Firing of gay Seton Hall priest highlights a Catholic debate

When the Rev. Warren Hall called a reporter for the gay sports website last week to discuss his firing as director of Seton Hall University’s campus ministry, there was a certain logic to his move.

Hall was, after all, both a sports fan who had ministered to student athletes and an advocate for tolerance who had posted messages on Twitter about current events like Indiana’s religious-freedom law and the Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner’s decision to make the transition from man to woman.

But during the conversation about how Seton Hall, a Roman Catholic institution in South Orange, New Jersey, had fired him this month, Hall dropped a bombshell: He declared that he was gay.

“I said, ‘You do know that you just told a reporter you were gay — and it wasn’t off the record,’” the reporter, Cyd Zeigler, said. “He said, ‘I understand. It’s okay.’”

By coming out — in a gay publication, no less — Hall placed himself at the center of the Catholic Church’s internal debate over how to relate to gay parishioners. The process has been complicated by recent statements by Pope Francis, who has argued that the Church should, within limits, welcome gay men and women. One measure of the challenges the issues presents is that the Archdiocese of Newark, which operates Seton Hall, released three separate statements about Hall in the past few weeks.

In the first two statements, James Goodness, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said Hall’s job at the campus ministry had been scheduled to end next month and that his removal was unrelated to his advocacy.


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