Gay-friendly priest steps down at University of San Francisco

religion | Oct 13, 2010 | By Spero News

After three years at the post, Fr. Donal Godfrey, a priest well known for challenging Church teaching on homosexuality, is no longer serving as executive director of University Ministry at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco.

Godfrey’s departure comes on the heels of the revelation that his long-time associate, Patrick Mulcahey, has been teaching and moderating workshops on the master/slave and sado-masochistic lifestyle.

As recently as August 30, according to a cached webpage from the ministry’s site, Fr. Godfrey was still serving as executive director. Sometime between August 30 and September 15, Fr. Godfrey was replaced by Julia Dowd, a layperson. Fr. Godfrey is now listed as one of the ministry’s five associate directors.

Fr. Godfrey was appointed executive director on August 1, 2007, even though his views challenging the Church’s position on homosexuality were already quite well known. In 2002, he was one of the panelists at the university’s "New Jewish & Christian Approaches to Homosexuality" symposium, during which he quoted Mr. Mulcahey extensively. In 2006, Fr. Godfrey gave a homily at San Francisco’s predominantly homosexual Most Holy Redeemer Church on “Finding God in the Erotic.” The homily was published in the “Gay Catholic Forum.” In April 2007, Fr. Godfrey celebrated a now famous “Gay Service” at Most Holy Redeemer, which was broadcast worldwide on BBC Radio4.

Immediately following his appointment, Lexington Books published Fr. Godfrey’s book Gays and Grays: The Story of the Gay Community at Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish. Fr. Godfrey had been working on the book for much of the decade. On March 3, 2008, Godfrey plugged the book in an Australian publication called in an article titled "Towards a church apology for gay prejudice." On March 9, 2008, Fr. Godfrey gave another homily at Most Holy Redeemer: “The Call to Come Out.” The homily likened Jesus’ calling Lazarus to come out of the tomb to same-sex attracted persons “coming out of the closet.” That homily was also published in the “Gay Catholic Forum.”

On July 18, 2008 Godfrey visited World Youth Day in Australia where he attended an Acceptance forum. "Acceptance -- gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender Catholics -- is the Australian counterpart of DignityUSA. The Australian Church did not allow Acceptance to attend official World Youth Day events.

While Fr. Godfrey is no longer executive director of USF’s University Ministry, his replacement does not appear to be much of an improvement. On October 20, 2007, Ms. Dowd, joined by members of USF’s LGBTQ Caucus, attended the "OutThere" conference at De Paul University. The conference’s program makes clear that its purpose was to create more effective advocacy for positions opposed to the Church’s teachings on Catholic universities.

The description of USF’s presentation reads: “This roundtable describes a series of community conversations on LGBTQ issues and Catholicism held in 2006 at the University of San Francisco. Three public forums, two held at local parishes, invited open dialogue in the midst of a church-wide debate following statements by church officials about LGBTQ issues. Roundtable participants will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the series as a model to educate and create community debate.”

The “conversations” described included “Is it Ethical to Be Catholic? Queer Perspectives,” held at Most Holy Redeemer Church on February 12, 2006.

In addition to her new position as executive director of University Ministry, Ms. Dowd continues to serve as an associate director of USF’s Lane Centers for Catholic Studies and Social thought. Over the past few years, the Lane Center has hosted such speakers as Fr. James Keenan, SJ, who, on April 28, 2003 spoke before the Massachusetts legislature "as a Catholic moral theologian" opposing Massachusetts Bill H. 3190, which would have defined marriage as between one man and one woman; Professor and ex-priest Paul Lakeland, who is best known for his support of Connecticut's recent attempt to have lay persons take over the governance of the Catholic Church; renegade Australian Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (despite Archbishop George Niederauer's orders that he was not to speak at any Catholic institutions in the archdiocese); professor and abortion advocate Sylvia Marcos, who believes in working to make abortion legal in countries where it is now illegal; the Rev. Ignacio Castuera, president of the Clergy Network of Planned Parenthood; and the Rev. Lisa Sargeant, chaplain of the now defunct Planned Parenthood Golden Gate.

Ms. Dowd was also one of the signatories to a March 1, 2009 document supporting the nomination of Kathleen Sebelius to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to the release of the document, Sebelius’ archbishop, Joseph Naumann, had already called Sebelius' actions on abortion "a scandal to the faithful," and had requested she refrain from receiving communion.

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