Article on homosexuals costs staffer his job
- Issue Date: May 20, 2005
Article on homosexuals costs staffer his job
By DENNIS CODAY
Erik Meder was asked to resign his post with the U.S. Jesuit Conference
because of an article he wrote for a Jesuit national newsletter that
advocated the church have an open dialogue with homosexuals about
Meder told NCR that as soon as the article, "Strangers No Longer: Who is
the Other among us?" appeared in the in the April/May 2005 issue of
National Jesuit News (see story), he was called into the offices of Jesuit
Fr. Jim Stormes, his immediate supervisor, and Jesuit Fr. Tom Gaunt, the
executive secretary, or socius, of the U.S. Jesuit Conference.
"I was asked to resign or be terminated for submitting the article," Meder
said. "Because the article was already printed, it had caused, it was
explained to me, 'irreparable harm to the Society of Jesus in the United
Gaunt told NCR, "Once the error was realized, we stopped [the newsletter]
from being mailed out." He said a couple hundred copies were not mailed,
most of them to overseas readers of the newspaper, which serves the 3,200
Jesuits who belong to U.S. provinces.
Meder's article was deleted from the Internet version of the newsletter,
Gaunt would only confirm that Meder had resigned as the outreach
coordinator for the Office of Social and International Ministries at the
Jesuit Conference on April 27. Meder had held the job about 10 months.
Gaunt said he would not discuss details about the resignation or Meder's
job performance before the publication of the article, because these were
Meder said, "The reason for [being asked to resign] officially was that in
choosing to submit the article I displayed 'a lack of prudence,' 'a lack
of discretion' and I couldn't therefore be trusted in the future to
represent the national office as liaison, which was my job."
In the article, which is reprinted on Page 8, Meder argued for an open
dialogue in the church with homosexuals.
He wrote: "The same approximate percentage of the U.S. population is
homosexual as is foreign-born: 10 to 15 percent. The majority of American
Catholics are neither. ?
"When the Other is a migrant, Catholics are urged by the church to employ
a hermeneutic of self-understanding in their encounters with the Other.
When the Other is a homosexual, the notion of hermeneutic encounter drops
from the scene."
He noted that in their joint document, "Strangers No Longer," the U.S. and
Mexican bishops encourage a dialogue between migrants and the receiving
community. "The bishops seem to encourage an openness characteristic of
true dialogue; by encountering the Other as a Thou, a person with reality,
history and worth, our self-understanding will be challenged and might be
changed. We might no longer be superior; we might be in solidarity," Meder
Meder questions why church leaders don't encourage a similar openness with
homosexuals in the church.
"Perhaps Catholics, in losing a part of our self-understanding, will gain
something new and unexpected. Perhaps there is a way of living the Gospel
which we have been denied hearing. Perhaps there is a mode of Christianity
practiced widely among us -- but secretly. Perhaps it's time the Gospel of
homosexual clergy be proclaimed. We might not all be ready for such a bold
proclamation, but so was Christ a stumbling block and foolishness for many
in his day," he wrote.
Of the article, Gaunt said, "We did not think it was appropriate." Asked
if the topic of homosexuality made the article inappropriate, Gaunt
replied, "Our editorial judgment was that in its present form it wasn't
suitable; it was not appropriate."
He said it's a judgment that editors make all the time about items
submitted for publication. Some are suitable in terms of tone and tenor,
others are not; some are well written, some are not, he said.
Gaunt said that part of the problem was that National Jesuit News has been
operating without an editor since October. A staff member, "who
volunteered to take on this responsibility," has been acting editor, he
Gaunt said that as head of the office, "I should have read everything and
reviewed it before hand."
Gaunt said he felt no outside pressure to avoid certain topics or
viewpoints. "This is our publication. We exercise judgment on what should
go in," he said.
The U.S. Jesuit Conference, which has its offices in Washington, comprises
the 10 U.S. Jesuit provincial superiors and the conference president, who
is appointed by the superior general in Rome. Fr. Bradley M. Schaeffer is
the conference president.
Dennis Coday is an NCR staff writer. His e-mail address is
National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2005
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