By Jonathan Wilson
A D.C. resident has started an internet campaign to gather information about closeted gay priests in the area, and says his goal isn't to harm their careers, but to save the church.
The campaign is called ChurchOuting.org and includes a website, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page that already has more than 1,000 followers.
Phil Attey, the social media expert and gay activist who started the campaign, says despite the provocative name, Church Outing is not a place to indiscriminately 'out' gay priests.
Instead, he's hoping it's a way to put pressure on those priests to stand up to their bosses. "If they just band together, they could break the cycle of spiritual abuse," says Attey, "regardless of what the pope says, regardless of what the archbishops say."
Attey says he's using his social media background to gather first-hand accounts of clergy who, for example, are out socially, but preach against homosexuality from the pulpit.
He says he'll use the same standards as reputable news organizations to make sure the stories are accurate. But even those sympathetic to Attey's point of view worry about the tactics.
Marianne Duddy-Burke is executive director of Dignity USA, the nation's largest Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual and transgendered Catholic organization. Duddy-Burke says the threat of outing someone whose livelihood may be at stake rubs her the wrong way. "We're focusing on men, who may already feel caught by the system, and who are probably already struggling," says Duddy-Burke.
The Archdiocese of Washington D.C. did not respond to a request for comment on this story.