NYC: Black priest gay in NYC challenges Catholicism From Within

Harlem parishioners who worship at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church are welcomed by a framed portrait Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister named after a rebellious 16th-century German priest excommunicated.

NYC: Black priest gay in NYC challenges Catholicism From Within

The Rev. Bryan Massingale sometimes preaches at St. Charles. He pursues his ministry in ways which echo Martin Luthers.

Massingale, like King, decries the American scourge racial inequalities. He teaches African American religious ethics at Fordham University.

Massingale, like the German Martin Luther is at odds with Catholic teaching. He supports the ordination and celibacy for Catholic clergy. Massingale is a gay man who vocally disapproves of the church's doctrine regarding same-sex relationships. Instead, he advocates for full inclusion of LGBTQ Catholics in the church.

Vatican believes gays and lesbians must be treated with dignity, respect and compassion. However, gay sex is considered "intrinsically disordered and sinful".

Massingale, who came out as gay in 2019 and gave a Sunday homily, envisioned a world where every person's dignity was respected, protected, and loved.

He said that the message of equality, tolerance and cooperation is not being received well in his own family. In response, a worshiper shouted "Preach!"

Massingale was a Milwaukee native, born in 1957. His mother was a school secretary, and his father was a factory worker. His family immigrated from Mississippi to escape racial discrimination.

Racism was a problem even in Wisconsin. Massingale stated that his father could not work as a carpenter due to a color restriction that prevented African Americans from joining the union of carpenters.

When the Massingales moved to Milwaukee's outskirts, they also encountered racism. They ventured to a predominantly white parish.

He recalled the words of the parish priest, "This wouldn't be a very comfortable church for you to be part of." The family then moved to a predominantly Black Catholic Church.

Massingale also recalled an incident when he was a newly ordained priest after celebrating his first Mass in a predominantly white church.

"The first parishioner who greeted me at the door was the one to tell me that the archbishop had made the biggest mistake by being there. "People will never accept you."

Massingale said that he had considered quitting the Catholic Church but decided that he was necessary.

He said, "I'm going to not let the church's racist behavior rob me my relationship with God." "I see it in my mission to make it more universal and the institution I believe Jesus desires for the church to be.

Massingale believes that racism in the U.S. Catholic Church is the reason for some Black Catholics leaving the Church. He says that the church isn't doing enough to address racism within its ranks as well as the wider society.

According to a Pew Research Center survey, nearly half of Black Americans who were raised Catholic don't identify anymore, with many turning Protestants. The survey revealed that only 6% of Black Americans identify as Catholics and that close to 80% believe that opposing racism is crucial to their faith.

The U.S. Catholic Church has a troubled history with race. Georgetown University is one of the institutions that were involved in slavery trade. It has also struggled to hire African American priests.

However, Catholic schools were among those that desegregated first and government officials who opposed racial inclusion were excommunicated.

Massingale was disappointed when U.S. bishops sent a pastoral note in 2018 decrying the "persistence of the evil of race"

He said that the phrase "white nationalism" is not in the document. It doesn't mention the Black Lives Matter movement. "The problem with the church’s teachings about racism is that they are not intended to disturb white people."

Massingale is a Jesuit professor at Fordham University. He teaches a class about homosexuality and Christian ethics. After reflecting on the book of Isaiah, he said he was able to come to terms with his sexuality at 22.

He said that he realized that God loved him and accepted him as a Black gay man, regardless of what the church had to say.

In 1983, he was ordained in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. This epidemic disproportionately affected Black Americans and gay men. One of his first funerals as priest was the one of a gay man whose relatives wanted to keep his sexuality and disease out of it.

Massingale stated that they should have been able "to turn to their church when they were in grief." "But they couldn't because the stigma was so strong because ministers spoke of homosexuality and AIDS being a punishment for sin.

Pope Francis called for pastoral compassion for LGBTQ Catholics. He has however described homosexuality among clergy as worrying. The Vatican law is clear that same-sex marriages can not be blessed within the church. Some dioceses have fired LGBTQ employees.

Massingale believes that Catholics should have the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation.

He said, "I believe that one can express one’s sexuality in an ethical, responsible, committed, life-giving, and joy-filled way."

Massingale was recognized by like-minded organizations, such as FutureChurch for his advocacy of priests being allowed to marry and women being given more leadership positions within the church.

Deborah Rose-Milavec is the co-director of the organization. She said that "he is one the most prophetic and compelling, inspiring, transforming leader in the Catholic Church." "When he speaks you can be sure that deep truths are being communicated."

Massingale is not only loved by many people, but also has some harsh critics like the Church Militant conservative Catholic news outlet, Church Militant which portrays Massingale's LGBTQ advocacy as evil.

Massingale has a reputation for being respected by his colleagues at Fordham. He was also awarded a prestigious endowed chair by the university. If Massingale has any criticisms from Fordham faculty members, they tend not to voice them in the public sphere.

Although he says he is blessed with many messages of support and hope, revealing his sexuality to the world has been a difficult decision.

He said, "I have lost some priest friend who find it difficult not to be too closely associated me because if I'm friends with them, 'what'll people say about me?'"

Massingale is optimistic about the gradual changes in the Catholic Church due to Pope Francis's recent signals and signals from European bishops who expressed a desire to see them, such as blessing same-sex marriages.

After a Fordham class, he stated that "My dream wedding would consist of either two men or two ladies standing in front of the church and marrying one another as an act de faith." "If they were Black that would be amazing."


 

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