All of these words began to run through my mind, when I began to hear the story of Fr. Geoff Farrow last week. Fr. Geoff is a Roman Catholic priest in California who had been instructed in a pastoral letter from his bishop to direct his congregation to vote "yes" on Proposition 8. A "yes" vote would take away the right of same sex couples in California to marry.
The pastoral letter from the bishop and the question from a parishioner, “at what point do you cease to be an agent for healing and growth and become an accomplice of injustice,” caused a moral dilemna for Fr. Geoff. I can only imagine the kind of thoughts and questions that must have run through his mind.
Father Geoff's decision was to support same sex marriage. On October 4, this is part of his address to his parish:
I do not presume to tell you how to vote but I do ask that you pray to the Creator of us all. Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights. It can be a rebuff to bigotry and hatred, or it can encourage bigotry and hatred. Personally, I am morally compelled to vote “NO” on Proposition 8. It is my hope that the people of California will join with those others around the world such as Canada, Europe and South Africa who welcome their gay and lesbian family members fully into society by granting them the civil right to marry.
I know these words of truth will cost me dearly. But to withhold them, would be far more costly and I would become an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well. Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” He didn't promise that it would be easy or without personal cost to speak that truth.
Father Geoff has been removed as the pastor of his church by his bishop. I'm pretty sure that it won't end there for him. The cost will be great.
There has been an outpouring of support from the LGBT community and their friends and families for Fr. Geoff through comments on his blog. He has also received heartbreaking stories from the damage caused to LGBT's by so many churches. I cannot help but think that his stand may have begun healing for some hurt by the church.
I have decided that if I had to choose one word to describe Fr. Geoff it would be the word "valor" The definition for valor is "strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness : personal bravery." Seems like that describes Father Geoff to me.