Sometimes the biggest problem we here at GetReligion have with a piece is not so much what’s said but what’s left out.
A good example is a piece that appeared in USA Today nearly a week ago about a gay priest that came out to his Milwaukee parish.
The story was originally published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is known as a liberal diocese, home to former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, a social justice pioneer who came out as gay in 2009.
Thus, a story about another priest in this archdiocese announcing he’s gay may not be as big a shock, as, say, a priest making a similar announcement in Lincoln, Neb., arguably the country’s most conservative diocese.
The Rev. Gregory Greiten told his congregation Sunday, "I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest. And, yes, I am gay!"
The priest in the Milwaukee Archdiocese serves as the pastor of St. Bernadette Parish. On Monday, he came out to the rest of the world with a column in the National Catholic Reporter. He received a standing ovation from his parishioners when he made his announcement before the column's publication.
Greiten said he was breaking the silence of gay men in the clergy so he could reclaim his own voice.
While it is established that there are gay men who serve as priests, it is rare for a priest to come out to his congregation in this way. Greiten shares an estimate in his article that there are between 8,554 and 21,571 gay Catholic priests in the United States from "The Changing Face of the Priesthood." Church theology teaches that acting upon homosexuality is a sin.
What the article doesn’t add at this point is there’s 37,192 Catholic clergy in the United States. So, if you use the higher estimate, that’s 58 percent of all Catholic priests. The lower number is 22 percent. Thus, the typical Catholic should expect that one out of every four priests they meet are gay, right?
The most interesting wild card in this story is the local archbishop who opposed the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage.
Whether Greiten will face any consequences for his admission likely will depend on Milwaukee's archbishop, the Most Rev. Jerome Listecki. Before talking to his parishioners publishing his column, Greiten made a point to meet with Milwaukee Listecki to tell him what he planned to do, an archdiocese spokeswoman said.
In a statement Monday, Listecki backed Greiten's decision to share his sexuality with his parish.
I’m curious whether Listecki knew of Greiten’s orientation before their meeting and whether Greiten even gave his superior the chance to veto his announcement. I'm curious how much this priest's orientation was an open secret in his parish. There aren't any quotes from parishioners, so we'll never know.
The Catholic Church’s official position still is that homosexuality is an “objective disorder” that is not sinful unless the person engages in same-sex sexual activity. Homosexual acts are considered to be sin. So, by coming out and staying in the priesthood a quarter century, is this priest agreeing with his church’s stance on homosexuality? The article doesn’t say.
Tmatt has written a lot on this blog about the findings in the aforementioned book on the priesthood, namely that seminaries have thriving gay subcultures that are gradually driving away straight applicants. Is Gregory Greiten more the rule than the exception? At the very least he is part of a substantial niche culture.
Also, sexual abuse cases have tended to more involve priests and teen-agers which is a whole different category than pedophilia, which involves much younger boys. Eighty percent of the victims were male, which led to a rousing debate as to whether perpetrators tended to be gay or not.
Either way, the typical Catholic parent is much less likely to encourage their sons to enter an overwhelmingly gay priesthood, tmatt wrote. Will Greiten's example change this?
I’ve a feeling not much will happen to Greiten in his diocese and that many more priests will follow his example until it won’t be news any more. Will the Vatican follow suit? I'm sure journalists will stay tuned, but meanwhile, folks, ask a few more questions about what's going on behind the scenes. I suspect there are even better stories there.