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Father Unni explains his choice


Four years ago, a methodical search for a new place of worship led a group of gay Roman Catholics to the Rev. John Unni, the youthful priest at St. Cecilia’s Church. The search committee was blunt: Would the priest accept an influx of gay and lesbian parishioners?

“He told us, ‘All are welcome,’ ’’ said John Kelly, now head of the St. Cecilia Rainbow Ministry.

Kelly and other parishioners credit Unni with managing the merger of the predominantly gay congregation from the Jesuit Urban Center, which closed in 2007, and with keeping gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church, despite the uneasy balance between the church’s message of love for all and its strict doctrine against gay relations.

Father John, as his parishioners call him, says he is trying to live the words of Jesus Christ, as he has seen them lived out.

Unni was 16 when his father died. The St Theresa Parish community in his hometown of North Reading responded with meals delivered to the family’s door, with rides to practices and rehearsals and whatever help they could offer a broken family.

“People lived out the Gospels,’’ Unni, 49, said in an interview yesterday evening. “That’s when I learned what church was.’’

- John Arsenault


For one priest, the choice is clear (Boston Globe)



  1. Bill F says:

    There is another wonderful catholic alternative for GLBT Roman Catholics in the American National Catholic Church. Read the Church’s Presiding Bishop’s pastoral response: http://americannationalcatholicchurch.org/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Pastoral-Letter-to-LGBT-Catholics.pdf

  2. Tony says:

    It needs to be pointed out too that people who act out on their heterosexual inclinations outside of marriage place their soul at risk.

  3. John says:

    I think many of you hit on the correct points; however, a brief summary is in order:
    1. Christ welcomes all.
    2. Christ calls all to salvation through conversion and to live according to the will of the Father.

    In other words, gays are welcomed, but they are called to live their lives according to the teachins of the church, which was established by Christ. Their orientation is not the issue, but acting on their homosexual inclinations places their soul at risk.

  4. Mary says:

    It is so important to show gays and lesbians that they are loved and have a place in the Church. However, because it is the obligation of the Church to teach the truth on matters of faith and morals, I wonder how we can faithfully balance a message of compassion with a stern warning against activities that are inherently disordered against God’s intended plan for life-giving marital love? The salvation of souls is at stake, and it is so easy to fall into one of two extremes: 1) leading people to believe that their immoral activities are acceptable as long as they are well-intended, or 2) driving individuals away from the Church entirely because we fail to show them how they can love in a holy way without denying who they are. Where is the balance?

  5. Gabriel Austin says:

    There is nothing in the story which says that Fr. Unni approves of and thus encourages immoral behavior. Why is it we always hear about such groups as DIGNITY but nothing about COURAGE? That “traditional groups” get their knickers all twisted seems to show that they need to go to confession to get their knickers untwisted. And so something about the 2×4 in their eye.

  6. Kathleen Vogtle says:

    I have been struggling with my Catholic identity recently, and trying to reconcile what I believe versus Church doctrine versus supposed inherent, universal Catholic beliefs. Just about the time I think I can not take the conflict anymore, I read an article like this, and it gives me hope. Thank you Fr. Unni – it is because of people and visions like this that I remain Catholic.

  7. Charles Bolser says:

    I wonder what our world would be like if we could quite trying to divide and separate everyone into the sheep and goats and let God. It rains on the just and the unjust – and we are all children of the one God that breathes life into the world and all of it’s diversity. Amazing.


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