Trailblazing Gay Priest Dies at 82

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Mar 15, 2010

Openly gay Roman Catholic priest the Rev. Robert Carter, one of the first to come out, has died at age 82. Carter was the co-founder of GLBT advocacy group the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, died on Feb. 22 in the Bronx. He was 82.

Carter was on the board of the Task Force from its beginnings in 1973, when it was established as The National Gay Task Force by Dr. Howard J. Brown. A March 14 New York Times article noted that at the group's founding, the Times ran an article that reported the presence of "Rev. Robert Carter, a Jesuit priest and professor of historical theology" on the new group's board. The March 14 article said that after publication of the 1973 item, Carter came to the attention of his superiors. In a memoir, Carter wrote that, "It seems that they were afraid I had had a psychotic break or something." The article noted that Carter did not face disciplinary measures and that, "In those days, the church and the Jesuit order were somewhat more accepting of gay people."

Indeed, as a March 2, 1987 New York Times article noted, the year before the Vatican pronounced homosexuality to be a "disorder," whereas in years before the church had regarded it as "morally neutral."

Carter was also part of the foundation of another GLBT group, the New York branch of the Catholic gay organization DignityUSA, a group originally founded in San Diego in 1969 by a gay priest named Patrick Nidorf. Dignity accepts gays; another Catholic group, Courage, seeks to support gay Catholics in a life of celibacy, in accordance with church teachings, which view sexual intimacy between partners of the same gender to be evil, and homosexuality itself to be "disordered."

Moreover, the New York Times obituary for Carter noted, the church has, since 2005, excluded openly gay candidates from seminary training and ordination.

Carter was trained as a social worker and brought his own brand of counseling to gay and lesbian Catholics, the obituary noted, as well as celebrating the blessings of same-sex unions and offering testimony for an equality law in New York City in the 1980s.

"Since Jesus had table fellowship with social outcasts and sinners, those rejected by the religious establishment of his time," Carter wrote, "I consider myself to have been most fully a Jesuit, a 'companion of Jesus,' when I came out publicly as a gay man, one of the social rejects of my time."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • patroy, 2010-03-15 20:42:39

    RIP and you will assuredly enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • matt ak, 2010-03-16 20:01:17

    God bless you faithful servant.

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