The Power of Headlines and Scandal
So, if you were to see the headline “Priest compelled to reveal he’s gay,” what would you expect to see in the story? That the Church (or somebody) forced him to admit his orientation as a targeted effort laced with malice. But in actuality, the LA Times story to which the Providence Journal gave that title is about a Fresno priest who couldn’t stand to be reminded of the Church’s teaching on marriage and took his homily as an opportunity to contravene it:
With Proposition 8 on the November ballot, and his own bishop urging Central Valley priests to support its definition of traditional marriage, Farrow told congregants he felt obligated to break “a numbing silence” about church prejudice against homosexuals.
“How is marriage protected by intimidating gay and lesbian people into loveless and lonely lives?” he asked parishioners of the St. Paul Newman Center. “I am morally compelled to vote no on Proposition 8.”
Not only that, but he was apparently compelled to notify the local media and do a television interview before Mass and then skip town after Mass. In other words, Farrow’s was a premeditated action bringing scandal to his diocese.
The news stories mention Farrow’s loss of position and salary, as well as possible defrockment, but it takes an egregious aversion to the nature and purpose of religious organizations not to see how declaring one’s Church to be “an accomplice of injustice” provides a fine example of what Roman Catholics mean when they say that a person is not so much actively excommunicated as acknowledged as having excommunicated him or herself. It also provides a taste of the paradigm that will exist in American society if same-sex marriage were to become a part of the law.
In the meantime, Christians should pray for Mr. Farrow — that he overcomes whatever demons have been whispering in his ear and seeks reconciliation.
It’s also worth noting that the Providence Journal excised several paragraphs between these two:
“He ambushed us,” Gallegos, 44, said while leaving the white concrete-block church with his wife and two children.
Farrow’s statements, they said, were not in accord with church teachings.
Non-Catholics might scoff at the presumption of a lay family’s correcting a priest with decades of experience on a matter of church teachings. The “they” in the second paragraph, however, was actually “parish leaders,” including the parish’s Deacon, who read from the bishop’s letter that sparked Farrow’s action.