April 1-7, 2004
Disclosing the Truth
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
UTICA — Father Fred Daley, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church, revealed in a March 26 article in the Observer-Dispatch that he is homosexual. He said his decision to disclose this was based upon prayer and discernment especially over the past couple of years. Father Daley said it was during his conversation with the reporter that he decided it was the appropriate time for him to make his sexual orientation known to the public. The article also stated that diocesan director of communications, Danielle Cummings, said that all priests have an obligation to celibacy, no matter what their sexual orientation may be.
Father Daley said around noon on the day the article was published that he had only received positive telephone calls regarding his disclosure. “Certainly at St. Francis de Sales Parish our mission is to reach out to others as Jesus did,” Father Daley said. “By and large, the reaction has been that the people are very supportive.” His decision to say to the public that he is a homosexual priest who lives a celibate life is one that came after a long and painful journey.
“Certainly my journey of self-acceptance as a gay person was a long and painful one,” Father Daley said. “When I was ordained in 1974 I didn’t have a clue I was gay. At first I felt fear, self-hatred and self-doubt, particularly within a homophobic society and homophobic church. I felt doomed. Through the grace of God, spiritual direction and counseling I came to accept and rejoice in who I am and who God created me to be.”
Father Jeffrey Keefe, OFM Conv., is area director of Courage/Encourage, an organization that supports homosexual persons to live a celibate life according to the teachings of the Catholic Church. He is based at Assumption Church in Syracuse. Father Keefe said that someone in Father Daley’s position would feel it necessary to tell someone about his sexual orientation. “Because they are very much afraid that they won’t be accepted. If they find some people who are understanding and accepting, they don’t have to carry that secret around that eats away at them,” Father Keefe said. “Revealing of self to someone else is pretty universal of anyone with a problem. We want to know how people will react.”
The sex abuse scandals that have plagued the church over the past couple of years and the recently-released John Jay College Report have stirred emotions and opinions as to any connection between homosexuality and the sexual abuse of minors by priests. The two issues are separate, Father Daley explained. “They are two distinct issues,” he said. “One is about sexual orientation and one is about sexual abuse. The sex abuse crisis is a ‘lose-lose-lose’ situation. Everyone hurts — the children, the church and the priest-abusers. Certainly a greater openness about the gift of human sexuality in the church would certainly make for a healthier group of clergy and a better church.” Linking the issue of sexual abuse with the issue of homosexuality is unfortunate, Father Daley said. “There is a significant number of gay, celibate priests doing wonderful ministry, just as there are a great many heterosexual, celibate priests doing wonderful ministry,” he said. Father Keefe fears that focusing on the numbers of the recent report which stated that a large number of abuse victims were boys between the ages of 11 and 14 will exaggerate any connections made between homosexuals and those who sexually abused minors. “However, it [the situation] is something that needs to be faced,” he said.
Father Daley said revealing his truth may confuse some people, but that in the long run living the truth will outweigh negative reaction. He is hoping for acceptance and understanding, he said. “Today, I am the same person I was yesterday,” Father Daley said. “I hope people are open to recognizing that God created me and this is who I am.”