Coming out

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(HOST) Today – October 11th – is “national coming out day” and commenator John Scagliotti (skag-lee-OTT-ee) is thinking about the recent Vatican edict concerning gay seminarians.

(SCAGLIOTTI) At the end of the last century, I had an opportunity to interview Reverend Troy Perry for a documentary I was produ- cing for PBS on the history of gay and lesbian people. Reverend Perry had come out to his Protestant flock as a gay man in the late 1960’s and was quickly fired. Rather than going back into the closet and lying about himself in order to continue as a minister in some other parish, he went on instead to start his own church called The Metropolitan Community. Thirty-five years later the MCC has grown into one of the largest gay organizations in the world, with thousands of congregants attending in many of their recently built churches.

During our interview I asked the Reverend what was an important accomplishment done by gay and lesbian people in the 20th century. He said quote “the most revolutionary act people had done was come out of the closet” unquote.

So I find it ironic that one of the first acts of the new Catholic Pope in Rome is not, as one might expect, addressing some of the big problems like AIDS in Africa or American wars in the Middle East. No, Benedict the 16th wants to ban all gay men from joining the clergy even if they accept a vow of celibacy. There is no question that hundreds of priests have come out since the 70’s. Many of them did leave the church like Perry did his but many stayed inside the church and continued their ministry.

But now, according to journalist JoAnn Wypijewski, who has written extensively on the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, “Reformers are appalled by the church’s gay panic.”
She writes that gay priests are no more likely to flout celibacy than straight ones, and that, when it comes to victims of abuse by priests, many therapists agree that – quote – “the vast majority are girls and women. Half the membership of SNAP, or Survivors Network for People Abused by Priests are women” – unquote.

This panic by the rulers of the church will force some gay seminar- ians out of their ministries but it will also send others back into a dishonest life that will skew their moral center. Trying to create another generation of dishonest priests will not generate more respect for the Church.

Honesty, after all, is what National Coming Out day is really about. And as Reverend Perry says, being honest about
yourself is “a revolutionary act”.

This is John Scagliotti from Guilford.

John Scagliotti is the creator of the public television series “In the Life” and the Emmy Award-winning producer of the documentary “Before Stonewall.” He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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