(Updated Aug. 18; see Update Deux below)
On Saturday, the Post carries a Religion News Service story by Renee Gadoua, Priest Says Relief Agency Dropped Him Because He's Gay that doesn't meet the kind of standard we'd expect from a news service with the word "religion" in its banner.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A Catholic priest says Catholic Relief Services dismissed him from its volunteer program in Africa because he is openly gay.
"They said I was an openly gay priest with a high profile. They said a controversial figure would not be in their best interests," said the Rev. Fred Daley, 58.
Officials at CRS, the international relief and development agency for the Catholic Church in the United States, said it was Daley's high profile as an outspoken gay priest -- not his homosexuality -- that caused them to deny his application.
"It was the issue of the notoriety, plain and simple," Michael Wiest, chief operating officer for Baltimore-based CRS, said in an interview Monday.
Daley drew international attention last November for his public criticism of a Vatican document widely interpreted as banning gays from the priesthood. He disclosed his sexual orientation to his Utica parish in May 2004....
I've taken abuse on some Catholic blogs for expressing my belief that celibate homosexual priests are as valuable and proper as straight priests, just so you know where I'm coming from. But this story fails to describe where Daley really stands. Here's an account of Daley's remarks at a Mass for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered in 2002, before he had publicly declared he was gay:
'I think the last several days have been the greatest teaching moments on homophobia the Mohawk Valley has ever seen,' he said. 'I challenge all of us to use this moment as a time to move our community out of ignorance, hatred, fear and violence.' The key to breaking that cycle is education, he said, which will defeat the myths and stereotypes about gay people that come from as far back as the Middle Ages. Two fundamentals of that education are first, that no one can choose his or her sexual orientation and second, that the Bible cannot be used to evaluate one's sexuality, Daley said. 'We can't use the Bible to hit people over the head with,' he said, noting that he doesn't think modern theologians are able to use the Bible to prove homosexuality a sin. The Catholic church and others should not be so obsessed with what people do in private, he said. 'I didn't tell anyone at the 8 a.m. Mass or the 11 a.m. Mass (what to do in their bedrooms), so I'm certainly not going to tell anyone here at the 3 p.m. Mass,' he said, receiving more cheers and applause....
Let's put aside the fact that opposition to homosexuality is more deeply rooted in Africa than in the U.S., and that this might create unique problems a relief agency wouldn't want to assume. Daley, if this address was accurately transcribed, stands in contradiction to Catholic teaching on a broad front. Just to fisk a few:
Two fundamentals of that education are first, that no one can choose his or her sexual orientation and second, that the Bible cannot be used to evaluate one's sexuality, Daley said.
I'm at a loss to explain how a Catholic priest could say that. Of course the Bible can be used to evaluate sexuality--though in Catholic teaching, with the assistance of tradition--all the way from condemning sex outside of marriage to providing the foundation for placing homosexuality outside the pale.
'We can't use the Bible to hit people over the head with,' he said, noting that he doesn't think modern theologians are able to use the Bible to prove homosexuality a sin.
The Catholic church and others should not be so obsessed with what people do in private, he said.
Well sure, because the 10 Commandments--most people don't know this--are about public acts. When Jesus told the woman at the Mount of Olives, Go, and do not sin again, he meant mainly I'm obsessed with public sin. In private, it's no problem to lie, cheat, steal, take the Lord's name in vain, covet your neighbor's goods, murder, etc. Private behavior, all systems are Go!
It sounds like Daley has done a lot of good work and it's to his credit, and to the credit of his flock, that many people accepted this celibate priest despite his declaration of a sexual preference that runs right into a Catholic brick wall. But his tone of affected dismay---"Daley said no one at CRS asked about his sexual orientation during the five-month application process"--isn't admirable, and the version of the story printed in the Post simply fails to tell readers why the Church or CRS would have a very rational basis for deciding this kind of appointment would be hopeless. Saying CRS felt he was too "high profile" isn't enough.
UPDATE DEUX on Aug.18, with thanks for the link from Charlotte Allen at the First Things blog, On The Square. A bit of a postscript: When I first wrote this item, I didn't realize there had been some coverage of Daley's planned mission after his initial acceptance into the program. Here's that Renee Gadoua story:
July 11, 2006: A New York priest who is one of the few openly gay Catholic priests in the world will spend 18 months in Lesotho, southern Africa, ministering to people with HIV and AIDS.
The Rev. Fred Daley said he initiated the assignment and it is not a punishment for disclosing his sexual orientation or criticizing a recent Vatican document that said men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained to the priesthood. "My disclosure and ministry to gays and lesbians is a little part of who I am," Daley said.
Daley begins training for the Catholic Relief Services volunteer program in Baltimore Aug. 6 and expects to be in Lesotho by Sept. 1.
I suppose this is how Catholic Relief Services became informed not only about his sexual orientation but his role as an activist. Nice.
In the Post account (also by Gadoua via RNS) of his rejection by Catholic Relief Services, Fr. Daley says he hadn't informed the charity of his background when he applied because I'm clear as a bell [that] if I had shared that in the process, I would not have been accepted." I admire the best motives of anyone volunteering to do this kind of work, but in retrospect it looks too much like a stunt.