Catholic Priest Receives A Standing Ovation After Coming Out As Gay

The Rev. Gregory Greiten said he "will embrace the person that God created me to be."

A Roman Catholic priest in Wisconsin says he feels “liberated” after coming out to his church ― and the world ― as a gay man.

The Rev. Gregory Greiten, who serves as the pastor of Milwaukee’s St. Bernadette Parish, received a standing ovation when he opened up about his sexuality to his parishioners this past Sunday.

“I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest,” he reportedly told the congregation. “And, yes, I am gay!”

Greiten further detailed his journey toward self-acceptance in a lengthy column published in the National Catholic Reporter on Monday.

“A few Roman Catholic priests around the world have mustered up the courage to break through the wall of silence and speak the truth about their sexual identity,” he wrote. “I pledge to you that I will no longer live my life in the shadows of secrecy. I promise to be my authentically gay self. I will embrace the person that God created me to be.”

He continued:

This fire burning deep inside my heart, I will no longer contain. I will not be silent any longer; the price to pay is way too great. I must speak my truth. I have lived far too many years chained up and imprisoned in the closet behind walls of shame, trauma and abuse because of the homophobia and discrimination so prevalent in my church and the world. But rather, today, I chart a new course in freedom and in integrity knowing that there is nothing that anyone can do to hurt or destroy my spirit any longer. First steps in accepting and loving the person God created me to be.

Greiten, of course, is not alone. Although most surveys are based on limited samples due to the sensitivity of the issue, more recent estimates have put the share of Catholic priests in the U.S. identifying as gay between 15 percent and 50 percent.

Despite the applause Greiten received Sunday, churchgoers seemed divided over the implications of his announcement.

Madge Powell, a parishioner at St. Bernadette’s for eight years, told the National Catholic Reporter that she couldn’t care less about Greiten’s sexuality. “I love him for the person he is,” she said.

Shawn Govern, who is opposed to same-sex marriage, took a more tentative stance. “He made a choice to walk in Christ’s shoes,” Govern said, “because he’s not going to be accepted by everyone.”

For his part, Greiten said his decision to come out was very much a personal choice.

“The difference for me now is I get to live a life that’s open,” he told local NBC affiliate TMJ 4. “It is honest and it’s full of integrity, and that’s what’s most important to me.”

Whether Greiten will face any church-based repercussions will depend on Milwaukee’s Archbishop Jerome Listecki. In a statement released to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday, Listecki seemed supportive of Greiten’s announcement and confirmed that the two had met beforehand.

“We support Father Greiten in his own, personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation,” Listecki wrote.

“As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion,” he added. “As priests who have made a promise to celibacy, we know that every week there are people in our pews who struggle with the question of homosexuality.”