The phrase, “coming out” (of the closet) is usually used in the context of a person revealing his or her hitherto hidden homosexuality. Less dramatic but more unusual is the declaration by a priest that he no longer believes in God and/or Church doctrine and has therefore decided to resign from the ministry. It is, of course, much worse if he admits that for some time he had been preaching, celebrating Mass and administering the Sacraments without believing in them. This leads people to suspect that there may be others leading such a double, hypocritical life, preferring not to “come out”, ever.
It is not exactly a scoop to inform you about the case of Jean Meslier, a French priest who came out after his life-long perseverance in the priesthood in spite of his loss (or absence) of faith, because the book revealing his double life he deliberately had published only after his death, which occurred in 1729 ! His case, however, is worth a wallow, though most of us will be put off by what looks like his unpardonable cowardice. Today’s priests in particular should reflect on Meslier’s cover-up and posthumous coming out. There but for the grace of God go, perhaps, some of them . . .
Meslier went to a lot of trouble, in his three-volume work, to marshal detailed arguments against the existence of God and the credibility of both Testaments, reducing them to ridiculous, incredible inventions unworthy of faith, like all the beliefs, rules and rituals of the Church which claims them as reasons for believing. But his own credibility is virtually shattered by his hypocrisy and spineless refusal to abandon the priesthood and the Church. He will remain a pathetic footnote in the history of Christian belief. But, to be fair, it was far more difficult for a wolf in sheep’s, even shepherd’s, clothing to “come out” in pre-Revolution France, than it is for priests today who have seen through the fogma (no, that is not a misprint), recognized the superstitions and secretly renounced all the nonsense they continue to preach and hypocritically practise. It is hard to excuse the younger ones among them. For those in or approaching their sixties, it would no doubt be quasi-suicidal to come out. They are to be pitied for their pusillanimous procrastination.