One Gay Priest’s Ups and Downs After Coming Out of the Closet

Milwaukee Magazine has followed up with Fr. Gregory Greiten, the Wisconsin priest who came out as gay to his congregation last December, and has found that in addition to the resounding support his parishioners provided, he is also receiving some negative responses from church officials and conservative Catholic websites.

Fr. Gregory Greiten

Greiten had come out to both his parish staff and Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki prior to coming out to his parishioners in an Advent homily after being away at a retreat for LGBT religious leaders. Initial reactions from both parishioners and Archbishop Listecki were positive. Listecki is quoted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as saying:

We support Father Greiten in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation. As the church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion.”

Greiten also received letters of support from more than 300 people across the world, and his story was picked up as far away as Germany. The story was also picked up by conservative Catholic websites, which led to a series of letters attacking the priest. Additionally, a man  came to the parish office to berate Father Greiten’s decision.

After initially being supportive of Father Greiten’s decision, Archbishop Listecki stepped back saying in a radio interview:

“My preference would have been not to publicly announce this, because it can be confusing for some people as to whether someone with same-sex attraction can minister as a priest.”

While only a handful of Catholic priests have come out publicly, it is estimatedfar more are living in the closet. Milwaukee Magazine noted that “most [estimates] put the number far higher than the proportion of gay men in general society.”

Other priests in the Archdiocese, including Rev. Nathan Reesman, an area priest and the leader of a local Courage group (an organization that promotes celibacy as the only path for lesbian and gay people), have also publicly criticized Greiten’s coming out, saying in a blog post:

“The people in the pews have the right to receive, at Mass, the unbroken teachings of the Catholic Church,” he writes, “rather than being forced to make a false choice between supporting or abandoning a priest who willfully makes the occasion of a homily [to talk] about his own interior struggles.”

Greiten, however, is at peace with his decision to come out publicly. He tells Milwaukee Magazine:

“I have told people that it was one of the best moments for me,” he says, “because it’s important, I think, for people to be able to live and to be who they are. We as a church have a responsibility to let people know that we have had and will continue to have people with same-sex orientation, those who are gay, [as] a part of the priesthood – and they minister just fine.”

And Greiten continues to receive supportive comments, too.  The Milwaukee article noted:

“After coming out publicly, Greiten spoke with the Rev. Thomas Suriano, a 79-yearold priest who’s been a mentor to Greiten. ‘You look to me happier, healthier and more relaxed than I’ve ever seen you,’ Suriano says he told him. He also says, ‘People who are gay are gay from the hand of God.’ “

The initial supportive reaction by Archbishop Listecki was a positive one, affirming Father Greiten’s call to both the priesthood and his life as a gay man. However, the later conditional ask that Father Greiten not be public with his sexuality is damaging and perpetuates the harm to those who are living in the closet.

–Kaitlin Brown, New Ways Ministry, April 24, 2018





7 replies
  1. Anton
    Anton says:

    Jesus, Paul and Peter also went against the “unbroken teachings” of their “religious tradition.” Jesus said prostitutes and publicans would make it into the kin(g)dom of God prior to the self-righteous; Paul taught that circumcision was not necessary for salvation (for men); Peter, after his rooftop vision at Joppa, ate with the uncircumcised and even claimed that he was sent to preach to Gentiles (ACTS 15). Pope Francis reminded us that “Tradition is not worshiping ashes but passing on the light.” Too many persons in the church especially churchMEN are trying to extinguish the light. Jesus does not reject anyone his Abba has called to follow him.

    DON E SIEGAL says:

    One Gay Priest’s Ups and Downs

    Where do I start on this one?

    Archbishop Jerome Listecki

    Even in his initial supportive statement, he used the offensive term same-sex attraction. In his attempt to make a kind statement by referring to understanding and compassion, his affirmation turned into a lukewarm endorsement.

    His second public statement, “…[I]t can be confusing for some people as to whether someone with same-sex attraction can minister as a priest.” What is to be confused about? If a gay priest is able to honor his vow of celibacy, where is the contradiction to Church teaching?

    Fr. Nathan Reesman and Courage

    “Courage…promotes celibacy as the only path for lesbian and gay people.” The use of the term celibacy when the correct term is chastity is very offensive to me. As a single gay lay person, the Church teaching is that I be sexually appropriate for my single status. The correct term for that state of being is chastity. Here are the important differences. I can go on a date with a man. I can dance in public with a man. I can even kiss a man affectionally. None of those things put me outside of Church teaching for single lay persons. However, a person living a vow of chastity cannot do any of those things.

    As for his blog post, there are no broken Church teachings when Fr. Greiton celebrates the mass. Neither are there any false choices to make. Finally, the best homilies are indeed the ones where the priest integrates his own story with the gospel reading of the day. One priest know always insists that it is important that we tell our own story.

    Fr Thomas Suriano

    I find Fr. Suriano’s remarks very comforting and confirming concerning my own coming out to my parish community. And, yes, I do indeed feel liberated from a heavy yoke that I had been unnecessarily carrying.

    • Frank
      Frank says:

      I am not interested in hearing anyone’s STORY during the Homily.
      Priests and permanent Deacons incorrectly assume that their listeners are hanging on their every syllable, of every travail. We are not.
      It takes no preparation or study to get up and tell everyone your problems.
      Many in the congregation have problems of the magnitude that would take your breath away.

  3. Paula Mattras
    Paula Mattras says:

    I believe it is important that “truth” be known. For too many years silence bred fear among our GLBT population as we were warned about their “lifestyle” and thereby bred fear among us as well. We didn’t know any such persons because they did remain silent about their orientation. Learning that they are loving, caring, hard-working people with the same concerns and worries as the rest of us, and indeed we are all one, removes the mystery and lets the sunshine into the darkness. There is room at the table for everyone.

  4. Rita A. Wagner
    Rita A. Wagner says:

    I believe a man who chooses to be a priest is answering a call from God. Whether he is heterosexual or gay makes no difference. He has chosen to put aside the natural inclination to have a partner or a wife, to follow the life to which he has been called. He has dedicated his life to the service of God and His people. It is indeed calling to a higher life to answer a vocation to the priesthood.

  5. John
    John says:

    So many prelates insist on using the term “same sex attraction” as if it’s an illness rather than the very simple word “gay”. I have no doubt it’s calculated and they are fully aware of how offensive it is. How backward and ignorant they are ! Catholic hierarchy should hang it’s head in shame for the way it has treated LGBT people. God is not happy.

  6. Chardin
    Chardin says:

    Is the objection to Courage that they suggest celibacy is an option for homosexual people? Is it OK to be gay and not sexually intimate? Is that a contradiction? Unpopular as it is, the Church also asks some married heterosexual people to be celibate and those are the divorced and re-married (events in Rome, Germany and South America notwithstanding). I mean this in all honesty…I just get the sense that gay folk that are celibate for spiritual purposes present some kind of threat to gay/lesbian affirming philosophy, for lack of a better phrase. There aren’t very many to be sure, but the odds are, they’re involved with Courage.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *