A Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin, U.S.A – Rev. Gregory Greiten has come out to his church and the rest of the world as a gay man and has received the blessing of his congregation.
Rev. Greiten of St. Bernadette Catholic Church received a standing ovation when he opened up about his sexuality to his parishioners on Sunday, Dec. 17.
“I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest,” he reportedly told the congregation. “And, yes, I am gay!”
The priest who feels “liberated” after his announcement says he was breaking the silence of gay men in the clergy so he could reclaim his own voice.
“I feel freer in my life today than I certainly have felt in the many years prior. If we can bring that kind of honesty and integrity into the lives of others, my coming out story was well worth it,” Greiten told a local media.
Greiten reportedly came out to his mother when he was 24, but knowing he wanted to be a priest, he stayed in the closet.
“I literally was in a window and I wanted to jump out of the fifth floor of a building into the concrete below. That was the absolute low point,” the priest said.
Greiten who has lived 25 years as a priest further detailed his journey toward self-acceptance in a lengthy column published in the National Catholic Reporter on Monday, Dec. 18. He wrote:
“A few Roman Catholic priests around the world have mustered up the courage to break through the wall of silence and speak the truth about their sexual identity.
“I pledge to you that I will no longer live my life in the shadows of secrecy. I promise to be my authentically gay self. I will embrace the person that God created me to be.
“This fire burning deep inside my heart, I will no longer contain. I will not be silent any longer; the price to pay is way too great. I must speak my truth.
“I have lived far too many years chained up and imprisoned in the closet behind walls of shame, trauma and abuse because of the homophobia and discrimination so prevalent in my church and the world.
“But rather, today, I chart a new course in freedom and in integrity knowing that there is nothing that anyone can do to hurt or destroy my spirit any longer. First steps in accepting and loving the person God created me to be.”
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According to Greiten, he’s helping to break the silence of gay men in the clergy so he could reclaim his own voice.
“I will embrace the person that God created me to be.
“In my priestly life and ministry, I, too, will help you, whether you are gay or straight, bisexual or transgendered, to be your authentic self – to be fully alive living in your image and likeness of God,” Greiten wrote.
Greiten chastised the Catholic Church’s silent stance on gay priests which he says perpetuates toxic shaming and systematic secrecy. The church needs healthy role models for priests who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation, Greiten wrote.
According to an Archdiocese spokeswoman, Greiten met with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki before coming out.
“We support Father Greiten in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation.
“As priests who have made a promise to celibacy, we know that every week there are people in our pews who struggle with the question of homosexuality.
“As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion,” Listecki said in a statement.
Despite the applause Greiten received on Sunday, churchgoers, however, seemed divided over the implications of his announcement.
While gay men do serve as priests, rarely does a priest come out to his parishioners in this way. Although most surveys are based on limited samples due to the sensitivity of the issue, more recent estimates have put the share of Catholic priests in the U.S. identifying as gay between 15 percent and 50 percent.