Monday, March 15, 2010

Fr. Robert Carter

Today's reported the death of the Rev. Robert Carter, a pioneer and hero among those who struggle with LGBTQ issues, faith communities, and civil rights. Known for his work in the Catholic Church (as a priest), and as an out gay man who helped create the National Gay Lesbian Task Force, Rev. Carter has left his imprint upon the very soul of many throughout this world.

From the

The Rev. Robert Carter, who in the early 1970s was one of the first Roman Catholic priests in the country to declare publicly that he was gay and who helped found the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, died on Feb. 22 in the Bronx. He was 82.

His death, at a Jesuit health care facility, was confirmed by the Rev. Thomas R. Slon, executive assistant to the provincial of the New York Province of the Society of Jesus.

Father Carter’s coming out was a very public one. In October 1973, Dr. Howard J. Brown, a former New York City health services administrator, announced that he was gay and that he was forming a civil rights organization for homosexual men and women. Then called the National Gay Task Force, it later became the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

An article about the group in The New York Times said: “A number of homosexual and lesbian organizations were represented on the board. One member was the Rev. Robert Carter, a Jesuit priest and professor of historical theology.”

Soon afterward he was visited by a subprovincial of the Jesuit order. “It seems that they were afraid I had had a psychotic break or something,” Father Carter wrote in an unpublished memoir.

Although there were calls for his expulsion by irate “Jesuits, parents and alumni of our schools,” Father Carter continued, he was not disciplined. In those days, the church and the Jesuit order were somewhat more accepting of gay people.

The church continues to hold that while homosexual attraction is “disordered,” gay people who are celibate are not inherently sinful. In 2005, however, the Vatican issued a document saying the church would not admit to a seminary or ordain “those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’ ”

Father Carter helped found the New York chapter of DignityUSA, a support group for gay Catholics. In 1972, with the Rev. John McNeill, he hosted the first meeting of the chapter at the Jesuit chapel on West 98th Street in Manhattan.

“I refer to him as the heart of Dignity,” Father McNeill, the author of “The Church and the Homosexual” (Beacon, 1976), said in an interview. “I was doing all the writing, but he was on the front line, meeting with people, counseling people.”

Peace be with us all,


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