When Daily RFT reached Father Gary Meier yesterday afternoon he was waiting for a car service to pick him up and take him to a television studio for a satellite interview with CNN.
"I don't like the cars," he grumbled, saying he prefers to drive himself.
Meier has been inundated with interview requests ever since Pope Francis gave a surprising response to reporters who asked him, essentially, what his views are on homosexual priests.
"If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?" the Holy Father answered in Italian.
As one of only a handful of priests to come out as openly gay, Meier has become a kind of de facto spokesman for the gay clergy, and news outlets from around the country (including this one) have been eager to hear his thoughts.
See also: - Father Gary Meier, St. Louis Catholic Priest, Announces He is Gay - Gary Meier, Openly Gay St. Louis Priest, Launches Website for LGBT-Friendly Catholics - Will Supreme Court DOMA Ruling Help Missouri Fight for LGBT Partner Benefits?
Earlier this spring, Meier revealed himself to be the author of a 2011 book called Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest. It was previously published under the name "Anonymous." Meier left his parish at Saints Teresa & Bridget Parish in north St. Louis a year ago to attend University of Missouri-St. Louis full time, but also because he says he could no longer abide by the church's anti-gay teachings. Today he is a licensed social worker with a private practice and runs the website Rising Voices, a place for LGBT-friendly Catholics.
Here is video of Pope Francis making the remark on the papal plane back from a visit to Brazil.
"I am surprised. I'm optimistic," Meier says of the remarks. "What a great thing to hear something other than outright anti-gay, hostile statements."
Meier notes that, although a welcome shift in tone from his predecessor, the Pope's statements are not exactly a statement of welcome to lesbian, gay and transgender clergy or parishioners. And Pope Francis has a backlog of very unfriendly comments about gays, especially when he lobbied against a law in his native Argentina legalizing gay marriage. He called the practice of gay parents being allowed to adopt "discrimination against children." (Here's Salon's list of the five worst quotes Pope Francis gave about homosexuality.)
"We're a long ways away from saying homosexuality is a gift and not a cross," says Meier. "My hope is that we can start having the conversation. Let's have the conversation. Let's talk about it. Wouldn't it be great if more gay priests came out?"
Father Meier also e-mailed Daily RFT a lengthier statement of his thoughts. Check it out after the jump.
"Will The Pope's Comments About Gay Priest - Inspire Other Gay Priest to Come Out?"
The question of today has been... 'What has been my reaction to the Pope's statement regarding not judging Gay Priest?' The answer... Cautiously optimistic. Optimistic because today's statement comes after years of anti-gay rhetoric from the Catholic Church. In so many ways it is a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone from the church hierarchy has said something that isn't hateful, harmful, and antigay - and it was the Pope!
Maybe now we can begin to have a conversation about the Church's teaching on Homosexuality; a teaching that I believe has caused harm to the LGBT community. In my book, "Hidden Voices, Reflections of a Gay Catholic Priest" I outlined some of the harm our teaching has caused especially to our youth; and especially when 30% of all successful teenage suicides are attributed to sexual identity issues. At the very least, perhaps now others will follow the Pope's lead and be a little less judgmental themselves.
If the only good that comes out of the Pope's statement is for others to stop judging, that would be a great place to start. For years, members of the LGBT community have been told they are disordered; that they have a disease like alcoholism; that they are defective in some way; that they are wrong when they should be right.
My prayer is that we as a church community might see this as an opportunity to stop causing harm and become more welcoming; more inviting; more loving and to begin to appreciate the goodness and dignity of our LGBT members.
In conclusion, I wander if other priest might not see this as an invitation to 'come out' publically. In my experience, it has been an incredibly positive experience. As Saint Catherine once said: "Speak the truth with a thousand voices - it is silence that kills the world." Let us end the silence.