Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Father Geoffrey Farrow, my hat is off to you.

I just got off the phone with Father Geoffrey Farrow. (A blogger friend of his suggested I contact him and was kind enough to facilitate our introduction.)

If the word gracious can be undertstood to mean filled with grace in the spiritual sense, I’d like to apply it to Father Geoff who has surely fired a graceful shot to be heard round the world.He seems like a gentle man. A man of integrity who demonstrates once again that the greatest thing a man can do in this world is simply to be true to himself and to care about the people entrusted to him.

Trained in different seminaries and assigned to pastoral ministry in different parts of the country, our paths seem not to have crossed, but there is not a word of his magnificent story that felt foreign to me.

Having refused to bind himself to a directive from his bishop regarding Prop 8, and having delivered himself of a fine sermon about the nonsensical and un-Christian stance of the Roman Catholic Church regarding gay men and women and gay marriage, Father Geoff will return to his parish this weekend as usual and until he hears otherwise, will continue to serve his parishioners as usual. He has not been suspended.

Not yet. And this was a large portion of our conversation. Father Geoff has put the bishop of Fresno in a spectacularly awkward position. If he ignores what Father Geoff has said from the pulpit, he will catch hell from Rome. If he suspends Father Geoff or in any way reduces his faculties, he will be rightly demonized for silencing an honest and sincere priest who puts the message of Jesus Christ above the hidebound laws of the church, and he will find himself in the center of a defining war that has been percolating for far too long.

Father Geoff is unsure of his future, but he says that for the first time in years he feels at peace with himself while fearful about his ability to deal with the strife and tumult that is about to come his way. He said, “I feel like the little boy in the crowd who says the emperor is naked.”

We talked about the fact that most priests are gay, and about the power structure that keeps them silent when in their hearts they know they should be working to overturn the ridiculous mistreatment of gay people by the Catholic Church. He said that at a gathering of priests that followed the news about his sermon, the bishop was assured by many of the priests that Father Farrow was wrong and should be punished. This is disgusting and yet so very believable.

I wish I could shout out to all the thousands of gay priests out there. This is your chance, guys. Father Geoff took the first shot. He made the bold jump. Are you going to let him stand there alone and vulnerable? Are you going to turn your back on him? Or, will you stand up and be counted? Will you use your pulpits to support what he has begun?

The bishop can get away with suspending one man, but he cannot suspend all of you.

Do the right thing. This is why you were ordained.


Birdie said...

Get this posted on Bilerico as soon as possible.

Tony Adams said...

Dear Birdie, I've already submitted it to the Bilerico editors. There is much in my conversation with him that I did not post because I wanted to write something immediate, but I have a very good feeling about this guy. I don't think he is yet aware of how far-reaching his actions are.

Doralong said...

May all the positive forces in the universe protect this decent and brave man from what will no doubt be a very, very hard time to come. I only hope his courage gives others the will to speak out and not let dogma overcome compassion and common sense.

Jeff said...

Father T-

Thanks so much for the follow up. Geoff is such a good and decent man, and the church is so misguided in asking the faithful to enshrine discrimination into California law.

Tony Adams said...

And, Jeff, the Church may pay the price for its meddling. Not-for-profits aren't supposed to do that kind of thing. You know I hope they get into some costly trouble.

dpaste said...

I do really hope that this is the "shot heard 'round the [Catholic] world." But the Vatican is a powerful entity, and fear all too often trumps righteousness.

Perhaps it is appropriate that tonight begins the fast of Yom Kippur. I'll add a word or two for Father Geoffrey, although it's not really appropriate to ask for anything (other than forgiveness) during the holiday.

sageweb said...

great post! He is such an awesome dude and they way you just wrote about it made tears in my eyes...so true...If I only had a priest so brave when I was young.

jmKelley said...

RE: “The bishop was assured by many of the priests that Father Farrow was wrong and should be punished … I wish I could shout out to all the thousands of gay priests out there…”

Between a third and half of Roman priests and bishops are homosexual, according to the best research (Sipe, Cozzens, and others), and most of them are closeted and self-loathing.

This explains their homophobic attitudes and why many of them oppose gay marriage with special zeal: they’re projecting their own self-loathing onto others who are healthy and happy. They’re miserable, and they want you to be miserable too.

This self-loathing among closeted homosexual priests and bishops also feeds into two other tendencies: their sycophantic identification with Vatican power and its trappings (as a subliminal substitution for affection), and their general emphases on sin and obedience (as projections of their own joylessness).

It also explains why male children were disproportionately targeted for sexual abuse. Self-loathing homosexuals suffer higher rates of arrested psycho-sexual development which cause them to prey on children. Healthy, self-accepting gay men are not attracted to children.

They cloak their opposition to gay marriage in lofty theological terms, but the underlying psychological reality is that the critical mass of them are pathetic, arrested, self-loathing, and dysfunctional homosexuals. ”Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not the log in your own eye?”

Anonymous said...

"Father Geoffrey Farrow, my hat is off to you"
Wonder what else is off?

evilganome said...

I have sent my best off to Father Farrow.

As an unrepentant atheist, I do see the function of faith in other peoples lives and over the years I have also seen the destructive nature of the Catholic church's rejection of it's gay and lesbian adherents.

I hope Father Farrow's sacrifice is made worthwhile and that he is able to bring the church to a point where it will have no choice but to change it's policy and begin to treat all congregants with equal respect.

I make do quite nicely with the nitrogen cycle, but I know that there are others that require some form of God to act as an anchor in this uncertain world.

Tony Adams said...

Oh Jill honestly.

And, when it comes to clergy, I don't disrobe for anything less than a Cardinal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Father Tony, I'm over from Joe's blog.

I'm just wondering what may happen to Father Geoffrey? Would he be tossed from his parish and his order? If so, does he become a "civilian"? I'm guessing he won't get any "severance pay" or outplacement services to help him adjust to the outside world and find an employment.

Or would it be more likely that he'll be put somewhere that somebody can keep an eye on him and where he wouldn't be able to address the public?

Tony Adams said...

There are several possibilities. He could be suspended. He could be ordered to "recant". He could have his right to preach suspended. He could be taken out of parish work and put into a specialized ministry in which he would have no right to preach or teach. It might be suggested to him that he join a monastery. None of these things make sense but we are talking about the Catholic Church here. If they force him out of active ministry, they probably won't be helpful to him in terms of extended benefits or severance pay (miniscule to begin with) or outplacement assistance. They will treat him very coldly.

Anonymous said...

Time to get that Dostoevsky chapter out again!

Jeremiah Andrews said...

Thanks for this piece. I have been following this story since it broke, and I posted his sermon on my blog the other night.

It's a shame that the church is going to retaliate. Let's be honest here, its not like they are going to let this one slide, while other priests who damage the cloth go unpunished for crimes against humanity.

We could pray, but what good would that do? Holy Mother Church does not sit well with dissent and outspoken clergy. Unless of course they are preaching the party line.

To see him defrocked would be a sin - and to take away his abilities to minister fully would also be a sin. Oh send him to a monastery where he would be set apart never to see the light of a parish again, that would be a sin as well.

You know Holy Mother Church does not like us homosexuals. Benedict has made that very clear - I hope that the Bishops who oversee Fr. Geoffrey are merciful and understanding and may God guide their decision on what to do next.

We could use a priest like him here in Montreal. He would be warmly welcomed, if he had no place else to go if he is removed from Ministry.

We will watch an imperfect church totally destroy a perfectly honest man who did the right thing.

Montreal Canada

Tony Adams said...

Dear Jeremy,
He would not be warmly welcomed by the Roman Catholic Church in Montreal. Same pope. Same rules. More bath houses (14 at last count).

cb said...

I'm glad that Father Farrow felt that he could come out and that he feels a weight has been lifted.

I'm concerned that "some" people may view this as a sermon highlighting why a person should vote NO on Prop 8.

It would be a shame if his outing was viewed in the same light as those priests preaching to vote FOR prop 8.

Java said...

It occurs to me as I've followed the story this week that Fr. Geoffrey may be following in the footsteps of Martin Luther in some sense, although I suspect Martin Luther himself wouldn't approve of the topic of dissent.