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'I am gay': Wisconsin priest comes out to parishioners, gets standing ovation

by Brooke Sopelsa and Associated Press /

"I am Greg. I am a Roman Catholic priest. And, yes, I am gay!"

A Roman Catholic priest in Milwaukee has come out as gay, writing that he will no longer live in the shadows of secrecy and plans to be authentic to his gay self.

The Rev. Gregory Greiten first disclosed his sexual orientation publicly on Sunday to the St. Bernadette Parish and was greeted with a standing ovation from his parishioners, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. He also wrote a column that was published Monday in the National Catholic Reporter.

"Today, I break the silence and emerge free from the shackles of shame placed upon me at a young age. There is so much to speak about, to repair and to heal — much beyond the limits of these words in print," he wrote, adding, "I am gay."

It's rare for a priest to come out. Greiten said he revealed his sexual orientation because he wants to be a role model for others. He said he's helping to break the silence of gay men in the clergy so he could reclaim his own voice.

"I will embrace the person that God created me to be," Greiten wrote. "In my priestly life and ministry, I, too, will help you, whether you are gay or straight, bisexual or transgendered, to be your authentic self — to be fully alive living in your image and likeness of God.

"I feel like a new person ... I just feel liberated. That kind of liberation comes when you live with that kind of honesty and integrity."

"I feel like a new person ... I just feel liberated. That kind of liberation comes when you live with that kind of honesty and integrity."

Greiten wrote that he has decided to stand with the "few courageous priests who have taken the risk to come out of the shadows and have chosen to live in truth and authenticity."

"By choosing to enforce silence, the institutional church pretends that gay priests and religious do not really exist. Because of this, there are no authentic role models of healthy, well-balanced, gay, celibate priests to be an example for those, young and old, who are struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation. This only perpetuates the toxic shaming and systemic secrecy," Greiten explained.

Greiten met with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki before coming out, according to an archdiocese spokeswoman.

"We support Father Greiten in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation," Listecki said in a statement Monday. "As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion."

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Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of national LGBTQ Catholic organization DignityUSA, applauded Father Greiten's announcement and said she and her organization stand with him and his parish.

"I imagine it was not only parishioners, but Catholic priests across the country, who were standing to applaud Father Gregory Greiten’s courageous coming out last Sunday," she told NBC News in a statement. "He gave a powerful witness to truth and integrity by demonstrating that it is very possible for gay men to be good, beloved priests. He also helped to lift the very significant burdens that keep too many priests in the painful isolation of the clerical closet. Imagine the psychic and spiritual energy that our Church is losing because so many of its ministers work so hard to deny and hide who they are."

Father Greiten told Milwaukee's local NBC affiliate his life has been "totally transformed" since publicly coming out.

"I feel like a new person," Greiten said. "I just feel liberated. That kind of liberation comes when you live with that kind of honesty and integrity."

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