In 2011, an anonymous author released the book Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest. And now the book will be re-released with a new addition: the name of its author, Father Gary Meier.
Meier, a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is apparently tired of the treatment of Catholics who experience same-sex attraction by their own church. In the past couple of years, we’ve seen headlines about LGBT Catholics being denied communion, fired from teaching gym class, fired from leading music ministry, and removed from volunteer parish ministry, to name just a few examples. We have even seen a straight woman fired after 11 years of teaching because she privately supported the idea of same-sex civil marriage. Apparently, Meier had seen enough.
In a statement released this week, Meier decided that as he marks 15 years of priesthood he would publicly reveal that he authored the 2011 book and that he is in fact a celibate gay man. Meier writes:
“It has been difficult to remain part of a hierarchy that has been so hostile towards homosexuals in recent years… Our church once stood for and represented the radical nature of God’s love for all people. That is not the true today – especially towards the LGBT community – and therefore I feel compelled to stand in solidarity with those Catholics who have lost their jobs, have been denied the sacraments, have been excommunicated or who have been made to feel ‘less than’ by their church leaders because of who they love.”
Interestingly enough, Meier also says that his sexuality wasn’t really a secret, even when he was in the seminary. But teachers didn’t object to him becoming a priest and there was just an understanding that Meier, like any straight or gay man entering the priesthood, was committing to a life of celibacy.
Of course, things have changed in recent years, and it takes a lot of courage for Meier to make such a public stand today. The initial reaction of his own archdiocese has been mostly positive, as a statement released emphasizes that all people are children of God and no one is to be condemned for their sexuality. The statement also says that “Fr. Meier has before him an opportunity to be an example and mentor to Catholics in the archdiocese who struggle with the same feelings,” which while true in the sense that he will be a mentor to others may not be the best choice of words, as “struggle” still implies that there is still something wrong with people who are attracted to members of the same sex.
Regardless of what the archdiocese says, the floodgates are likely to open and Meier will undoubtedly receive some harsh criticism from many in the church. Some will probably call for him to be dismissed from the priesthood or banned from public ministry. He’s undoubtedly aware of this, and hopefully he will maintain his resolve to speak up for others who must deal with the same type of criticism from their brothers and sisters in Christ.
For many who have already reconciled their same-sex attraction with their identity as children of God, the real “struggle” is being accepted in their own church. Having an advocate like Meier in the ranks of the priesthood can only help their cause.