Fr. Geoff Farrow and Susan Russell All Saint’s Church Pasadena
Have you wondered whatever became of that California priest who refused to give in to a directive from his bishop to instruct folks to vote yes on Prop 8?
If you’ve been following his blog, you know that Father Geoffrey Farrow was suspended for following his conscience but continues to work for LGBT justice.
The fact that he is barred from functioning as a Roman Catholic priest is bad enough, but recently, through mutual friends, I received some sad news about Father Geoff. News that makes me extremely angry. News that demonstrates the malice of a church that preaches the love of Jesus while deliberately persecuting a priest who for all the right reasons dared to follow the real teachings of Jesus.
Father Geoffrey Farrow had applied for a position with the Los Angeles branch of CLUE, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice.
CLUE identifies itself as follows:
We are an interfaith association of over 600 religious leaders throughout Los Angeles County who come together to respond to the crisis of the working poor.
CLUE derives a significant part of its funding from the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Today I spoke with a member of CLUE’s board of directors, Rev. James Conn, a Methodist minister and Director of New Ministries for the California-Pacific Conference of the United Methodist Church. Reverend Conn had been directly involved in the recruitment and interview process involving Father Geoff.
I asked him if CLUE had denied Father Geoff a second interview specifically because the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles threatened to cut off all its significant funding for CLUE should Father Geoff ever be offered the position in question.
As incredible as it may seem, Reverend Conn confirmed the truth of this and expressed his heartfelt disappointment over the fact that CLUE had to choose between continuing the interview process with an extremely promising and qualified candidate or risk losing the financial support of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles that is critical to CLUE’s work.
A second interview with Father Geoff had been scheduled for December 15, 2008, but on December 13, Father Geoff received a phone call from CLUE expressing disappointment over their decision to terminate the interview process solely because of the threat made by the archdiocese of Los Angeles whose representative on CLUE’s board of directors had brought the situation to the attention of the highest level of authority in the archdiocese.
It is important to note that, in his interview, Father Geoff was not trying to pass himself off as a priest “in good standing” with the Roman Catholic Church, and that the bishop who suspended Father Geoff is the ordinary of a different diocese.
It is also important to note that the ministry performed by CLUE is to the poor. Its primary focus is not the LGBT community. Father Geoff would not be representing the Catholic Church on matters of faith and morals in his new position.
It is important to note that at the age of 51, after having devoted 23 years of his life to the Roman Catholic Church plus an earlier 7 years in the seminary, Father Geoff has had his medical benefits discontinued and is without income and assistance from his bishop. While it is disgusting that his bishop has turned his back on Father Geoff, it is infuriating to think that his bishop would conspire with the Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles to block gainful and appropriate employment.
I am well familiar with the jargon of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They will say that they feel compassion for Father Geoff and that they pray for him, but their actions speak too strongly and demonstrate deliberate malice. They do not wish him well. And, God forbid that they should have ever proactively attempted some sort of out-placement effort on his behalf. Some bishops privately do that on behalf of priests who leave, but not the hard-hearted bishop who cut off Father Geoffrey Farrow nor the malicious Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles.
I am writing this because I’ve learned over the years that the Roman Catholic Church gets away with this kind of despicable and inhumane treatment of men who choose to follow their conscience only when its bad deeds are not held up to a strong light. Father Geoff does not wish CLUE to lose its funding and therefore has remained silent about this, but his friends have brought this situation to my attention, and I want Catholics in California and beyond to understand clearly the level of unchristian behavior and deliberate malice of which their bishops and cardinals are capable.
I hope you will consider going to CLUE’s website and leaving them a message about your feelings (please keep in mind that CLUE wanted to continue its interview with Father Geoff so don’t paint them as the “bad guy”. If you want to leave a message for the real “bad guy”, you may contact the office of Cardinal Roger Mahony.
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
3424 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010-2202
213 637 7000
Ask them why they hate Father Geoff. When they assure you that they do not hate him, ask them to prove it and soon. Right now, more than their insincere prayers, he needs a job.
Now for Fr. Geoff’s words:
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.” An English professor of mine in college once said, “truisms are truisms because they are true.” On Friday the Bilerco Project published an article about my recent run in with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. In brief, I had applied for the position of Executive Director of a non-profit organization in Los Angeles. I had very successfully completed the lion’s share of the interview process and was all but assured that I would be given the position. I had one final interview left with the Board of Directors on December 15th, 2008. Two days before that interview, I received a phone call from a Board Member informing me that the final interview had been cancelled. He was extremely apologetic and explained that they had received a phone call from the Archdiocese threatening them with disaffiliation if I were to be hired as the Executive Director.
I decided not to pursue any legal remedy for three reasons. First, I did not in any way wish to harm the non-profit for which I had applied. They do outstanding and laudable work helping the working poor. Second, I have extremely limited financial resources and am no match for the extremely well financed and influential Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Third, my own family asked me not to pursue the matter further. They felt that I was being made “an example of” by the powers within the Church to discourage other priests from speaking out. My folks basically suggested that I just find a job and move on with my life.
Paradoxically, the actions of churchmen are pushing me in the opposite direction. On this final point, I must say that I have received first a command and then, “warnings” not to publish, not to speak with the media, and not to make public appearances. I am in a “David and Goliath” scenario with powerful churchmen who have the staff and vast wealth of the institution at their command. I was effectively blackballed by the Archdiocese from obtaining the position at CLUE-LA and I am aware that the hierarchy may try this and other means to attempt to intimidate me into silence. It is the basic civil right for freedom of speech that is at stake here for both myself and the reader.
These authoritarian churchmen are threatened by the free expression of ideas which differ from their own. They are even more acutely sensitive on this particular issue than on most others because they know that many priests (and bishops) are gay. They take it as a personal affront that threatens not only their power and position, but perhaps even more frightening, it threatens to unmask many of them as closeted gay men. The simple solution of granting gay and lesbian Catholics the practical dignity which they have conferred upon them theoretically is a non-option. This is true because of sociological reasons. Most Catholics live in the Third World and are not prepared to accept women priests, let alone gay and lesbian equal rights.
I entered the seminary in 1978 because of a sincere religious conversion. I have been privileged to know many holy priests and nuns. I have meditated on the Word of God and have been inspired by the Truth of Divine Mercy. I know that I am imperfect and have fallen short in my life but I can honestly say that I have never acted out of malice towards others. I know that the truth cannot be destroyed by free discussion and that ultimately, free discourse of ideas serves the truth since, it reveals it. Those who would lead us spiritually must do so by the wisdom and reason of their argumentation and not by coercion. They must embrace and manifest love and mercy as central values which they manifest through their words and deeds. This is how our founder proclaimed the Good News.