December 02, 2009

Is Outing Church Clergy a Fair Tactic?

Columnist Lisa Neff at doesn't think so. She writes about an effort underway in Washington, DC to counteract the continued opposition of same-sex marriage in the District by the Roman Catholic church, to the extent that they are even threating to withold social services they perform in the city if a bill passes legalizing same-sex marriages.

Now, it’s payback time in the eye-for-an-eye world of Washington, D.C. Activists have launched for the collection of reports on priests, required by Church law to be celibate, who are gay.

“ is a clearing house for reports of priests who are openly gay men in social settings yet professionally closeted in their parishes,” stated a press release from ChurchOuting founder Phil Attey. “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 not sure how the outers will know which priests “support the archbishop’s efforts to harm lesbian and gay families.” I don’t see how they can know, but I don’t believe it makes a difference. This is the wrong course of action.

Outing, to me, has always seemed like using sexual orientation as a weapon, like an act of violence.

To out gay priests for an anti-gay Church policy, well, how is that different than outing gay and lesbian servicemembers because Congress adopted the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy?

Does anyone honestly think that by outing one or 100 gay priests, the Catholic Church is going to reverse course on same-sex marriage or extending benefits to partners of same-sex employees?

No, if the Church takes any action, it will relocate, reassign or move to oust the priests.

The cold-hearted, close-minded Church leaders who would abandon a mission to shelter or feed the homeless because it has qualms with treating its employees equally will not warm to the legislation because of an outing campaign — unless maybe someone once spotted the pope at any town’s Different Strokes bar.

A better course would be to demonstrate to the Church that there are other institutions and caring people to provide the social services the Church has threatened to abandon, to demonstrate to the Church that a religious institution cannot bully a democratic body into allowing discrimination and injustice to continue, to demonstrate to the Church that it cannot hold poor people as hostages.

And the best course of action in the long run would be to find a way to keep government funding for services for the poor and homeless from going to powerful, wealthy institutions of perpetual discrimination.

We are not personally opposed to publicly displaying evidence of the Catholic Church's blatant hypocrsy, but we are concerned that doing so on such a personal level could only cause more pain. in our opinion, the goal here should not be the exchange of tactical weapons but instead reconciliation and healing--this approach would do neither.

Click here to read the rest of Ms. Neff's column at

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