Conversation on Gay Catholic Priests Expanded by New Article


Fr. Fred Daley

Michelle Boorstein’s latest piece in The Washington Post expands the emerging conversation on gay men in the priesthood.

Stating the Catholic Church is undergoing an “historic period of debate about homosexuality,” Boorstein wrote:

“At a time when the phrase ‘coming out’ is starting to sound almost quaint, the Catholic priesthood may be one of the last remaining closets — and it’s a crowded one. People who study gay clergy believe gay men make up a significant percentage of the 40,000 ordained priests in the United States, including some who believe they may even be the majority. Meanwhile, the number who are out is minuscule.”

This reality means gay priests are, as Boorstein stated, “invisible” in the wider conversation about homosexuality. The Post report emerged from interviews with “a dozen priests and former seminarians who are gay, and experts on gay priests,” who shared their varying thoughts:

“Many [of those interviewed] express no urgency for the church to accept it. Some, however, say the priesthood remains sexually repressive; one said there is an ‘invisible wall’ around the topic among priests.

“They speak forcefully about the tough work they had to do to accept their sexuality and how important a part it is of who they are. But their acceptance of the closet often harks back to an earlier time.”

Those interviewed include Chicago priest, Fr. Michael Shanahan, who was praying about whether or not to come out after 23 years in the priesthood, and did so in the interview with Boorstein. He weighed potential negative consequences, like diminished respect from parishioners or penalties from the archdiocese, against the positive outcomes:
“[T]he impact his coming out could have on the lives of young gay people in treatment for addiction or who are suicidal, on the parents and grandparents who feel they must choose between their gay child and their church. For some, knowing their priest is gay — and at peace with it — could be healing, he felt.
” ‘There’s a level of witnessing here that’s important for me to do. The Christian faith has a lot to say about the underdog, about the marginalized or the leper, the blind, the lame, the ostracized woman prostitute, widow, the little one,” [Shanahan] said.
” ‘I’d like to be one of those priests, who, with great respect for the church’s teaching, can say: I’m a human being. I’m a son — one of six — I’m gay and I’m a priest, period.’ “

Boorstein interviewed Fr. Fred Daley who said his brother priests, “gay as well as straight,” remain “silent” rather than supportive about his coming out. Daley, whose story you can read here, said he does not receive support as a gay priest because he “broke the rules of the clerical club” by coming out.

Fr. Warren Hall, who came out as gay after being fired from Seton Hall University for supporting the NOH8 Campaign, said priests may choose to not come out because they believe it will negatively impact their ministries. In fact, Hall would recommend to current seminarians that they remain closeted.

Regarding the priesthood’s future, of those interviewed only Monsignor Stephan Rossetti believes there are fewer gay priests today. One gay priest in Pennsylvania said of younger priests and seminarians that, “They may be more conservative, but no less gay.”

The need to openly discuss and better support gay priests is and will remain very real for the Catholic Church. To help that discussion, New Ways Ministry is sponsoring a retreat this spring for gay priests and male religious that will be led by Fr. Fred Daley.

Entitled,Fan into Flame the Gift of God: Embracing the Gifts of Gay Priests and Brothers,” it seeks to help the church embrace more the gifts of its vibrant gay ministers.

The retreat, scheduled for April 28-May 1, 2016, near Philadelphia, is open to gay priests and brothers, but also to all diocesan clergy personnel, as well as leaders and formation personnel of men’s religious communities.  The program is designed to foster communication and understanding between gay clergy and religious and the leaders responsible for their development. For more information, click here.

If you are a member of the target audience and are interested in attending the retreat or know someone who might be interested, please contact New Ways Ministry at or call (301) 277-5674.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry


0 replies
  1. paularuddy
    paularuddy says:

    What an inspired initiative, New Ways Ministry! This could be a great awakening in the US Roman Catholic Church. God bless Michelle Boorstein too. I am praying for the courage of the US bishops to support your leadership in this.

  2. Larry
    Larry says:

    I hope this is a trend that avalanches. When I was thinking of coming out as a gay man [non clerical], one of the thoughts that was the most helpful to me was that when I did I would show the world that I was comfortable with being gay. If you are hiding who you are, other people [who, by the way, already sense you are gay], come to believe that being gay is a bad thing because the gay person must hide it. In this time of more liberality for gay folk, it is a necessity.

  3. paularuddy
    paularuddy says:

    Demonstrating to the world that you are comfortable being gay, Larry, is a great gift to all of us. I like your word “avalanche” for an en masse coming out of priests and bishops. The avalanche needs leadership to make it happen. I can see it like a new Pentecost, the honesty and courage of the gay priests and bishops and the outpouring of acceptance and love that I am sure will come from the people of God. I don’t know what makes me so sure that the majority of Catholics would be overjoyed by the breaking of that dishonest and crippling silence, but I am sure. I think it may be my experience of the effect of marriage equality legislation in Minnesota two years ago. Allies of gay people saw the pain and the unbelieving joy of thousands of gay people finally being able to be who they are in public and the acceptance of the society. It was overwhelming. I think it would be that way for the Church too. A liberating breakthrough for freedom, equality, and love. .


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