I couldn’t be prouder to post this important video today. It features Fr. Bob Pierson, a gay Catholic priest, telling a roomful of Minnesota Catholics that they can listen to their consciences and vote to oppose a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment in November in defiance of the state’s bishops, who are currently engaged in a full-throttle lobbying campaign to pass the measure.
According to Andy Towle over at Towleroad, Fr. Bob delivered the speech last Sunday to a Catholic gathering in Edina, an affluent suburb southwest of Minneapolis. Significantly, Pierson cited a 1967 quote from then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI — as justification for his opposition to the anti-gay amendment:
“Our holy father taught in 1967 that we must obey our own conscience, even if it puts us at odds with the Pope. I doubt that he knew that he was going to be Pope when he said that.”
If you recognize Fr. Bob’s name, it’s because he made headlines in 2005 when he resigned his position as Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota after the Vatican issued a statement saying that openly gay men should be barred from the priesthood. Pierson outed himself as a celibate gay man in an email to students and faculty at St. John’s and its partner university, the College of St. Benedict, and wrote: “Because I can no longer honestly represent, explain and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality, I feel I must resign. . . I am not an infallible person, but I cannot remain silent about my disagreement in conscience with this document, or the church’s teaching on homosexuality.”
The reason I’m so proud of Fr. Bob is because I happen to know him personally: I attended St. John’s University during the first year of my undergraduate music studies from 2003-2004 and volunteered with CSB/SJU Campus Ministry as a cantor for student Masses in St. John’s Abbey and a member of the Campus Ministry Choir. I was also an openly gay student who faced harassment from some of my peers because of my sexual orientation, just like the students he describes meeting in the video above. I know firsthand what a wonderful ally Fr. Bob Pierson is for the LGBT community at CSB/SJU because he played an important part in my acceptance and embrace of my own sexuality. I couldn’t be prouder of the way he courageously speaks out for justice, equality, and the human dignity of LGBT people — even in the face of bullying bishops — and I know that his example will embolden many everyday Catholics to follow their consciences and vote against Minnesota’s marriage discrimination amendment.