Marquette alum Gregory Greiten, a Catholic priest in the Milwaukee Diocese, came out as gay Dec. 17.
Greiten was ordained in 1992 after graduating from Marquette with a degree in social work through the university’s seminary formation program in 1987. He is now a priest at St. Bernadette Parish, near Menomonee Falls.
It is rare for a Catholic priest to come out. Greiten wrote a column about his decision for the National Catholic Reporter.
“A few Roman Catholic priests around the world have mustered up the courage to break through the wall of silence and speak the truth about their sexual identity,” he wrote. “Today, I stand with these few courageous priests who have taken the risk to come out of the shadows and have chosen to live in truth and authenticity.”
The news of Greiten’s coming out spread rapidly around the world. He said he was surprised at how quickly he started receiving emails and phone calls.
“It’s amazing how fast people reacted to three small words,” Greiten said. “And I know they’re not small.”
Greiten’s announcement was met with support from his parish and the Milwaukee Diocese. An archdiocese spokesperson said Greiten met with Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki before coming out publicly.
In a statement issued Dec. 18, Listecki expressed the dioceses’ support for Greiten: “We support Father Greiten in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation … As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion.”
Greiten said he has not faced too much negative backlash, but he said facing some criticism is inevitable.
“Of course there are always those people and there always will be those people (who speak out against it),” he said.
“We need healthy role models to be out there to be able to say there’s nothing wrong with being gay and who we are, and to reflect that out to others. That’s important to have those positive role models because it just hasn’t been there,” Greiten said, seen wearing a Marquette sweatshirt for an on-camera interview with TMJ4 outside the Bradley Center before the men’s basketball game Dec. 19.
Homosexual clergy members are a controversial subject within the Catholic church. In his column, Greiten wrote that Pope Francis urged the Christian community to apologize to the LGBTQ community.
“I believe that the church not only must say it’s sorry … to this person that is gay that it has offended … but it must say it’s sorry to the poor, also, to mistreated women, to children forced to work,” Pope Francis said.
Greiten said it wasn’t until his graduate school years that he realized he was gay. He said he came out to himself when he was 24.
As for Greiten’s college experience, he said he loved being at Marquette.
The university had a group for gay students that was just developing, Greiten said. He said he was happy to hear that the university has since expanded their support programs and that there is a center for LGBTQ+ students.
“As a Catholic, Jesuit university, Marquette recognizes and cherishes the dignity of each individual regardless of age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class,” university spokesperson Chris Jenkins said. “Because Catholicism at its best seeks to be inclusive, we are open to all who share our mission and seek the truth about God and the world. In that spirit, we support Rev. Greiten and our alumni from many different backgrounds.”