Confessions of a Gay Priest
A Memoir of Sex, Love, Abuse, and Scandal in the Catholic Seminary
by Tom Rastrelli
Pub Date 15 Apr 2020
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Tom Rastrelli is a survivor of clergy-perpetrated sexual abuse who then became a priest in the early days of the Catholic Church’s ongoing scandals. Confessions of a Gay Priest divulges the clandestine inner workings of the seminary, providing an intimate and unapologetic look into the psychosexual and spiritual dynamics of celibacy and lays bare the “formation” system that perpetuates the cycle of abuse and cover-up that continues today.
Under the guidance of a charismatic college campus minister, Rastrelli sought to reconcile his homosexuality and childhood sexual abuse. When he felt called to the priesthood, Rastrelli began the process of “priestly discernment.” Priests welcomed him into a confusing clerical culture where public displays of piety, celibacy, and homophobia masked a closeted underworld in which elder priests preyed upon young recruits.
From there he ventured deeper into the seminary system seeking healing, hoping to help others, and striving not to live a double life. Trained to treat sexuality like an addiction, he and his brother seminarians lived in a world of cliques, competition, self-loathing, alcohol, hidden crushes, and closeted sex. Ultimately, the “formation” intended to make Rastrelli a compliant priest helped to liberate him.
“In demanding celibacy and damning homosexuality, the Catholic Church condemns legions of its best and brightest priests to lives of hypocrisy and shame. Rastrelli recounts his struggle with heart, wit, and courage. The Church’s loss is literature’s gain.”—Mary Roach, author, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
“Tom Rastrelli is a gifted writer whose personal journey is insightful and enormously important. Confessions of a Gay Priest is a riveting, powerful book, rich in detail and deeply relevant to the times we live in. It exposes painful truths that must be told. Read it.”—Michelangelo Signorile, author, It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality
“Tom Rastrelli’s brave, candid, self-critical memoir is part of a great tradition of spiritual autobiographies, from St. Augustine’s Confessions to Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain. Tom’s story differs from theirs because of his time and place. But he shares with them a commitment to honesty and to understanding the meaning of faith. This is an often beautiful, sometimes shocking, always important book.”—M. G. Lord, author, The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice
“Rastrelli’s carefully observed testimony speaks real truth to power. I am amazed by his ability to navigate a traumatic emotional landscape with such grace. This book is an essential document for the Church’s many victims of abuse.”—Garrard Conley, author, Boy Erased
“Tom Rastrelli is that unique blend of courage and talent, a remarkable personal story to tell, a passionate voice, and a sharp, skillful pen with which to fashion the tale.”—Janet Fitch, author, Chimes of a Lost Cathedral