(CNSNews.com) – A longtime Washington, D.C., liberal Internet activist has founded a Web site that he says will collect accounts of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood--accounts he will use to “encourage” them to change their views on homosexual marriage and other issues.
“Outing” the priests--publicly revealing their homosexuality--is “not off the table,” Phil Attey, founder of the Web site ChurchOuting.com, told CNSNews.com. The site will also collect information on straight priests who have broken their vow of celibacy, using the information to “encourage” those priests to go against their Church’s teachings on homosexuality as well.
“This is a campaign to collect information about closeted gay Catholic priests, as well as heterosexual Catholic priests who secretly engage in romantic or sexual affairs, yet are unwilling to speak out against the church leadership's anti-gay political campaigns,” the Web site says.
Attey, a former Obama campaign organizer and Internet organizing pioneer, said the goal of his site was not to “out” the priests, but to end what he called the “spiritual abuse” inflicted by Catholic priests who teach against homosexual marriage and the homosexual lifestyle.
“The goal of this site is not to out priests,” Attey said. “It’s to end the cycle of spiritual abuse that has gone on for generations within the Catholic Church, demonizing what it is to be gay. Closeted gay priests spiritually abusing young gay kids and giving them the alternative of going into the clergy and into the priesthood.”
Priests who refuse to come out after being confronted may be publicly exposed, according to Attey.
“We’re not taking that option off the table,” he said.
Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, strongly condemned the plan.
“There’s a word for this--it’s ‘fascism.’ They’re just out to publicly destroy people,” Donahue told CNSNews.com.
“Are they going to start harassing, intimidating, stalking priests?” Donahue asked. “This is a religious cleansing; this is a witch hunt. This is simply beyond the pale.”
Focusing on Washington Archdiocese
Attey’s campaign is focused on the Washington, D.C., archdiocese, where Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl, who has spoken out against the D.C. City Council’s move to recognize gay marriage.
“For the archdiocese and Catholic Charities, two core tenets of our faith are at the heart of our concerns: our understanding of the nature of marriage and our commitment to expressing Christ’s love through service to others,” Wuerl wrote in a Nov. 17 Washington Post op-ed.
“Under the legislative language before the D.C. Council, the archdiocese would be forced to choose between these two principles. The archdiocese has long made clear that all people have equal dignity, regardless of sexual orientation. But marriage is reserved for husband and wife because of its essential connection with the creation of children.”
Wuerl noted that if the D.C. City Council moves to redefine marriage to include homosexuals his church may not be able to continue partnering with the city on other charitable projects, such as feeding the homeless.
“(T)he District requires Catholic Charities to certify its compliance with city laws when applying for contracts and grants. This includes contracts for homeless services, mental health services, foster care and more. Since Catholic Charities cannot comply with city mandates to recognize and promote same-sex marriages, the city would withhold contracts and licenses,” Wuerl explained.
According to Attey, homosexual and non-celibate heterosexual priests who support these and other positions of the Washington archdiocese are “hypocrites,” whom his Web site would work to bring out of the “closet.”
“The dream of this site is to collect enough stories about enough priests so that we can go to them and say ‘Listen, this Web site has collected enough stories about enough of you in the archdiocese to where the archbishop can’t seek retribution against you or retaliate against you if you all come out at once. And if you do that there aren’t going to be any stories floated about you (to media outlets.)’ ”
After that, where a homosexual or non-celibate priest stands on gay issues is up to him, Attey explained, saying he doesn’t care so long as “everyone knows the priest is gay.”
“Where they stand on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) issues after that is totally fine with me. If they want to be an openly-gay priest standing up as an openly-gay person standing up in front of their parish supporting whatever ideology the Catholic Church wants them to support, that’s fine.”
Attey said he will use “rigorous scrutiny” in investigating any tip he receives about a potentially gay priest, pointing out that people who wish to leave tips on his web site cannot remain anonymous and must be able to provide the names of other witnesses that can corroborate the stories.
“No report is allowed to be anonymous, they have to give us their names (and) their e-mail address at least. We send them an e-mail, if it all seems credible, and we ask them if we can speak with them about it. At which point I ask them to write it out in the form of a narrative and sign it.
“I’m specifically looking for situational or logistical information around their story: where it took place, any other individuals involved, dates, and times, so that we can start looking into (it.) After we’ve verified it through two or three different sources then I think it’s fair to say that it’s a credible story.
“No name would ever be released unless it goes through that rigorous scrutiny,” he said.
Attey said that he will use the accounts to “encourage” gay and non-celibate priests to come out publicly and turn against the Church’s teachings on homosexuality.
“We’re going to encourage them to change,” Attey explained. “This is a much bigger issue within the Catholic Church--rectifying the hypocrisy of their stands on LGBT people, not just civil equality.”
Priests who might face public exposure, he said, would be either high profile priests or more junior clergy who were outspoken proponents of the Church’s teachings on gay issues.
Attey said that high profile priests would receive a visit first, to let them know that they were going to be exposed whether they cooperated or not.
“We’d go to him first and we’d explain to him that we’re about to do this and then we’d probably do it whether he was willing to come out on his own or not.”
Priests who strongly support the Church’s teaching may also be exposed, depending on how outspoken they are.
“It also depends upon how heavy handed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is and a particular bishop or archbishop is on making them follow through on the agenda of the USCCB.
“If that priest is allowing his Church to disseminate the pastoral letter condemning homosexuality again and or using their collection plate to fund anti-gay initiatives well that’s another marker--I’m not taking it off (the table.) We’re going to analyze what’s going on within that parish and the behavior of that particular priest to decide whether or not at the end if they’re not willing to come out on their own we’re going to need to intervene.”
Donahue thinks the tactic is so heinous that even some homosexual leaders probably oppose it.
“It’s borderline blackmail, at the very least, if not rank blackmail as one could maintain,” Donahue said. “Even if one disagrees with the archbishop in Washington in terms of what he’s doing, these kinds of tactics are obviously so incredibly monstrous and odious that it would seem to beg a response from gay leaders.”