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Article on homosexuals costs staffer his job

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  • John.Schott@phila.gov
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2005
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      Issue Date: May 20, 2005

      Article on homosexuals costs staffer his job


      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
      States.' "

      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 said.

      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
      personnel issues.

      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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