Monday, October 13, 2008

Fr. Geoff in today's L.A. Times

Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

I'm at our Diocesan Clergy Conference today but taking time to post us this link to the front page article in today's L.A. Times about Fr. Geoff Farrow ... the Roman Catholic priest standing up against Proposition 8. You'll want to read the whole piece here ... but here are two "take away" quotes:"

"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."

"I know these words of truth will cost me dearly," he said. "But to withhold them . . . I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well."


M.J. said...

Hi Susan and all -

Here's my questions with relation to the manner in which Fr. Geoff shared his announcement with his congregation.

Fr. Geoff has only been at CSUF Newman Center since April when he took over after a well loved/liked priest (actually a friend from high school) was transferred to Bakersfield. The Newman Center is a very diverse population - originally set up to support the University decades ago it has grown into a very family-centric, multi-generational parish. Among parishes in the Fresno Diocese it has always been more progressive and might possibly be seen as similar in mission and vision as All Saints-Pas. I attended the parish during my high school and early college days after my family relocated to Fresno in the mid70's and early 80's.

That small background by someone who has actually been present and involved in the church on some level, here are the questions/concerns that I have with regards to the manner in which the statement was shared/made.

*As a Pastor, Fr. Geoff's first commitment is to the flock that he shepherds. I'm not understanding how bringing a television news crew into a service is nurturing and supporting the stability and growth of the community. Fr. Geoff is still building relationships within this community, earning trust, helping people understand where his vision and heart is with relationship to building the community. This action has caused a great pain to an excellent community that was just settling into the new leadership of Fr. Geoff, and now within a very short period of time has lost their shepherd...again.

*Even All Saints-Pas clergy I am sure shares the vision/mission of the Rector with its Vestry. If not for approval; for guidance and support. Fr. Geoff never brought this decision to the Parish Council - the letter came out by Bishop Steinbock in June, Fr. Geoff had apparantly been contemplating and working through this decision since that time. It seems as though he understood the cost of his announcement yet didn't let the Parish Council "in" on the potential repercussions that a public statement such as this could have. This left the Parish Council, other clergy and staff with no way to really support his decision, position. Nor did they have a plan or way to encourage and nurture the church following the announcement.

I wish Fr. Geoff could have trusted his parish family with his sexual orientation. There are other priests who have successfully navigated this issue in their parishes - some even in the same Diocese that Fr. Geoff was in - and found that remaining as a parishes priest they have provided humanity to an issue that many respond to out of fear or ignorance.

I think of how much richer the Newman Center's mission and outreach could have become if the announcement had come in different manner rather than how it did.

I'm young in my pastoring experience. I have watched a congregation deal with the departure of a founding pastor for lesser reasons and the trauma that their departure has left. My pastoral theology and pastoral care courses in seminary stress the importance of not putting a personal agenda over the needs of a community. Finding ways to be true and authentic to who you are while growing a community into that understanding.

Susan, as someone who is more experienced in pastoral care/ministry than I am - how did the actions and announcement by Fr. Geoff not put his needs ahead of those that he vowed to nurture, support and protect in his ordination and installation vows? I'm at a loss in understanding this question.


David@Montreal said...

Ssuan, thank-you for the update, but a belated thank-you also for providing the link to Father Geoff's blog in your earlier posting.

From Father Geoff's blog, I know you're following the site, so you'll already be aware of just how many of our informal Anglican network of bloggers have stepped up to support this brave priest.
I find it heartening, and yet another sign of just how clearly the Holy Spirit is blessing us in our Anglican vocations.
So a double thank-you Susan, for your part in all of this


Suzer said...

What a brave and courageous man! If only more priests like him would speak truth to power, the world might just change for the better.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

I am trying not to be bitter that this good Catholic priest has more courage and moral fiber than our Presiding Bishop and most of the House of Bishops.

He is a hero, in the truest sense of that word. I hope that more of our shepherds will take a leaf from his book and stand up for what it right. It's not as if it's going to cost them their priesthoods or their livelihoods...

Father Geoff has put it all on the line to speak the truth and live into the Good News. What are the rest of us willing to do to follow his lead? I, for one, don't want him to walk that road alone.


Unknown said...

Surely, the Diocese of San Joaquin could use a priest like him.

Fran said...

If I might be so bold to say something in response and with great respect to MJ, about her comment.

I say this as a Roman Catholic, always frustrated but loathe to leave at this point.

Your points MJ are very good and well taken, and over these past few days I have wondered about Father Geofff's self-destruct impulse. I am not saying that in criticism- quite the opposite, I could understand it, if that is so.

However, I think that in times like these change can only come from within and often from an extreme action. I do not think any half-measures will work here.

I agree - his actions may have been hurtful in many ways to his flock. However, I must add this emphatically... Being complicit with something like Prop 8 and not speaking out about it might indeed be more "appropriate" and yet far more potentially hurtful indeed.

I am not sure how much you read about Fr. Geoff or if you have seen his blog, but he was very clear in saying that he realized that working from within was no longer an option. Maybe he did share some things with his parish family... and maybe he was loved and accepted.

All the gay RC priests - and I know many who would fit into that category - who do that, ultimately stand by while others dies of a thousand cuts or one big one.

I hope that this is not too much and as always Susan- your blog, feel free to moderate me if you wish!

Pax et bonum from a very TEC loving RC in the Albany NY diocese.

JCF said...

Pardon me, Jeannette---but your post sounds a lot like what is known as "Concern Trolling". On the surface, just an honest expression of sincere questions...

...but underneath that surface, an agenda which is insensitive/disproportianate AT BEST, and covertly bigoted at worst.

Fr. Geoff explained on his blog, the interview/camera crew: he KNEW what he was saying would be controversial, and subject him to much interest: some supportive, but some hateful. Getting it all on film was his way of getting the (highly interesting) story out, IN HIS OWN WORDS. [Does anyone seriously argue that there would have been EXACTLY the same outcome, vis-a-vis the bishop, w/o the video record?]

Similarly w/ the Parish Council: I'm sure that being at the Newman Center for 4 months, was long enough to know that not all of them would support him (that some would intensely oppose him). I'm sure Fr. Geoff thought it highly likely that informing the PC would get him removed BEFORE his public announcement. I don't blame him one bit to, again, have the story go out in his own words, in public (instead of being "disappeared" by the bishop, w/o the parish knowing WHY).

Finally re "not putting a personal agenda over the needs of a community". I call BIGOTRY on you, Jeannette! How DARE you dismiss the rights of countless LGBTs, as a "personal agenda"? What about the LGBT "community"---or do only those who wish to impose their religious beliefs on the taxpayers of California matter?

Lord have mercy---God bless and defend your faithful servant, Fr. Geoff. VOTE NO ON 8---no on Prop Hate!

David@Montreal said...

Your post really, really saddens me.

A young woman, with an obvious love for the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ; to see you resort to the legalism of the patriarchy to slam a brother whose heroic stand with those that same patriarchy judges, condems and marginalizes, is tragic.

No where do I see you taking a stand yourself- against the Bishops who have violated the separation of Church and state in your country.

As to your criticism, have you ever thought what we are blessed to winess is 'embodied leadership' from Father Geoff. When the fruits of complicity of the Bishops in an act of legal bogotry had become shameful and toxic, Father Geoff offered himself up a living holocaust by speaking love and truth to those in his charge.

Now who does that remind you of?


Greg said...


We could also argue that Jesus should have put the needs of his community first and not have spoken truth to power. After all, the followers of Jesus knew how he felt about things and they knew that he disagreed with many of the beliefs of their leadership and they still loved and accepted him. We could say that Jesus was self-destructive and that he caused himself and his community to suffer because of his very public statements.
I, of course, do not believe any of this. I believe that it was out of love for his community (and his community was made up of more that just the people around him at the time) that Jesus spoke truth to power. Thanks be to God that our Savior did this and that Fr. Geoff has as well.
I know Roman Catholic Priests who are Gay and quietly disagree with their leaders. They love their communities and serve them well. They are loved and accepted by their communities.
However, they also stand by SILENTLY while other LGBT Roman Catholics are driven from the Roman Catholic Church, and non-Roman Catholics are also harmed, by the words and actions of their leadership. I do not believe that these silent Gay priests are loving their communities the way Jesus loved his.
Thank God for Fr. Geoff and may Our Savior continue to give him strength.

In Christ,


M.J. said...

Thank you to those individuals who with respect provided their thoughts. To the individual who felt that I was less than honorable with my question - I am truly asking these questions to seek understanding. As an individual that is currently in seminary, I am working on understanding how the needs of the clergy person growing in their awareness of self is held in tension with the larger needs of the community.

It is an honest question, and a truthful search from one who is attempting to understand and further make sense of this.

RonF said...

jcf, the community that Jeanette was referring to is what was Fr. Geoff's parish. Unlike the group you refer to, Fr. Geoff took an oath to nurture and lead that community. As long as he is subject to that oath, that community should be his first concern.

Now, if he decides that duty leads him elsewhere, then let him forswear his oath and take up the cause that he sees fit. There is, depending on the new cause, honor in that. But until then his obligation and his accountability is to CSUF Newman Center first and foremost. To use them as a foil to further some other agenda is dishonorable. And Fr. Geoff could have gotten his message out in other ways. A video of his statement could have been made elsewhere and at another time before that Sunday, or even after. He had no right to do what he did without consulting at least with the parish council. And if they told him "No", then too bad. He had alternatives, and the Church building is not there for him, it's there for the community.

RonF said...

Jesus did not take an oath to obey a particular group of leaders. Jesus did not take an oath to lead a particular community in accordance with rules set forth by a group of leaders. Jesus did not gain access to the resources of a particular group of leaders and followers by making promises to both groups that he then broke. Jesus spoke truth to power from a powerless position. Jesus didn't do any of these things because if he had he could not have righteously done what he did.

Jesus told his followers exactly what to expect from what he did and told them exactly what to expect if they followed him. Don't dare compare Fr. Geoff to Jesus. What Fr. Geoff did has certainly cost him, but Jesus was honest to everyone he dealt with. Fr. Geoff was not.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

So people heard Father Geoff saying "I cannot support Prop 8"---so what? Are they so childish and weak that they cannot even HEAR dissension from a priest? Or is the real worry that they will hear his words and follow him into the voting booth?

And Ron---I'll compare Father Geoff to Jesus if I want to, thanks much. Last time I looked, one was still free to speak one's mind in America. And Father Geoff is an American too. If you don't like what he has to say, you---like any in the parish he served---are free to ignore him. He won't be around to trouble you any more---even though he has been MUCH more honest than those who are silently complicit in stripping civil rights from their fellow, hard-working, tax-paying citizens.


Greg said...


My Dear Brother In Christ! I disagree with you. I see Father Geoff's position in the Roman Catholic Church as being very powerless in much the same way as Jesus was powerless before the leaders of his day. Our Savior's loyalty was to his Father and not to the leaders who sat, "on the seat of Moses." While Jesus respected the religious leaders
he NEVER hesitated to disagree with them when they said or did something that hurt God's People. Saint Paul did the same thing when he disagreed with Saint Peter,"To his face." While you are correct that Jesus never took a vow as Fr. Geoff did, I hope that you are not saying that the vow that Fr. Geoff took somehow means that his loyalty to his religious leadership is more important than his loyalty to Jesus and ALL of the People of God. I doubt that when Fr. Geoff made his vows that was saying that every word that would come from his leaders would be infallible and would literally be THE WORD OF GOD. As I mentioned earlier, I think that Saint Paul would have trouble with this position.
As long as I see people like Fr. Geoff who are acting as Jesus by loving others and speaking truth to power no matter what the consequences are to themselves, I will very happily compare them to Jesus.

In Christ,


PS. Jeanette, All the best with your studies! Hang in there!

Brother David said...

Ronf, perhaps you forget, there is a GLBTQ community within the community of the Neuman Center. We are everywhere. It was that community which spontaneously responded with applause when Fr. Geoff finished his remarks. I am sure that was the community to which JCF made reference.

RonF said...

Greg, I agree with you that one's first duty is to God and not to religious leaders. After all, that's how the Anglican church came about. But Fr. Geoff made promises to the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and to the people of his parish. If he found that his conscience made it necessary to break those promises, then it was incumbent on him to tell them so and to permit them to prepare for the consequences (especially those of his parish). Fr. Geoff had an obligation to not take advantage of the trust that those people had placed in him. He failed to do so. He used them. Using people without their consent is wrong. It's wrong regardless of your cause. He could have served his cause without using people to do so.

I do not trust people who betray the trust others have placed in them.

dahved, I'm aware of what jcf meant. I believe that he was confused by what Jeanette meant by the word (and unnecessarily hostile to boot). She made an excellent point and he abused her for it.

RonF said...

dahved, remember that Fr. Geoff took an oath to serve the entire community of his parish, not just one part of it. Let him free himself of that obligation and then he's free to do as he pleases.

uffda51 said...

We are all children of God. What better place to put forth that "agenda" than in church?