- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

From combined dispatches

Former New Jersey Gov. James E. McGreevey, who resigned and divorced his second wife after announcing he was “a gay American” in 2004, has begun the process of becoming an Episcopal priest.

Mr. McGreevey, who was raised Roman Catholic and often described himself as devout during his political campaigns, became an Episcopalian on Sunday at St. Bartholomew’s Church in Manhattan, said the Rev. Kevin Bean, the church’s vicar. Mr. Bean told the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., that Mr. McGreevey has entered the “discernment” phase, which involves examining whether one has a calling to the ministry and usually precedes seminary work.

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“This process that he’s in right now is not going to be some snap of the finger, overnight process. That will not happen. That’s not how it works,” Mr. Bean told the paper. “Everyone knows that this is a process that … intentionally is deliberate.”

Bruce Parker, a spokesman for the Episcopal Church’s General Theological Seminary, said yesterday that Mr. McGreevey also has been accepted to the New York school’s master of divinity program and will start his studies in the fall.

Mr. McGreevey declined to comment yesterday, but close friends of the ex-governor told the Star-Ledger they were not surprised.

“This is something he’s been thinking about for years,” said David France, who last year co-authored Mr. McGreevey’s memoir, “The Confession.”

“His spiritual life has always been central to who he is. From the time he was a kid, he thought about going into Catholic seminary a number of times. The idea of going into the Episcopal seminary has been in his mind for at least a couple of years,” he said.

Growing up in Middlesex County as an Irish Catholic, Mr. McGreevey was an altar boy and attended Catholic schools. In his appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” last year, Mr. McGreevey recounted going to the library to look up the word “homosexual” in a dictionary. When he read terms such as “perverse” and “psychiatric disorder,” he said, he didn’t want to be that and learned to repress the desires.

While in office, his pro-choice stance on abortion and unannulled first marriage put him at odds with the Catholic Church to the point that one New Jersey bishop warned him not to take Communion. Soon after his resignation, Mr. McGreevey began attending Episcopal services.

The issue of homosexual clergy is tearing apart the worldwide Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church that Mr. McGreevey joined. Anglican leaders this year demanded that the U.S. denomination cease consecrating homosexual bishops and allowing blessings of same-sex unions or risk losing its membership in the body.

Religion also has become an issue in Mr. McGreevey’s contentious divorce proceedings. His estranged second wife, Dina Matos McGreevey, has demanded that their 5-year-old daughter continue to be raised Catholic, which among other things would mean she cannot receive Communion in the Episcopal Church.

In papers filed in their divorce case, Mrs. Matos McGreevey, who has written a book of her own rebutting Mr. McGreevey’s and appeared this week on “Oprah,” accuses her ex-husband of having a life-sized picture of a nude male model in the home he shares with boyfriend Mark O’Donnell. She also accuses him of having their daughter Jacqueline in bed with him and Mr. O’Donnell, and of starting his governorship-ending affair with an Israeli aide while she was bedridden carrying Jacqueline to term.

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