Saturday, April 24, 2010

Letter to My Parish Priest

I wrote this  letter to my parish priest this morning and sent it by e-mail, with a copy to our priest in residence.

Dear Father:

I am sure that by now you have read the most recent issue of The B.C. Catholic newspaper. I am sure also that you have at least seen the article on page 12 with the headline "Homosexuality, pedophilia related: cardinal," if you have not read it.

Nearly four years ago I returned to the Church of my baptism after more than 35 years of wandering in a spiritual wilderness. I was well aware at the time of the teaching of the Church on homosexuality but I had not read and studied as much as I have since my return. I felt that the Church is like one's family: sometimes there are issues that family members disagree about, but they still love each other and the family stays together. When I decided to choose St. ---- as my parish, I was touched by the warm welcome I received from you and from fellow parishioners, and I have grown to love this parish despite the fact that theologically I am decidedly to the left of most members of our community.

When I read the pamphlets created by the Courage apostolate (and distributed in a workshop during Priests' Study Week in November 2007) that you kindly gave me in December 2007, I was shocked at the homophobic misinformation that they contained. I was also outraged that such deliberate ignorance should be foisted upon priests who likely have neither the time nor the motivation to verify the content of the workshop and the pamphlets. I am a writer, so at the time I wrote an article on this topic. Out of respect for you, I did not immediately attempt to publish that article and only did so when I established a blog in late 2009. The article is attached to this e-mail message.

I was again deeply disappointed, offended, and outraged when I read the B.C. Catholic article. It is clearly the intent of this article (and thus of the editors who decided to publish it) to connect pedophilia and homosexuality in the minds of readers. Nowhere does the article report the almost universal ridicule with which Cardinal Bertone's remarks were greeted. Nor does it report that the authors of the independent study on clerical sexual abuse commissioned by the USCCB replied to a specific question by an American bishop by stating that the study found no link between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of pre- or post-pubescent children.

The editors of The B.C. Catholic are fully aware that many readers will only glance at the headline of an article and that many of those who do take the time to actually read the page 12 article will not be aware of the scientific facts that have resulted from studies of sexual abuse. These readers will therefore receive the absolutely incorrect impression from the article that indeed there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. There is no way that the editors cannot have been aware of this when they decided to publish the article. The article is, in effect, a lie.

I am profoundly discouraged by the ignorance, irresponsibility, and insensibility reflected in this article. Moreover, I feel that I am in the wilderness again because I now believe there is no one in the Archdiocese who is willing to acknowledge the wound opened by such hateful attitudes and actions, let alone to begin to attempt to heal it. I am a soul in distress but because that soul is a gay man's soul, I do not expect pastoral understanding and care from my Church.

The B.C. Catholic is, I understand, the official voice of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. If the page 12 article is a reflection of the message of love in the Gospel, a message which it is part of the mission of any diocese to deliver to the faithful, I, a simple Christian who hungers for that message, did not find it on page 12.

When you declined to allow me to be a catechist in 2007, after I told you I was gay, it was out of deep respect and great affection for you as a pastor and as a friend that I remained silent about your decision. For the same reasons, I have not told anyone in our parish that I am gay and that I respectfully disagree with the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. You must understand that this has caused me great personal conflict. After the publication by The B.C. Catholic of such an egregiously ignorant and hurtful article, however, I can no longer remain silent. As I am only one parishioner out of several thousand at St. -----, I do not wish to cause you either embarrassment or stress that is out of all proportion to my importance as a member of the community. Therefore, in order to preserve my integrity, my only recourse is to excuse myself from continued membership in St. ----- parish. You have no idea how deeply this saddens me.

I sincerely hope that both you and Father ---- experience continued joy in your ministry.

In Christ's love,



  1. I am truly sorry, Ross. Your letter was wonderfully-written, even if painful to read. You remain in my prayers.

  2. Thank you, Thom. There is an Old Catholic Church in my neighbourhood that is wonderfully inclusive and welcoming and where I have attended weekday Mass twice recently. I may join that congregation. I will continue to write about the RC Church, however.

  3. Dear Ross,

    I read your letter and felt the pain. Another gay son of driven out because he opted for honesty over secrecy.
    Go where the Spirit takes you, but know that we are the poorer without you. I also hope your former PP has the courtesy to reply with integrity to your letter.

    In solidarity from Australia.

  4. I am also hugely offended by what I have read. My heart breaks for you!
    Love you

  5. Thank you all for your encouragement and support. I will continue to blog about this journey.

  6. Dear Ross:
    As your close friend, I know how much the church meant to you. As in all things, you did not merely attend mass, you participated in your church with your heart and soul. You joined the parish choir, regularly read at Sunday mass and contributed to your parish fund raising events. In addition, you spent endless hours reading and watching movies related to the church. You adopted the church as part of your family. I understand the betrayal that you are feeling and the letter to your parish priest is spot on: your disappointment and hurt are well articulated. I hope that in the months to come, you can find a new spiritual family: one who embraces you, loves you and recognizes you ass you are, the wonderful person you are.

  7. Actually the original was perfect: "one that recognizes you for the ass you are" :)

  8. This is so terribly sad. Did you receive a response?

  9. What was the homophobic misinformation given in the pamphlets created by Courage? I have spoken to people from Courage at different times. The one big issue that I have with them is there cozy relationship with NARTH. NARTH is a proponent of reparative therapy which has been found to be ineffective and in many cases harmful.

    Mark from PA

  10. Thanks for your comment, Mark. You can find my article about Courage on my December 13, 2009 posting; it is called "Courage and Priests."

  11. Dear Ross: I read your excellent article "Courage and Priests." I wasn't totally aware of what you told me. I have actually spoken with Father Harvey briefly on the phone. I thought that he had a more tolerant view of gay people (or the same sex attracted as they say). I think that some of the people in Courage may be under the influence of Dr. Nicolosi. I have read that Father Harvey has worked with priests who were pedophiles and also priests who had been sexually active with teens and young men. So perhaps his view of homosexuality is based on his experiences with troubled men. I don't know how much contact he has had with gay people in committed relationships. It is interesting to read your thoughts as I am of the same generation as you. I am a life-long Catholic and have belonged to my parish for over 40 years. I went to 12 years of Catholic school. I am in the choir, teach Religion and volunteer in my parish. I am interested in your musings as a returning Catholic.

    Peace - Mark from PA

  12. Mark:

    Thanks again for your comments. If you ever are able to find copies of the pamphlets mentioned in my article, you will see how deliberately Father Harvey seeks to give priests a pathological - and therefore entirely negative - impression of homosexuality. I can only imagine that if we looked at "scholarly" or religious justifications for the official racism of days gone by we would see eerily similar arguments. Shocking and scary. BTW, it has been ten days since I wrote to my PP; I have not had an e-mail or a phone call in response.