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.
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