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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 homosexuality.

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 wrote.

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 said.

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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