BY ABBOTT KOLOFF
A North Jersey priest who announced last year that he was gay has been suspended by the Newark archbishop, a move that came after he expressed support for a former Paramus Catholic High School guidance counselor who was fired for being in a same-sex marriage.
The Rev. Warren Hall, a former Seton Hall chaplain who was working at a Hoboken church, was told of the decision on Wednesday, James Goodness, a spokesman for Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, said on Thursday.
Goodness, who said Hall was “not allowed to function as a priest in any way,” declined to provide the specific reasons for the suspension, but said all priests “promise reverence and obedience” to their bishops and also to support the “teachings and norms of the church.”
Hall told the Religion News Service, which broke the news on Thursday, that a church official had told him that he was being suspended for taking stands in favor of gay support groups and expressions of support for a former guidance counselor and basketball coach who is suing Paramus Catholic and the Newark Archdiocese after being fired earlier this year.
He was scheduled to speak next week at a North Jersey support group for parents and friends of people who are gay. Last year, when he announced that he was gay, he also said he had kept his priestly vow of celibacy.
Myers issued a statement on Wednesday, the same day Hall was suspended, supporting Paramus Catholic for firing Kate Drumgoole, a 33-year-old woman from Bogota, because her same-sex marriage could “create confusion and uncertainty in the moral formation” of students.
Last year, Hall came out as gay after he said he was fired from his job as chaplain at Seton Hall University for posting on social media his support of the NOH8 Campaign, an organization that promotes “marriage, gender and human equality,” according to its website.
Goodness said at the time that Hall had been removed because his assignment had ended and that it had nothing to do with his social media postings. But Goodness acknowledged that the postings were “an area of conflict” because of NOH8’s support of same-sex marriage, adding that the church had no problem with Hall taking a stand against discrimination. The issue was resolved, Goodness said, when the posts were removed from Hall’s Facebook account. Hall was appointed to be parochial vicar at Sts. Peter and Paul parish in Hoboken.
Hall, who could not be reached for comment Thursday night, confirmed the suspension in a Twitter post: “Sadly, my differences with my bishop continue,” he wrote, adding that Myers had removed him from his priestly ministry. Hall also appeared to refer to Pope Francis, who has called for the church to be more welcoming to all people, including those who are gay. But those reforms, Hall said in the post, “are taking too long.”
Goodness, when asked whether the decision to suspend Hall was related to his support for Drumgoole, said of the priest, “He has to support the teachings of the church.” He declined to be more specific.
In a request to have Drumgoole’s lawsuit dismissed, attorneys for the school and the church argued that the state’s law against discrimination was not violated when Drumgoole was fired because churches are allowed to require employees to subscribe to their tenets.
Drumgoole’s attorneys countered that religious organizations do not have that right when it comes to employees whose jobs do not include ministerial duties. Last week, a Superior Court judge in Hackensack denied the school’s motion to dismiss the case.
Goodness said Hall was not allowed to present himself as a priest or to wear the clerical collar. He declined to say whether the suspension was permanent or whether the archdiocese might take further steps, like seeking to defrock the priest.
After Hall was removed from Seton Hall last year, he wrote a letter to Pope Francis saying he was being “unduly punished” and asked the pontiff to take a closer look at challenges faced by people in the LGBT community during his September visit to the United States. The Pope, two years before, had opened discussions about the church being more inclusive of people who are gay when he said, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”
Hall wrote in the letter that the church has been losing good teachers who have been fired because they are gay.
After he and the bishop appeared to have resolved some of their conflicts, Hall continued to post support for groups that highlight the problem of anti-gay bullying and met with the parents of Tyler Clementi, a young man from Ridgewood who committed suicide in 2010 after a Rutgers University roommate streamed video of him kissing a man.
Hall is scheduled to speak today in Glen Ridge at a meeting of North Jersey PFLAG, a group that “promotes the health and well-being of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons.”