Outing Gay Priests in Washington, D.C. November 21, 2009

Outing Gay Priests in Washington, D.C.

In response to the Washington Archdiocese of the Catholic Church trying to impede GLBT rights in the city, a new website says it wants to expose the hypocrites within the Church:

ChurchOuting.org is a clearinghouse for reports of priests who are openly gay men in social settings yet professionally closeted in their parishes. The campaign will also accept reports of heterosexual priests who are involved in romantic or sexual relationships, yet support the Archbishop’s efforts to harm lesbian and gay families.

I’m all for it, and not just for Catholics. Let’s expose all pastors who tells their church that homosexuality is immoral while at the same time having an affair (gay or straight) of their own.

Call them out on their bullshit.

For what it’s worth, the website has good intentions and the creators are not simply anti-Catholic:

… we encourage every Catholic priest to trust in God and in the power of the Christ to help you through this difficult, but important act of truth, faith and love. It is not the intention of this site to complicate the lives of closeted gay priests, rather to help them make the difficult choice to stand up against the hateful and harmful new direction the Church hierarchy is taking the Holy Mother Church.

(Thanks to grazatt for the link!)

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  • I’m kinda torn over things like this. On one hand, it is immoral to publicly out someone before they are ready to do it themselves. On the other hand, these priests are implicit accomplises to the Catholic Church’s oppression of homosexuals’ rights. No one is a winner here.

    However, I’m still going to laugh when they start revealing names. 😛

  • Matt

    I hope they’re not outing priests who are not open about their sexuality while also not attacking gay people. That would be pretty fucked up.

  • Ooooooooo, me likey.
    While, I agree that, on a personal level, it sucks for the priests who are struggling with their sexuality (my heart goes out to them) it’s a WONDERFUL thing to expose liars living under the cover of religion….and also the people who protect the liars. That rocks.
    I’m hoping that in the long run, it will HELP them (the gay priests) by forcing them to self-actualize.

  • Erp

    I would be careful to distinguish between those who avidly support the church’s policy on gays and those who are silent on it. The latter should not be outed, only the obvious hypocrites. Remember the ordinary priest has very little power to change the church.

  • Matto the Hun


    What about “silence is consent”?

  • Ben

    The ordinary priest may have very little power to change the church, but they have a heck of a lot of power over their individual congregations, what they believe and how they act. I don’t think they should be outed automatically if they don’t vocally support the homophobic oppression of their religion, but I would have no qualms agains them being pushed to pick a side and then outing them if they choose the wrong one.

  • Jason

    No surprise that the Catholic League (Bill Donohue) has issued a statement about how the evil liberal Obama lovers are going to bully D.C. priests.

  • mkb

    I think it would be wrong to out priests who do not publicly condemn homosexuality. They are also victims of the hierarchy’s homophobia. They don’t need to be our victims as well.

  • The goal of this site is not to force Catholic priests out of the closet against their will

    Is it or isn’t it? There’s this implication on the website that there’s no coercion going on and that they want to “work with” these gay priests.

    And yet, it seems that it is a coercive project, given that they simultaneously note that they hope no priests will be outed int he course of the campaign. The implication seems to be that they will out them if they don’t participate in the project.

    Sounds exceedingly like blackmail.

    It’s awful that there are hypocritical gay priests condemning homosexuality and acting against it. And yet, it’s significantly immoral to go ahead and blackmail these people, seeking to destroy their lives. People who want to do this sort of thing always claim the ends justify the means, but I’d suggest you think very carefully about what the ethical thing to do here is before you wholeheartedly support them.

    If this were a matter of outing some celebrity figure, as happened with Ted Haggard, I might be more sympathetic. There’s a sense in which that kind of attention can be expected for a figure in the public eye. But this is a generalised threat toward a group of far more private people. That feels quite ugly to me.

    At the very least I feel this deserve more than the knee-jerk reaction to “go get ’em”.

  • Miko

    @Matto: It’s a lousy argument. A priest has many things to speak about and shouldn’t be held accountable for all aspects of church doctrine just because they aren’t constantly denouncing the bits they disagree with. Also, they may fear for their job security if they were to attack the policy. Just as we wouldn’t think that a citizen who pays his/her taxes (and so is indirectly contributing to government-sponsored murder in AfPakIraq) should be tried for war crimes as a result of not engaging in tax evasion, we must likewise conclude that a priest who is quiet on certain aspects of church policy is not responsible for the harm stemming from those policies.

    It’d be great if every priest spoke out against these policies, just as it would be great if all citizens spoke out against war and taxation. But in both cases we have the “who bells cat?” problem that it’s dangerous to be the first to speak up.

  • Bobby

    I’m with the rest of the commenters who thinks this is ridiculous policy to “out” people to embarrass them with the attempt to endanger their jobs. Isn’t that what straight people did to homosexuals for the past 60+ years? So now the gays are doing it?

    What happened to free association? Don’t we want to be able to be who we are in our personal lives without it impacting our professional lives? Sure, that sometimes means tolerating hypocrisy, but otherwise, we’re promoting a destruction of privacy and free association. The later, importantly, are constitutionally protected by the bill of rights. Let’s not advocate throwing them out when it suits our political agenda.

    So, as long as they’re doing it with consenting others, let the priests be gay in peace &mdash even those who in their professional lives serve as gay bashers.

  • geru

    I’m guessing these churches don’t have a very accepting stance towards sexual minorities, so if they’d manage to out lets say even 5 to 10 priests in a certain area, that should make it a bit awkward for the whole local Catholic community and the local Catholic organizations.

    That should get some of the churchgoers thinking, especially after some of the Catholic bishops in Rome have been saying that it’s only the gay priests that molest children in the church…

    I’m not sure if this should be done to non-anti-gay gay priests*, but it would definitely be a textbook example of the idiom ‘giving someone a dose of their own medicine’. When you preach hate and fear, you better consider that someday you might end up at the sharp end of it..

    *Depending on how closely these congregations follow the Vatican’s principles I guess there shouldn’t be much difference to a priest who’s non-anti-gay and one that’s gay, since being anti-gay seems to be the defining character of a Conservative Christian these days

  • Stephen P

    … we wouldn’t think that a citizen who pays his/her taxes (and so is indirectly contributing to government-sponsored murder in AfPakIraq) should be tried for war crimes as a result of not engaging in tax evasion …

    I’ll go along with that. But what about citizens who work as, say, PR staff for Blackwater? May we not criticise them? Vigorously? I think we can and should.

    RC priests work for an organisation that was openly homophobic the day that they joined. An organisation that, given the choice between helping the needy and bashing gays, would rather bash gays. In other words, suppression of homosexuals is not merely one policy among hundreds, but one of the key policies of the organisation.

    And the priests are their PR staff, their recruiters, the backbone of their organisation.

    Would priests be in danger of losing their job if they spoke up? Possibly, though given the shortage of priests that the RCC is suffering from, they would probably have to go quite far to get sacked. But the RCC was recently recruiting bigots from the Anglicans. Let the Anglicans / Episcopalians recruit priests with a conscience from the RCC.

  • Richard Wade

    Yeah, this is a mistake.

    At first, it’s very tempting to go for the gotcha!, especially with the few really rabid hypocrites who work hard at furthering oppression of gays even while they are secretly actively gay.

    But whether they are the loud ones or the quiet ones, calling them out for being gay is inadvertently supporting the idea that being gay is a bad thing. Then we’re participating in the same victimization that we decry as unfair.

    We must continue to argue that the church’s oppression and condemnation of homosexuality is wrong and unacceptable, period, whether it’s practiced by straight priests or secretly gay priests. But to use the sexual orientation of those few secretly gay priests against them, to hurt a few in order to try to shame the whole institution is simply cruel, and it backfires, reinforcing the idiotic idea that private sexual behavior between consenting adults should be the business of the church, or the public or anyone.

    Don’t stoop to this. We must take the high road. Fight oppressive and bigoted institutions with principles of fairness and equality, not the very same ugly tactics that they’d be delighted to use against their enemies.

  • BrettH


    Free association is a constitutionally guaranteed right, but that does not in any way mean people can’t be mocked publicly for who they associate with. It only means they can’t be prosecuted for it. I’m not a big fan of the idea of outing gay priests, but it doesn’t in any way endanger their constitutional rights.

    Personally, I think we should try to find a better way to change that kind of policy if we can, I don’t like the idea of outing anyone without their consent with the current homophobic atmosphere. It would be one thing if you were just embarrassing them, but it could also ruin their career.

  • If a person has an affair then they are deceiving someone that they claim to love and respect. If a person is gay then they are simply gay. If they are gay and condemn homosexuality then they are a hypocrite.

    I’m fine with pointing out the hypocrisy of church leaders and of church policy but what has a person’s sexuality got to do with anyone else? A site that “reports of priests who are openly gay men in social settings yet professionally closeted in their parishes” is invading the privacy of the priest.

    Granted it is still wrong that the secretly gay priests support church policy of suppressing rights. Compounding this wrong with another is not the answer.

    Some people are gay. Some gay people are priests. There is nothing wrong with that.

  • littlejohn

    This makes me uncomfortable. We certainly (I hope) wouldn’t out someone who hasn’t denounced gays or is simply minding his own business. Not every priest is an anti-gay blowhard. (Oops, wrong word.)
    Also, they will almost certainly make a mistake and “out” some straight guy based on a rumor. Once that happens, all moral high ground is lost.
    On the other hand, if a public figure is notorious for opposing gay rights and gets caught with his pants down (Rev. Ted Haggard and Sen. Larry Craig leap to mind), then they deserve what they get.
    I hope these folks proceed very carefully.

  • grazatt

    I would think The Catholic League would not be upset about this. I am sure they would not want gays or sinful straights in the priesthood anyway. It is a win win situation

  • Trace

    I am with Richard.

  • David D.G.

    Richard Wade wrote:

    But whether they are the loud ones or the quiet ones, calling them out for being gay is inadvertently supporting the idea that being gay is a bad thing. Then we’re participating in the same victimization that we decry as unfair.

    Richard, as I see it, the point isn’t to call them out for being gay, but for being hypocritical. The campaign is also advocating the outing of (supposedly celibate) straight priests who are romantically/sexually active and who oppose the sexual/marital rights of LGBTs.

    I admit that there is a danger that this can be misinterpreted as simply an attack on gay priests for just being gay, depending on how it gets covered in the media — so the important thing to remember is that if this is going to be done (and apparently it is), it is the hypocrisy that needs to be condemned, not the priests’ sexual orientation or activity per se.

    ~David D.G.

  • James

    This is just a terrible idea.

    It’s one thing to expose hypocrites as exactly that. For example, if the bishop or spokesperson themselves are gay. It’s totally a different thing to ruin the life of a priest who doesn’t agree with the church’s expressed point of view.

    One could argue that this is exactly the kind of self-righteous and intolerant hate-driven action that non-theists detest in some churches.

  • nan

    DavidD.G.: How would the web site know if these priests are celibate or not? As far as I know,the RCC(in their mind) doesn’t condemn homosexuality,but rather the acting upon it. Sex outside of marriage is a sin their religion gay or straight. Outing a “known” gay priest seems rather vindictive.

  • DSimon

    I agree that this is a terrible idea.

    Are that priest’s congregation expected to think to themselves “Well, our priest was a hypocrite this whole time, maybe homosexuality isn’t so bad?” It seems much more plausible that they’d simply go looking for a new, straight priest to present them the same anti-homosexuality rhetoric they’d just been receiving from the gay priest.

  • Brit

    I’m on the fence about this. On one hand, I think it would be great to get the few hypocritical priests out there who are having homosexual relationships while also denouncing homosexuality.

    But at the same time, I can’t help but feel bad for those priests who are gay and who don’t support the church’s stance. Whether or not they speak out on it, for me, is something irrelevant to their circumstance.

    I know that I have groups of friends and family members who don’t know I’m an atheist. I certainly wouldn’t want some site to out me so they know, and then advise my friends and family to “help me” through atheism. Not talking about it does not imply that someone agrees with it.

    It just sounds like this website is going to start outing the wrong people, and demand that they wear a yellow star (or maybe a rainbow?) on their clothing.

  • Neal O

    I am with David D. G. on this. It’s a hypocrisy issue. These people choose their religion and chose to be Priests. They are being dishonest in doing so.

    It’s not like paying taxes to the country you live/work in at all. Largely speaking you don’t choose your domicile in the way you choose your job.

    Seems to me homophobia is a central part of the Catholic evil. What’s right for Ted Haggard is right for the general knowledge of all, particularly in the communities where these priests peddle their mischievous lies.

  • Will there be any priests left? Not that I’m sympathetic but I think they’re short of the them already 🙂

  • I may not be a priest, but I am way too close to this issue to be able to respond to it rationally.

    My immediate emotional reaction is HELL NO. Odds are, this hypocrisy is already putting them through their own personal hell. I wouldn’t want someone to do this to me, and I’m using my human empathy to not want it to happen to someone else.

    Aside from letting people know there are gay priests who are hypocrites (which we already knew), what exactly is this meant to accomplish. What do they hope will happen? That the Catholic church will change its position? That the congregation will change their minds? Hell, no, they’ll move the priest or kick them out and continue going as they were before. No progress will be made, except we destroyed an already half-destroyed life.

  • muggle

    I smell a rat. A rather large rat whose name is misdirection.

    I’d much rather see them outing pedophile preists. Indeed, the church is taking a lot of heat for not only not reporting pedophile preists to the police but actually covering up for them often just sending them on to a fresh crop of small victims not yet ripe for the picking. Rather disgustingly so. I, for one, find it rather alarming that that fact alone hasn’t brought about it’s demise.

    This gives me a rather creepy feeling that they are going to make gays the scapegoats for the pedophiles and, if they have to throw a straight preist or two that couldn’t keep their vows to be celibate under the bus to do so, that’s okay with them.

    To repeat myself, I smell a very large rat.

  • Aj

    If they say anything against homosexuals I wouldn’t hesitate in outing them as hypocrites. One less priest spouting hate can’t be bad. At the very least I’d hope that homosexuals would find out and avoid them.

    Some priests could have been naive, stupid, and hateful, get trapped into the worthless profession, and have genuinely changed their minds, so I’d withhold on outing those that are silent on the issue. Those priests deserve help not retribution.

  • Neon Genesis

    Speaking as a gay man myself, I think it’s a bad idea to out gay priests who aren’t promoting anti-gay messages. For one thing, we don’t know what the whole situation is with their lives. Like maybe they want to change the church from within but are scared to speak up. I also think this could backfire and reinforce the stereotype that the godless LGBT liberal agenda is persecuting the church. We already have Christians like Carrie Prejan claiming there’s a liberal bias that’s trying to silence her and that the gay agenda is actively seeking out dirt on hypocrites. I don’t think we need to be adding to the problems by reinforcing this claim. It’s one thing if the person ends up exposing themselves through their own actions, like Ted Haggard getting caught cheating on his wife, but for us to go after innocent priests who aren’t spreading hate for a political agenda would make us no different than the Catholic church weeding out gays for their political agendas.

  • Richard Wade

    Hypocrisy is not the issue.
    The church’s anti-gay policies and beliefs are the issue. The hypocrisy of some secretly gay priests who spout anti-gay rhetoric is just an opportunity for vindictive action against a few individuals. It will do nothing to change the true source of human suffering, the church’s backward attitudes.

    Helping them to find and weed out their secretly gay priests will just allow the Church to “clean up its act” and continue their anti-gay campaigns without the embarrassment of hypocrisy. The overall effect would be worse.

    Add to that the inadvertent implication that there is something wrong with being gay, and this just keeps adding up to an assinine idea.

    Are the people behind this so filled with hatred that they are willing to seriously hurt some individual priests just for the indulgent pleasure of briefly embarrassing the Catholic Church? The RCC will not even feel it, but some real people’s lives will be ruined.

  • Whether I would feel bad for the outed priest depends on what the individual priest is like. If they condemn homosexuality yet secretly practice it, then they are a hypocrite and deserve what’s coming to them. But no doubt some cases will be more nuanced. Ideally, only the “bad priests” will get outed. Ultimately, though, I’ll judge this idea based on its impact, and that’s yet to be determined.

  • Jen

    What an awful, awful idea. I would like to remind everyone that lgbt people are killed everyday for being gay. According to the FBI, these crimes against sexual minorities are the third highest group of hate crimes. While I am not going to claim that I don’t laugh a little every time a gay Republican gets caught with his pants down, it should be up to the individual to leave the closet. Period, end of story, etc, etc.

    I can appreciate that they might want to change the attitudes of those in the church, this is not even a little bit the way to go about it.

  • Allison

    I think this website is going to turn out to be a bad idea. It’s probably just going to turn into somewhat of a gay priest witchhunt, with the priests able to deny everything as being the propaganda of anti-Catholics. The church has had no problem simply absorbing hypocrisy for hundreds of years, why do you think exposing hypocrisy will suddenly cause them to change now? This is a stupid move.

    So much for being a “friendly” atheist.

  • grazatt

    I think for some it is a chance to strike back at a hated enemy.

  • Moxiequz

    I agree with and strongly second what Richard Wade posted. I’m saddened to see that Hemant is promoting this idiocy which (as Allison above points out) can easily turn into a witch hunt.

    So much for being a “friendly” atheist.

    Hear, hear.

  • Vas

    No big surprise here I support this. I support the exposure of anyone who enables discrimination and bigotry whether they are passive enablers or active participants. There is no issue of free association, they may associate with whomever they like but I won’t be a keeper of their secrets and no one else should be honor bond to keep their secrets, including those who they associate with, after all, the information is coming from somewhere. Same goes for the people who hide them and support their lies. People have a right to lie and try to conceal their lies and other people have a right to expose their lies. It may not be pleasant but that’s the way of it. If you want to present a false face to the world you are free to try and if you are clever and well practiced in deceit you may even pull it off, but the truth has a funny way of coming out.

  • I too would like to join the chorus of voices that agree that this is a bad idea.

    For one, many of the people that buy into the anti-gay rhetoric propagated by the Church and other conservative Christian organizations are more likely to commit acts of violence against homosexuals. I don’t think it is a big stretch of the imagination to conjure up a scenario where some wackjob that was part of an outed priest’s congregation feels so betrayed that they would brutalize or kill the man. Being a hypocrite is bad, but death isn’t the punishment — especially if it was brought on by simply being a homosexual.

    My second thought is that this could turn into a situation where straight priests are “outed” based on rumor or outright lie. Whether or not you accept their beliefs about homosexuality is irrelevant; they were playing the game the “right” way according to their beliefs.

    Third, I’m pretty much against anyone publishing any personal information on the Internet about any private citizen. I don’t think it should be illegal, but I still don’t think it should be done.

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