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The aftershocks still complicate the lives — and faith — of people around her: The tension between its official teaching and unofficial practice — between the ignorance of the past and the illumination of the present — grows tauter all the time.

Yet there are places, and times, when the hammer comes down. Church leaders know full well that the priesthood would be decimated if closeted gay men were exposed and expelled. She has been on administrative leave since August, and last month her lawyer, David Page, filed a charge of discrimination against the school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

It has up to days to respond. On Tuesday morning he showed me paperwork for a second charge of discrimination that he said he would be filing imminently; it cites what happened to her father as an unlawful act of retaliation meant to dissuade Shelly from pressing her case. Pat Fitzgerald, uncomfortable with media attention, declined to speak with me, preferring to let his daughter do the talking. There is, by many accounts, profound anger and hurt at Roncalli. As it happens, Shelly was one of two directors of counseling there; the other, Lynn Starkey, 62, is in a same-sex civil union and in November filed her own charge of discrimination with the E.

For now she remains on the job. Many students started an L. A related Facebook page, Time to Be a Rebel, has more than 4, members. According to posts on the Facebook page, a small cluster of Roncalli students were invited last month to a lunch with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis, only to have him stress that homosexuality is a disorder and its expression sinful. One student called it an ambush. For comment on all of this, I contacted the Roncalli principal, who referred me to a spokesman for the archdiocese.

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Employees of Catholic schools are expected to live in compliance with church teaching. But is that legally enforceable? He has two children there now. What has happened to Shelly astounds him. He and his wife plan to end their family tradition. Gregory Greiten was 17 years old when the priests organized the game.

It was and he was on a retreat with his classmates from St. Lawrence, a Roman Catholic seminary for teenage boys training to become priests. Leaders asked each boy to rank which he would rather be: Each chose to be scorched or paralyzed. The lesson stuck.

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Seven years later, he climbed up into his seminary dorm window and dangled one leg over the edge. The closet of the Roman Catholic Church hinges on an impossible contradiction. The stories of gay priests are unspoken, veiled from the outside world, known only to one another, if they are known at all.

Fewer than about 10 priests in the United States have dared to come out publicly. But gay men likely make up at least 30 to 40 percent of the American Catholic clergy, according to dozens of estimates from gay priests themselves and researchers.

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Some priests say the number is closer to 75 percent. One priest in Wisconsin said he assumed every priest is gay unless he knows for a fact he is not. A priest in Florida put it this way: Two dozen gay priests and seminarians from 13 states shared intimate details of their lives in the Catholic closet with The New York Times over the past two months. They were interviewed in their churches before Mass, from art museums on the weekend, in their apartments decorated with rainbow neon lights, and between classes at seminary. Some agreed to be photographed if their identities were concealed.

Almost all of them required strict confidentiality to speak without fear of retribution from their bishops or superiors. A few had been expressly forbidden to come out or even to speak about homosexuality. Most are in active ministry, and could lose more than their jobs if they are outed. He could lose all three if his bishop finds his sexuality disqualifying, even if he is faithful to his vows of celibacy.

The environment for gay priests has grown only more dangerous. Studies repeatedly find there to be no connection between being gay and abusing children. Even Pope Francis has grown more critical in recent months. This week, Pope Francis will host a much-anticipated summit on sex abuse with bishops from around the world.

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The debate promises to be not only about holding bishops accountable but also about homosexuality itself. Just a few years ago, this shift was almost unimaginable. A cautious few priests stepped through. But if the closet door cracked, the sex abuse crisis now threatens to slam it shut.


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Widespread scapegoating has driven many priests deeper into the closet. Even before a priest may know he is gay, he knows the closet. The code is taught early, often in seminary. Numquam duo, semper tres, the warning goes. Never two, always three. Move in trios, never as a couple. No going on walks alone together alone, no going to the movies in a pair.

The higher-ups warned for years: With whom do you have a relationship that would be a healthy human relationship? Today, training for the priesthood in the United States usually starts in or after college. But until about , the church often recruited boys to start in ninth grade — teenagers still in the throes of puberty.

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Priests cannot marry, so sexuality from the start was about abstinence, and obedience. The sexual revolution happening outside seminary walls might as well have happened on the moon, and national milestones in the fight for gay rights like the Stonewall riots, on Mars. One priest in a rural diocese said the rules reminded him of how his elementary school forced left-handed students to write with their right hand. Many gay priests spoke of being pulled between denial and confusion, finally coming out to themselves in their 30s or 40s.

Father Greiten was 24 when he realized he was gay and considered jumping from his dorm window. He did not jump, but confided his despair in a classmate. His friend came out himself. It was a revelation: There were other people studying to be priests who were gay.