Sunday, February 29, 2004

Gay priests in a Barely Closed Closet

From the sounds of this piece from the Springfield, Mass. paper there are priests up there openly living an active gay lifestyle. They name names... this is in a state where the church must take a strong stand against gay marriage?

From Gay priests in a barely closed closet:

"In the magazine the Catholic World Report, Jesuit Paul Shaughnessey in 2000 wrote 'the ugly and indisputable facts: a disproportionately high percentage of priests is gay; a disproportionately high percentage of gay priests routinely engages in sodomy; this sodomy is frequently ignored, often tolerated and sometimes abetted by bishops and superiors.'

One of two men who accused former Bishop Thomas L. Dupre of sexual abuse said he was moved to come forward only after reading of Dupre's preachings against gay marriage. The man, who is gay, said he was angered by the hypocrisy.

A statement issued by the man's lawyer read, 'He believed that Bishop Dupre's comments reflected his disapproval of our client's lifestyle. ... (As a result) he began to see his relationship with Bishop Dupre in a different light and he contacted our office.'

At The Pub, the priest has been a regular for years, according to staff there.

'And he's not the only priest who comes in either,' said Pub bartender Thomas Martin, who is also a plaintiff in a clergy abuse suit.

The priest didn't return a call from The Republican, but others have acknowledged or been accused of engaging in a gay lifestyle.

The Rev. James A. Sipitkowski was living a homosexual lifestyle while assigned to Holy Family Parish in Springfield several years ago, according to a sworn statement by the Rev. Paul E. Manship, who found pictures of Sipitkowski dressed in women's clothing with other scantily clad men. The statement was included in a suit charging Holy Family Parish and a church deacon with a variety of employment violations, including sexual harassment. Sipitkowski is not a defendant in the suit.

About four years ago Sipitkowski was transferred to Sacred Heart Parish in Easthampton, where he currently works. He refused to comment on his situation, referring a call to his lawyer, who also had no comment.

Last week a Springfield man's obituary in The Republican revealed his 25-year relationship with his male partner, a period which included the last three years he served as a priest in the Springfield Diocese.

When Chicopee native and Springfield diocesan priest the Rev. Robert L. Arpin was on loan to the Diocese of San Francisco in the 1980s, he announced from the pulpit that he was gay and had AIDS. In doing so, he became the first American priest to openly discuss his sexual orientation and the illness that eventually claimed his life at age 48 in 1995.

Two other priests working in the Springfield Diocese have close ties with the gay community. They include a once high-ranking priest who performed publicly at an AIDS benefit.

In an attempt to place the abuse scandal in historical context last week, Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk, the acting administrator in the Springfield Diocese, said some priests in the past thought it was all right to have sex with young men. He later clarified his comments, adding that sexual misconduct in any context is never acceptable, and apologized if his comments offended anyone.

The idea that there are gay priests may be as shocking to some Catholics as it was to a former Springfield resident who was enrolled in a seminary high school in the 1970s. At the time, he said, he was trying to decide whether to become a priest while simultaneously struggling with his own sexual identity. "