Showing posts with label LGBT. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LGBT. Show all posts

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Remembering Matthew Shepard, Then and Now

Saturday is the fourteenth anniversary of the day Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, beaten, tied to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming, and left to die.  After being found a day later, he held on for six days until dying on October 12, 1998.  His murder brought hate crimes perpetrated against LGBT persons into the international media and dialogue.

At the time, I was a frightened, closeted seminarian. Here is a link to my essay on The Huffington Post, in which I reflect upon Matthew's murder: "Confessions of an Ex-Priest: Matthew Shepard and Laramie -- Their Meaning Then and Now."

Photo via HRC.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Archbishop-Elect Salvatore Cordileone (Co-Creator of CA Proposition 8) Arrested for DUI

What a fascinating development!


When Father Peter Petroske was recently arrested in Michigan for a DUI, he was immediately suspended from his duties.  (He also happened to be driving naked.)  It will be interesting to see if +Cordileone is suspended from his duties and sent off to detox or whether bishops on the fast track to cardinal, who author anti-gay constitutional amendments, get a free pass.  

ABC reports that Archbishop-elect Cordileone was arrested at 12:30 AM Saturday morning in the College District of San Diego State University.  Why was a drunken +Cordileone cruising at that hour?  I doubt he was canvassing against gay rights.





Sunday, July 29, 2012

Catholic Seminary's Website Contains Picture of Priest Removed for Alleged Sexual Abuse of Minors

     When recently visiting my alma mater's website, I discovered that St. Mary's Seminary and University of Baltimore is still using pictures taken during my first semester in 1998.  One photo includes a classmate of mine, who was removed from ministry in 2002 after he was accused of sexually abusing children.


     Very classy, St. Mary's.


     Perhaps the Catholic Church should divert some of the funds that it's using to fight LGBT rights into procuring pedophile-less pictures for its seminaries' websites.


St. Mary's Seminary and University
(Photo taken by me.)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

On My Ten-Year Anniversary of Ordination to the Catholic Priesthood


On June 22, 2002, I was ordained a priest. 

Minutes before the ceremony, a squirrel met its demise at the intersection of a power line, junction box, and the cathedral’s roof.  The ensuing explosion left those in attendance in the dark.

Everything in the Catholic Church seemed dark in 2002.  Accounts of bishops concealing sexual abuse perpetrated by priests inundated the news.  Daily, revered clerics fell in shame.  Victims came forward, their long-suppressed pain and anger finally being given voice.  Those on the left blamed the pre-Vatican II, conservative and sex-suppressing seminary system that had formed the elder generations of priest-perpetrators; they blamed mandatory celibacy.  Those on the right made the post-Vatican-II progressives and their sex-embracing psychology their scapegoats; they blamed gay clergy.  Being both a victim and gay, I was angry, hurt, heartbroken, shamed, and frightened.  I'd wanted to run. 

But trusted others dissuaded me: "Don't make decisions in desolation." "The church and god have affirmed your vocation for eight years; you can't run from that now."  “Doubt is the vehicle to deeper faith and commitment.” "You don't need to come out of the closet; that's just pride tempting you." "It's not lying if those asking don't have a right to the information." "Your sexuality is a gift from god, in god's image, but if you act upon it’s 'disordered,' sinful." 

I dissuaded myself: "Jesus will work through my wounds, if I sacrifice everything."

During the ordination rite, an endless succession of priests passed on the priesthood by laying their hands upon my bowed head.  I knelt before them.  My kneecaps pressed through the thin cotton of my alb and ground against the hard floor.  After a few dozen hands had pressed upon my scalp, spasms began to shoot down my back.  I focused on the residual scent of incense in the air.  I breathed into the pain, the depression, for I deserved it.

Ruled by shame, I begged god for the strength to resist my "depraved" homosexual "urges."  Ruled by fear, I did nothing as the priest, who had assaulted me during confession and then sexuallyexploited me in college, placed his hands upon my head.   Ruled by redemptive suffering, I nailed my anger at him and all the corrupt priests and bishops to the cross.  There were no other options.  I accepted the only path prescribed to gay Catholic men: silent celibacy.


Thankfully, I no longer owe obedience to these clerics.  Ten years later, I am no longer a priest, no longer a Catholic.  The collective clerical closet in which I once lived is eight years abandoned. 

Others continue under that yoke.  I understand their plight, their fear.  It’s difficult to turn your back on the institution that “formed” you.  It’s terrifying to speak out against your superiors’ abuses.  It’s mindboggling to imagine a future beyond your career and community. It’s painful to witness cherished relationships end, as those, who cannot accept your truth, shun you. 

To those of you remaining, it is possible.  There is a life of health, peace, balance, joy, purpose, communion, love, and truth that exists beyond the Catholic church. 

Ten years after being ordained a priest, eight years after leaving the priesthood, and seven years after evicting the guilt imposed by my old religion, I can tell you that it does get better.  You can speak out about the abuse you endured.  You can build a new career.  You can make gather new friends and communities.  You can regain your mental health.  You can protest on the steps of your cathedrals.  You can find a creed or philosophy that brings you peace.  You can marry the man or woman that you love.  You can give of yourself to the world.

Not a day goes by that I regret leaving the priesthood and the church.  Ten years makes a difference indeed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Biblical Marriage & Traditional Christian Values

How can one argue with what's in the Babble?  

Come on, conservative Christians, let's stick up for "traditional" values and legislate these religious beliefs:
I came across this chart on Facebook.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann Get to the Heart of the Hatred Involved in Religious Homophobia

     In the video below, Dan Savage and Keith Olbermann get to the heart of how religion conditions gay persons to hate themselves.  So much of what Savage says speaks true to my past experience of being trained to hate myself as "God created me." 

     An example of this is in an Advocate article by John Becker, a married gay man, who went undercover and experienced the "ex-gay therapy" offered at Michelle Bachmann's husband's "clinic."  So much of what they told Becker is what I was told in Catholic seminary "formation."  I'm so grateful that I escaped.

     Back to Savage and Olbermann.  Savage is brilliant at turning homophobic arguments on their heads.  (The first half of the interview is about the Tony-winning The Book Mormon and marriage equality in New York.)  Start the video at minute 11:00 to get the point about the homophobia preached by many religions, Christianity in particular.


Here's a little bonus video: "I Believe" from The Book of Mormon.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Response to Archbishop Dolan's "Afterthoughts" and "Apology" Concerning the Same-Sex Marriage Battle in New York

Hello, readers.  I apologize for the long absence.  For my own well-being, I had to take a break from confronting the hatred out there.  That said, much has happened in New York where same-sex couples will now enjoy the state-level civil rights that opposite-sex couples enjoy.

Image Credit:   CBS News/Mike Segar
Archbishop Timothy Dolan just posted his "Afterthoughts" on his experience of being the mouthpiece for the anti-gay side of the New York marriage equality battle of the past few months.  In the response, which you can read in full here, he compares himself to John the Baptist and Thomas Moore, who were both beheaded.  He also "apologizes" to any gay persons who may have been offended by anything that he said.  (If you recall, he compared same-sex couples marrying to marrying his mother and that polygamy would follow gay rights.)

Here is my response.

Dear +Tim,

You are correct about one thing: "Finally, last point, for us in the Church, not much changes." Exactly, because in the U.S.A. there is a separation of church and state. You can discriminate as much as you want to in your churches and sacraments. That's what you purchase with your tax exemption. But know this: when you come after people's civil rights, you give up your claim to tax exemption. We will continue to fight you to retain our civil rights.

Those of us who are fighting for equal civil rights for LGBT persons are not "theophobic" or anti-religion; we're anti-theocracy. We don't care about your sacramental rights or rites.

I would think you would be anti-theocracy as well, since that's the real reason Thomas Moore was beheaded--he lived in a state where the King believed he was the hand of his god and not the pope's god. World history and your Old Testament show that there is a great danger marrying church and state; it always ends very bloody.

As for your "apology" to those of us who were "unintentionally" hurt by your "defense" of marriage, now you just dilute yourself. You said so many things that were based on unscientific, outdated and historically-abused stereotypes about homosexuals (i.e. the way you linked same-sex marriages to incest, polygamy, and such). You calculated your responses to hit below the belt and to stir the fears of your followers. You stoked hatred against LGBT persons who have been historically repressed and even tortured and murdered (see the Inquisition) in the name of your church.

Your "apology" is as hollow as the arguments you made against marriage equality. How do you look yourself in the mirror in the morning? How do you look gay priests and youth in the eyes? Do you have any idea how hurtful, demoralizing, and harmful your characterizations of homosexuals are? Your "apology" shows how out of touch you are with the virtue of compassion.

Yours outside of Christ,

Heretic Tom


Postscript: In case you forgot, +Tim, here's what the church did to gays in the Inquisition.
Source: Woodcut. Published in the 'Speculum in oculis Domini abominatium' by Franziscus Grotius, Leipzig,1474.  Reproduced in 'Inquisition torture instruments from the Middle Ages to the Industrial Age, "Qua d'Arno, Florence, 1985.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Visual Aid: If Marriage Equality Becomes a Reality What Will Happen?

     Here's visual aid concerning all those nasty claims and myths from right wing Christians, Catholics and Mormons concerning same-sex couples' civil-marriage rights courtesy of Political Ironing at the PBH Network.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Plural Marriage, Racism, Homophobia, and Armageddon for "Big Love"

     Tonight is the series finale of HBO's polygamist-family drama Big Love.

     Here's a clip in honor of Bill Henrickson and his "true" Mormons:


     Because the other "true" Church of Latter Day Saints knows about the sanctity of marriage:


      Some LDS claim plural marriage is an immutable pillar of their faith.  Others have spent millions of dollars on smear campaigns against same-sex couples in an attempt to prove the Mormon church believes marriage is, has been, and always will be, as their God commanded, between one man and one woman.  But they are hypocrites.  LDS teachings are mutable.   

     Or do they still believe the once-immutable teaching that African-Americans and other persons of color are the cursed descendants of Cain?  Polygamist Brigham Young did. Here's a Young quote from a Utah State University Secular Humanists, Atheists, and Free Thinkers article, entitled, "Why I Don’t Believe: Racism in Mormon History and Doctrine:"
     Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Volume 10, page 110)
     Tonight, as I say goodbye to the Henricksons, I can only hope that someday the Mormon church will say goodbye to its homophobia as it did to its racism.
Image via Entertainment Weekly

     PS.  If gays were as dominant in football as African-Americans, would the LDS drop its teachings condemning homosexuals to improve BYU's chances of winning a national championship?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President Obama Finally Comes Out Against the Defense of Marriage Act & Refuses to Defend It in Court

     This is a huge and long-fought victory in the fight for marriage equality and to repeal the hateful discrimination that is the Defense of Marriage Act.  The National Journal reports:
     President Obama believes that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and will no longer defend the 15-year-old law in federal court, the Justice Department announced today.  The decision, which stunned and delighted gay-rights activists, means that the administration will withdraw its defense of ongoing suits in two federal Appeals Courts and will leave it to Congress to defend the law, known as DOMA, against those challenges. It will remain a party to the lawsuits. The law itself remains in effect.  DOMA, signed by President Clinton in 1996, allows states not to recognize same-sex marriages preformed in other states and provides a federal definition for “marriage” that excludes same-sex couples.
     In a statement, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the president has concluded that, given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny”. . .
     The decision means the Justice Department will cease to defend two suits brought against the law. The first was a summary judgment issued in Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management and Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services last May by the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the law’s definition of “marriage” as a legal union between a man and a woman.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Adults Are Also Victims of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

     A recent Religion Dispatches' article, "Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church: When Adults Are Victims," tells a story that I know all too well from my own experience of being sexually assaulted, exploited, and abused by my priest while I was in college.  The article tells the story of Katia Birge, who at 25 was raped by a charismatic lay minister in her Denver parish only to be bullied by church officials when she came forward and sued.  (Click here to read the full account, which because of it's length I will not repost.)

     This particular quote from the article sums up what I learned in therapy after seeing my case covered-up:
     To Jeb Barrett, Denver Director of the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a peer counseling group that Birge turned to after the attack, her story follows classic lines of abuse of authority. “There are many cases where very charismatic men develop very close and controlling relationships with the people given to them for pastoral care. There’s a kind of intimacy that’s of a different level than the grooming of a child. You groom a child with favors and candy and strokes and get their trust. With an adult, it’s different.”
     Adult victims could comprise up to 25% of all clergy abuse cases, estimates David Clohessy, National Director of SNAP, but often face considerable skepticism about their stories. “In the eyes of the law, victims like Birge are adults. But that doesn’t mean that emotionally, psychologically, in the presence of a trusted, powerful, charismatic clergy person, that in fact they can function like adults.” Considering the abundant ethical and legal prohibitions against doctors or therapists having even consensual sex with patients, in recognition of coercive power imbalances in play, Clohessy notes, “none of us have been raised from birth to think that a therapist is God’s representative or that a doctor can get me into heaven.”  [Another estimate is that over 95% of the victims of sexual exploitation by clergy are adult women.]
     In my case, I was completely groomed by my perpetrator.  Like Ms. Birge, who's perpetrator (Hernadez) called her a "whore" and told her that no man would want to be with her, after he'd just raped her, I was told by my confessor/priest/perpetrator that I was "seductive," "manipulative," and "sinful."   Because he was "God's representative," I believed him.  I believed that I was was the depraved sinner who had corrupted a holy priest.  This dynamic gave him more power over me by increasing my dependency upon him for his spiritual insights and sacramental graces, including forgiveness.  After I escaped his grasp, it took years of therapy and the recognition that my perpetrator was continuing to groom other barely-legal students--who my friends at the time referred to as "the new Tom"--for me to find the strength to come forward.

     Here are a few more paragraphs from Ms. Birge's case that ring true to my experience of coming forward:
     To victims’ advocates, this level of intimidation, and the attempt to recast Hernandez as an insignificant volunteer, is par for the course across the country, and especially in Denver, where Church lawyers have used increasingly aggressive, victim-blaming tactics as part of a brutal Church defense industry, composed of attorneys, insurers and the bishops who hire them. 
      “That’s been our experience here,” says Jeb Barrett, “that people who have gone to the Archdiocese have found their families scrutinized and questioned. It’s revictimizing, and it discourages other victims from coming forward.”
     I was told by the powers-that-be to be extremely careful with whom I spoke about my accusations and that reputations were at stake.  They asked "Why would you want to hurt your parishioners by scandalizing them with this?"  Those in power refused to speak to my parents and to respond to my sister's emails, even though my family was reeling in the face of the abuse and in need of pastoral care.  My counselor's advice and prescriptions were summarily dismissed, for she was a woman, and a lay woman, at that.  (This wasn't 1950.  It was 2004.)
     If anything, adds David Clohessy, “I think Church officials are even more reckless and callous when a predator exploits adults.”
      This is very true.  A priest exploiting an adult is almost a relief to some bishops: "Well, it's not like he raped an altar boy."  But the psychological/spiritual damage to the victimized adult is horrendous.  Like Ms. Birge, I also suffered depression and panic attacks.  After church officials covered things up, I became suicidal.  While I left the priesthood, my job, my community, and the church, losing everything I knew, my perpetrator was given a promotion to be in charge of "Catholic Identity" for the diocesan schools and remained in his campus ministry position, where he continued to have an ongoing supply of handsome, naive, and malleable young men fresh out of high school; gay boys like me, who were closeted, feeling rejected by the church's anti-gay teachings, in need of acceptance and love by God and his ministers, and ripe for exploitation by a known predator allowed to remain in power.

     Thank you Ms. Birge for coming forward.  May your witness inspire other adult victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests to speak out.  The scandal doesn't end at the age of consent.


If you or anyone you know has been abused by clergy, here are some resources:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Inhospitable Christian Sodomite Elder Bobby Harries Denies Entry of LGBT Homeless to Church Shelter

     Elder Bobby Harris is the head of the House of Mercy homeless shelter in Columbus, Georgia. If you're homeless or in need, his religious shelter is there to offer you refuge. Unless, of course, you happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. If that's the case, Elder Bobby Harris has a few short words for you: "[Homosexuality] is not tolerated here at all."
     So much for that Christian obligation to help all who are in need. At the House of Mercy, there's apparently a sexual orientation and gender identity litmus test.
      Elder Harris spoke to WRBL in Columbus this week, after numerous activists (including over 1,000 Change.org members) wrote the shelter criticizing the House of Mercy's policy to deny gay homeless people shelter. Harris stuck to his guns, and reiterated his previous statement that the reason LGBT people weren't welcome at his center was because "of the Bible."
     In an irony of Biblical proportions, when I studied the Old Testament in seminary, I learned that mainstream scripture scholars concur that the actual "sin of Sodom" was failing to provide hospitality to those in need of a roof over their head.

     Thus, Elder Bobby Harris has revealed himself a true Sodomite.

     Many will argue that it's freedom of religion for Christians to discriminate against LGBT persons, the separation of church and state.  True.  They can use their money to be as cruel and mean to people in their pews as they want to be.  But guess where Elder Bobby Harris gets some of his funding?  You guessed it.  He's using U.S. tax dollars to discriminate.    Change.org continues:
     But as Alex Blaze uncovered at Bilerico, the House of Mercy sure looks like it receives some federal grant money, at least according to its 990 form. Moreover, Georgia's government approved a measure last year that earmarked $75,000 for the House of Mercy, via the state's Special Housing Initiatives program. That's an awful lot of taxpayer money to be giving a shelter that refuses to serve and shelter all who are in need.
     Harris' tax exemption should immediately be revoked.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Anglican Priest Show's up at David Kato's Funeral to Condemn Gay Mourners

     A gay civil rights leader is bludgeoned to death by a hammer in his own home after a local newspaper outed him and called for the hanging of all gays.  Terrified, shocked, and friends, family, and supporters bravely gather to mourn the assassination of their leader.  What would Jesus do?

     Ugandan police have escorted a priest away from the funeral of a gay rights activist after he told homosexuals to repent, sparking scuffles.  Anglican priest Thomas Musoke told mourners that homosexuality was "evil".
     Hundreds of people had gathered for David Kato's burial in his home village near the capital, Kampala...hundreds of people - friends, family, colleagues and diplomats - crowded outside Mr Kato's family home in the village of Nakawala in Mukono district, 40km (about 25 miles) from Kampala.  Many members of the lesbian and gay community wore T-shirts with Mr Kato's portrait on the front and the words "La luta continua [the struggle continues]" printed on the back.
     They were shocked when the priest started condemning homosexuals.  "You must repent. Even the animals know the difference between a male and a female," he said, before warning that they would face the fate of residents in Sodom and Gomorrah, the biblical cities destroyed by God.  Gay rights activists then stormed the pulpit and prevented the priest from continuing.
     An excommunicated priest who has in the past called for people to respect the rights of homosexuals then presided over the rest of the service.
     So, let me get this right.  The practicing Anglican priest, who is supposedly his god's vessel of grace on earth and guide to heaven, berated the mourners with death threats of Biblical proportion.  The excommunicated priest, who has supposedly been cut of from his god's grace and will be punished with an eternity in hell, reached out to the mourners, cared for them, and buried the dead.  It sounds like Anglican hell beats out Anglican heaven as the better place to be. .  

Lesbian Granted Temporary Reprieve from UK Deportation to Uganda; How "Gay" Someone Needs to Be to Seek Asylum Is Also a U.S. Issue

     Here's an update on my last post.  The BBC reports:
     A Ugandan woman who says she is a lesbian has been granted an injunction temporarily preventing her deportation.  Brenda Namiggade says she fears for her life if she is returned from the UK to Uganda, where gay sex is illegal.  Her initial asylum application had been refused. The Home Office said a court had ruled she was "not homosexual" and therefore did not have a genuine claim....  Ms Namiggade's case will now go to judicial review.
     Ms Namiggade's legal team asked a judge to grant an injunction against her deportation, which was due to take place on Friday evening.  The 29-year-old's lawyer told the BBC his client had already boarded her flight at Heathrow airport when the injunction was granted.  Her lawyer, Abdulrahman Jafar, said he would argue that Ms Namiggade should be allowed to remain in the UK regardless of her sexuality.  "The press coverage about her activities certainly expose her to a real risk if she is to be returned to Uganda," he said.
     Ms Namiggade, who was held at a detention centre just outside London, has told the BBC's Network Africa programme she was "shaking" with fear at the prospect of returning to Uganda.  She said she fled to the UK in 2002 after being beaten and victimised because of her sexuality.
     Before you conclude that the United States treats homosexuals, who seek asylum from their native states where LGBT persons are murdered or imprisoned, any better than the UK, read on.  The New York Times reports:
     Amid international outcry over news of the Czech Republic’s testing the veracity of claims of purportedly gay asylum seekers by attaching genital cuffs to monitor their arousal while they watched pornography, some gay refugees and their advocates in New York are complaining that they can be penalized for not outwardly expressing their sexuality. While asylum-seekers and rights groups here expressed relief that use of the so-called erotic lie detector is impossible to imagine in the United States, some lamented in recent interviews that here too, homosexuals seeking asylum may risk being dismissed as not being gay enough. 
     The very notion of “gay enough,” of course, or proving one’s sexuality through appearance, dress and demeanor, can be offensive — and increasingly androgynous fashions and the social trend known as metrosexuality have blurred identities in many people’s minds.
     “Judges and immigration officials are adding a new hurdle in gay asylum cases that an applicant’s homosexuality must be socially visible,” said Lori Adams, a lawyer at Human Rights First, a nonprofit group, who advises people seeking asylum based on sexuality. “The rationale is that if you don’t look obviously gay, you can go home and hide your sexuality and don’t need to be worried about being persecuted.”
     So basically, U.S. policy is if you can pass by lying about who you are and living in the closet, then you should.  So much for equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ugandan Lesbian to be Deported from UK and Possibly Face Death; David Kato, Ugandan Gay Rights Leader, Assassinated

     From an email I just received from Get Equal:
     Brenda Namigadde, a Ugandan lesbian in the UK, faces deportation TOMORROW back to the life-threatening persecution she fled eight years ago.
     We just found out that one of the leading figures in the LGBT movement in Uganda, David Kato, was murdered yesterday in his home. This awful tragedy makes clear what's at stake for Brenda if she is forced to return.
     Will you join more than 10,000 people in 85 countries and sign this urgent letter pressuring U.K. Home Secretary Theresa May to stop Brenda’s deportation?
     Click HERE to sign the letter.

     There was tragic news out of Uganda today.  The Guardian reports the murder of David Kato, gay civil rights pioneer and leader:
     He was known as the "grandfather of the kuchus", as gay people in Uganda call themselves, a brave and fiercely committed activist who led the struggle for gay rights for more than a decade. David Kato went to jail for his beliefs, and to court, winning his greatest victory three weeks ago against a newspaper that had called for him to be hanged.
     But early on Wednesday afternoon he appeared to have paid the ultimate price: he had been battered to death with a hammer in his home in Kampala, shocking the gay and human rights communities locally and abroad.
     Kato's friends and colleagues believe his sexuality and work are likely to have played a role in his murder. Oloka-Onyango said Kato did not appear to have been involved in "shady business or party politics, the things that normally lead to this kind of attack".
     "This is a very strange thing to happen in the middle of the day, and suggests pre-meditation," he said.
     A joint statement from several civil society organisations in South Africa, where Kato lived in the 1990s, paid tribute to "our courageous queer African martyr", and said that certain politicians and religious leaders in Uganda were "at least in part responsible for this callous murder" due to their "fostering of prejudice and homophobia".