Fans of Domenic Cieri will be happy to hear that he is back as a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. He is a chaplain at St. Joseph’s Medical Center, a division of the University of Maryland Hospitals. Those who have followed his career will remember that in 2007 he ran afoul of the Archdiocese because of his life-long fight against poverty. He had seen poverty in Baltimore:
I can also remember riding in the back seat of the family car going to my grandparents and passing through the poorer sections of Baltimore City. During the heat of the summer, I can remember seeing African Americans sitting on their steps, sweating in squalor. My heart went out to them.
He had seen poverty when he worked for a year in Tanzania, and imagined what life would have been like if he had been born there:
If I had been born in Musoma, Tanzania as a native African I might not have survived infancy. I would have lived in a mud hut with a thatched roof and dirt floor. There would have been clothes contributed from Europe or the United States to hide my nakedness once I attended school. School would have lasted 5 or 6 years. I would raise skinny cattle and goats, grown and eaten ugali porridge, and tried to have children. My gayness could get me killed if revealed. I would have to get married or become a priest. If I succeeded becoming a priest, I would have a privileged life in the community. Nonetheless, I would spend most of my life sick with malaria, dysentery, hepatitis or any number of diseases. I would probably die by the time I was 40.
Inspired by Scarlett O’Hare, he must have declared “As God is my witness, I will never be poor again!”
His fifteen-year pastorate at well-to-do St. Bernadatte’s, Severn, enabled him to fight poverty by appointing his friends to the finance committee and having them pay him substantial supplements to his salary (see previous blog for all details).
The Rev. Domenic L. Cieri, who led St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Severn for nearly 15 years, received salary and Mass stipends above the scales approved by the archdiocese, according to an audit conducted in October. Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine said Cieri also received a housing allowance to live in northern Baltimore County, although his parish has a rectory.
For the fiscal year that ended last June, Cieri earned nearly $48,000 a year, about 70 percent more than the $28,122 that the archdiocese says he was to earn as a pastor ordained for 25 years.
In addition, Cieri received $6,300 in Mass stipends. Priests have the choice of receiving Mass stipends for individual Masses or a lump sum of $2,000, an amount set by the archdiocese, Caine said.
He was also reimbursed nearly $36,000 for rectory expenses, though Caine said the priest did not live in the rectory attached to the church but rather at a house in Baldwin, in northern Baltimore County. And he received more than $14,000 as a housing allowance, which Caine said is not normally given to priests assigned to churches with rectories.
(With another priest, Larry Johnson, Cieri co-owns a house in an expensive suburb, Baldwin, Maryland, on the far side of the metropolitan area from Severn. Zillow values the 3,200 sq. ft. house at $458,000.)
This was not criminal, but was against Archdiocesan policy, and certainly looks a tad greedy.
His monetizing his pastorate qualified him to become a financial adviser at Smith Barney and First Financial Group.
While Cieri was at St. Bernadette’s and was able to detach himself from his house in hunt country, he focused on making St. Bernadette’s a gay-friendly parish, as his pastoral associate explained:
St. Bernadette Church in Severn, Maryland, has one of the most successful ministries to gay and lesbian Catholics in the country. Each year for the past six or seven years Pastor Domenic Cieri and his pastoral associate, Ann McDonald, have offered six-week programs to talk about “the good news the church has to offer, areas of church teaching that cause pain for homosexuals, and what they need in order to feel they can come home to the church.”
“We felt really strongly that this was the call of the gospel,” says McDonald. “We needed an actual process by which we reached out to gay and lesbian Catholics because they weren’t necessarily coming to church. We invited them to reclaim their rightful place in the church.” Hence the program is christened Reclaim.
At first McDonald had to educate the 1,200 parish families about making the community more welcoming. She put notes in the bulletin and hung a rainbow flag in the parish office, the rainbow symbolizing respect for gays and lesbians.
In his autobiography Cieri explains:
I identify as a white, middle class, suburban, gay male who has lived as a practicing Catholic. I include all these dimensions of my personhood because I believe that none of them taken singularly totally describes who I am. In all the ways I describe myself I have a privileged place in the world, except as a gay man. It is fortunate and unfortunate that no one can tell that I am gay. I must self-disclose. This makes part of me invisible.
So he self-discloses:
You might say that I am a soft male (my words). I am not macho and never have been.
About the time of puberty I was very aware of being attracted to males. This was somewhat distressing. Even though I wanted to be a priest, I still had a desire to have a family. I began to wonder what it would be like to be a girl. Then I could get married and have a family with the boy of my dreams. This gave me a small insight into the other gender. I decided that I liked being a male. It was more me.
He also likes other males. His You page (which is public) reveals that he has subscribed to a wide range of channels: Catholic News Service, Top 10 Things You Need to Know about Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, Walt Disney’s The Tortoise and the Hare, Young Hollywood, Hugh Jackman’s Opening Number: 20Tube 09 Oscars and also
- Cute Males Studio: In Between Men – Episode 5 – Muscles and Manbags by PIANETAGAY
- MANTASTICMALES2011.This is a gay channel, featuring videos with homosexual or hot guy content. Slide vids, fan vids, gay themed music vids, short films and excerpts with a similar theme
Cieri is ecumenical
- Coming Out: I’m Mormon, Gay and have a bright future by Jamison Manwaring
Cieri has travelled extensively
I had the opportunity to visit Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Israel, and Turkey.
and therefore has international interests:
- TheHorizonSeries. Australia’s Hot Gay Web Drama!
- JayBellBooks. Just me and a bunch of gay books and movies. Oh, and the occasional German husband as well.
- CanadianJewel (two weeks ago). Just your average guy wanting to post video’s, typically gay themed, for people to watch, comment, discuss, and enjoy.
Cieri knows Italian:
- GETwebserie. Benvenuti sul canale di G&T: la webserie gay italiana.
- PianetaGay.com. Una web-community dinamica, un magazine aggiornato con le ultimissime notizie dal mondo gay, recensioni di libri gay e cinema gay e molto altro ancora.
Some of his recent subscriptions are
- brandenblinn. Branden Blinn creates, produces and distributes high quality content LGBT media.
- Mark Raimondo. Videos about me and my life (which consist of my boyfriend, traveling, puppies, food, working out and other lovely things)
- MY COMING OUT EXPERIENCE by Mark Raimondo. OK, I know everyone and their gay uncle has a coming out video but my coming out anniversary was last week and I thought it was fittingncora
- BoyonBoyLoving. A selection of clips with boy on boy loving.
And many, many more. When does he find time to watch all these?
One might feel sympathy for someone in Cieri’s position: a gay Catholic boy who decided to enter the priesthood to help the poor. But his main way of helping the poor was to make sure he himself was never poor. Guys, gay or straight or anything else, have a problem with celibacy, and gays, being male, also respond to visual stimuli. I understand the temptations. But what is a celibate priest doing watching gay pornography?
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is desperate for priests. The clergy is aging and is not being replaced. I was told there will be one ordination next year and one the year after that.
As we know from the Donatist controversy, the validity of the sacraments is not affected by the sins of the priest. So the Archdiocese is hoping that Cieri, whatever his problems, confines his ministrations to his specified duties, and keeps his hands off attractive accounts and attractive young males at the hospital. The Archdiocese better be right, because Cieri has left a trail that calls his character into question.
(PS. I wrote to the Archdiocese of Baltimore about Cieri. No reply. It looks like he may have removed some of the worst stuff from his websites – but I printed it out. For what gay priests can do to a diocese, see Altoona-Johnstown.)