Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Banished priest now full-time ‘gay rights activist’

Fr. Geoffrey Farrow invited to speak at Dignity USA convention in San Francisco, along with other well-known dissenters from Church teachings

California Catholic Daily
April 20, 2009

Fr. Geoffrey Farrow, the suspended Fresno diocesan priest turned full-time gay rights advocate, has been invited to speak at this summer’s 19th biennial convention of the dissident pro-homosexual group Dignity USA in San Francisco.

On Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008, Fr. Farrow stunned parishioners at St. Paul Newman Center in Fresno by recommending they vote no on Proposition 8 and telling a local television news program he is a homosexual. He removed his belongings from his office at the Newman Center and from his residence at the rectory before the Mass, the diocese said in a statement. Five days later, Fresno Bishop John Steinbock removed Fr. Farrow as Newman Center pastor, took away his diocesan salary and health benefits, and told him not to return to the Newman Center or any other parish in the diocese.

In an April 14 post to his personal blogsite, Fr. Farrow confirms the Dignity USA invitation, and notes: “Presently, I am active with Love Honor and Cherish. This organization is working hard to place an initiative on the November 2010 California ballot, to repeal Proposition 8. Beyond that, I am speaking at various organizations both about Prop 8 and other such hate legislation. I’ve also been asked by various people to write a book about the treatment of LGBT people in/by the Catholic Church. I’ve written two chapters so far and am currently shopping for a literary agent.”

According to Fr. Farrow, Bishop Steinbock has violated Canon Law by refusing to provide for the priest’s support, but the suspended priest says on his blog the bishop’s decision has a bright side: “As a hospital administrator once told me about not accepting federal funds, ‘If you take their money, you have to take their rules.’ By not providing me with any monetary assistance, he has in fact freed me completely to work as an LGBT activist.”

Fr. Farrow says he received an official commendation from the City of West Hollywood, where he apparently now resides, “for my public statements in support of basic human dignity/civil rights for LGBT people.”

Since his suspension from active ministry, Fr. Farrow says he has adopted the following view of the Church: “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, if you think of the Catholic Church as the hierarchy then, there is very little reason to remain a Catholic. On the other hand, if you see the Church as the People of God, a living community of faith, then there are many reasons for hope. Catholics in the pews disagree sharply with their bishops on a host of social issues and tend to be far more progressive than their protestant counterparts. Eventually, the bishops will get it, or will die off and be replaced by bishops who do get it.”

Fr. Farrow will not be alone in his dissident sentiments when he attends the Dignity USA convention in San Francisco, scheduled for July 2-5. Also scheduled to speak is Sr. Jeannine Gramick, who in 1999 was prohibited by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from continuing any “pastoral work” with homosexuals because of her erroneous views on human sexuality.

Other scheduled speakers include Victoria Rue, described by Dignity USA as “a Roman Catholic Lesbian Priest.” Rue claims to have been ordained a deacon in 2004 on the River Danube and later as a priest on the St. Lawrence Seaway in 2005. Jesuit priest Fr. Donal Godfrey, currently executive director of university ministry at the University of San Francisco, will also offer a workshop. Fr. Godfrey is the author of Gays and Grays: the story of the Gay Community at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, a celebratory recounting of how the Catholic parish in San Francisco’s Castro District became perhaps the most notorious ‘gay friendly’ parish in the country. According to Fr. Godfrey, it was at Most Holy Redeemer that the rainbow flag, the emblem of the homosexual rights movement, was invented.

Because of its opposition to Church teachings on human sexuality and the all-male priesthood, Dignity USA has been forbidden to use any Catholic Church properties or to advertise its events in any official publication of the Church.

Despite what has been widely reported as a dwindling membership since its founding in San Diego in 1969, Dignity USA has managed to stay well exposed in the media. For example, in October 1986, after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released its "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” and churches in the U.S. began evicting the group from parish premises, Dignity USA conducted a press conference outside the residence of the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States in Washington to protest the letter’s contents.

More recently, on March 18, Dignity USA joined Call to Action and New Ways Ministry – “three groups that support gay rights in the Catholic Church” – to condemn Pope Benedict XVI for remarks he made in Africa about the ineffectiveness of condoms in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS on the continent. Marianne Duddy-Burke, Dignity USA’s executive director, characterized the pope’s remarks as “amazingly insensitive,” adding, “Dignity USA has long called on the Vatican to acknowledge the importance of educating people on the proper use of condoms, and to support making them widely available as a way of saving lives of vulnerable people around the world.”

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