelphia area gay teacher, Michael Griffin, was fired in 2014.
Pope Francis’ agenda will be exceedingly full as he addresses Catholics gathered for the World Meeting of Families, in addition to the United Nations, and the U.S. Congress. Yet, two years after his much celebrated “Who am I to judge?” remark about gay priests, it is time for the pontiff to act on his words.
The U.S. visit is a perfect opportunity for Pope Francis to demonstrate that he does not judge and that he stands with Fr. Warren Hall and the many good, faithful, and committed LGBT church workers who are facing discrimination. To remain silent about these church worker firings is to remain silent in the face of scandalous injustice, a silence undercuts the sincerity of Pope Francis’ previous words.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry