Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Homosexual-friendly priest named rector at Santa Clara University, will be religious superior of 40 fellow Jesuits on campus

"Very active in pastoral ministry to LGBTQ Catholics"

By Gibbons J. Cooney 
Special to California Catholic Daily 

On March 22, Santa Clara University announced that Fr. Michael Zampelli, S.J., had been named the new rector to the Jesuit community of Santa Clara University. Zampelli was appointed by Fr. General Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., the superior general of the Society of Jesus in Rome. 

"As rector of the second-largest Jesuit community in the California province of Jesuits, Zampelli will serve as the religious superior for his 40 fellow Jesuits on campus," said a university news release. "His role is to support and serve them in living their personal, communal, and apostolic lives as Jesuits." 

Fr. Zampelli has served on the Santa Clara faculty since 1998, and is currently the Paul Locatelli Professor in the university's department of theatre and dance. According to the press release, "Zampelli earned a Ph.D. in drama from Tufts University; M.Div/STM from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, an M.A. from Fordham University, and a B.A. from Georgetown University. Born and raised in Lawrence, Mass., his academic work has focused on the early modern Italian professional theatre and its relationship to religion." 

"Currently, Father Zampelli is working on papers exploring Jesuit performance dynamics, Jesuit attitudes toward the professional theatre, and the theatre's spiritual functions -- particularly in the lives of LGBT people and those consistently marginalized by mainstream religions," says Fr. Zampelli's biographical page on the university's website. 

In 2004, Fr. Zampelli directed the play "Stop Kiss" at the university. The drama is about two women who start out as friends and end up being lovers, and are attacked when they share their first kiss in public, injuring one so seriously she falls into a coma. "The play is timely in terms of the human issues that it raises," said Fr. Zampelli. "How does a person discover who she is? How does a person learn to love? How does a person come to understand how she is to live her life? … In the current cultural climate that problematizes particular kinds of relationships, 'Stop Kiss' gives us a place to think about 'the things that really matter.'" 

On October 26, 2005, at an SCU seminar titled "Is Tolerance Enough: Catholic Universities and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Issues," Fr. Zampelli expanded on the theme of "problematizing particular kinds of relationships." He said, "Those of us who identify as lgbtq have a particular fix on the world, and what we have come to understand about ourselves, our society, our religions, our scholarly disciplines, from this particular perspective makes an invaluable contribution to the store of knowledge." 

Tolerance of homosexuality in the priesthood, said Fr. Zampelli, "must be a temporary state of affairs that includes an acknowledgement that we are 'on the road,' that understanding more and becoming more understanding takes time." 

Fr. Zampelli also suggested that homosexuality must be celebrated, not just tolerated. "In this case, tolerance is unacceptable," he said. "Why? Because, I believe deeply (along with Paul in Corinthians) that 'I am what I am by the grace of God.' And I believe that I have particular gifts deriving precisely from this blessed but marginalized way of being in the world. What I see clearly now is my own desire: I want to be a subject sought out and valued." 

In addition to his work at the university, Fr. Zampelli also serves on the board of directors of CALGM, the Catholic Association of Gay and Lesbian Ministries. He is the organization's treasurer. His CALGM biography states: "Michael has been very active in pastoral ministry to LGBTQ Catholics in the Diocese of San José (SCU and the Emmaus Community) and with Dignity/San Francisco." Dignity/San Francisco is not recognized by the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and is not allowed to meet on Church property. 

The appointment of homosexual-friendly priests into positions of religious authority is a developing trend in the Jesuit California Province. Fr. Zampelli's appointment follows that of Fr. Donal Godfrey, who in 2007 was named executive director of university ministry at the Jesuit University of San Francisco. Like Fr. Zampelli, Fr. Godfrey is active with "Dignity." Last year, Fr. Godfrey led a workshop at the July 2009 Dignity USA convention in San Francisco. Fr. Godfrey also has been a fixture at San Francisco's Most Holy Redeemer, a parish deeply involved in homosexual activism, including participation in the city's yearly Gay Pride parade. In October 2007, Fr. Godfrey presided at a prayer service (later broadcast by the BBC) celebrating homosexuality.