Richard Raymond Mickley, oldest of 10 children of Raymond and Clara Mickley, knew that he was called to be a priest by the time he was 13. He had grown up on the farm in what he calls "the beautiful rolling hills of Ohio"--in Danville, 15 miles from Mt. Vernon and 60 miles from Columbus, where, at the age of 5, he experienced his first "big city" and a 42 story skyscraper and elevator.
His father and uncle owned and operated the general store on the square of Danville, and later another uncle operated, and through his sons to this day, Hammond's General Store in the lower part of the town. He milked the family milk cow everyday of his life from Grade 1 through Grade 8, before school in the morning and after school in the evening.
After a family move to New London, Ohio--where his father owned and operated the Volunteer Food store--he learned the Latin prayers and became an altar boy in Grade 5, (a cherished “little labor of love” after finishing the milking before morning Mass that he kept up through Grade 8.)
With the spiritual advice of his pastor (after a move to Louisville, Ohio, seven miles from Canton) and wise consultation with his parents, at the age of 13, he entered Brunnerdale Seminary in Canton, the minor seminary of the Society of the Precious Blood. He found that religious life satisfied his deepest yearnings.
He never dreamed there was such a thing as sexual orientation, but he painfully thought he was the only person in the whole seminary community of 300 men and boys who ever felt the (frequent) urge for personal physical sexual “relief.” His most painful moment every week was Confession, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. I committed the sin of self abuse again this week.” Feeling full of shame and self-hatred for this ungodly, disgusting, sinful thing in his life that he was sure was so very abnormal, he consulted a Protestant doctor while home on the brief summer vacation. “Young man,” the doctor explained, “you are not the only one. All your school mates who are normal no doubt have the same sexual needs.” Richard later said, “That saved my sanity. At least I was not the only one, even though surely some who were holier than I did not have this problem.”
Age 22, in the Society of the Precious BloodThat extended experience (and the secret he learned from the doctor) began the building of an empathic base for a lifetime, later, of sexual counseling. Many years later he attended a series of lectures by Fr. Bernard Haring along with 600 priests at Catholic University of America and was, for once and for all, relieved to hear the world-renowned Catholic moral theologian say, “It is normal and expected for students, including seminarians, to engage in masturbation, and it should not, in itself be considered sinful.”
His years of delightful religious life were filled with joys and works near to his heart from writing and publication in the Society’s journals to sacristan in the chapel where yearly priestly ordinations required alert and eager sacristans. It was his “true calling,” he said.
But year after year he was beset by his “besetting problem,” Teenage Masturbation Trauma (TMT). He defines TMT as “the experience of mental and spiritual anguish and self-disgust resulting from societal and religious disdain for sexual self-stimulation (even if only partially voluntary with the power of nature stronger than the will to be good), especially during the impressionable years of adolescence.” But it all came to an end when the superiors called him in and said, “It will all go away if you go out into world and find a nice wife…” He said, “I thought they meant masturbation. Little did I know what I later realized – that they suspected I was homosexual and that ‘it would all go away if I found a nice wife…’”
After a tour of duty in the United States Army, with service in the war zone of Korea, he indeed found “a most wonderful wife who became the superb mother of three awesome daughters and five awesome sons (thanks to her).” For several years he and his wife owned and managed successful restaurant businesses in Ohio. Then he answered a call to Catholic parish work as Director of Religious Education in Michigan.
In the contacts of big city life, it evolved that he discovered it was true that he was homosexual, and he learned what that meant. He joined the Gay Liberation Front within a year after the awakening of the “gay liberation movement” at the famed Stonewall Riots in 1969.
A year before Stonewall, the famed Rev. Troy Perry (http://www.lgbtran.org/Profile.aspx?ID=11) had founded the Metropolitan Community Church to bring spiritual and religious liberation to Christian gay and lesbian people who were excluded from their faith communities in some way because of prejudice. In Detroit, Michigan in 1970 Mickley got together with a group of priests and pastors who wanted to bring “religious liberation” from the shackles of prejudice to the people of Detroit. They listened to a tape recording of a fiery speech by Rev. Troy Perry and decided to bring his church, MCC, to Detroit. Mickley became a student pastor in MCC Detroit. He was later called to serve as Assistant Pastor of MCC in Chicago.
As all this developed, his family suffered. He told everything to his wife and with the help of a social friend who was a psychiatrist, they separated by legal divorce.
From Chicago Mickley moved on to MCC parish work with Rev. Joseph Gilbert, in Phoenix, who also introduced him to prison ministry and inspired him to write the Prison Ministry Handbook, which became the guide book for prison ministry throughout the MCCs (and some other denominations) of the United States to gays and lesbians in prison.
Editor, MCC’s In Unity 1975He was invited to Los Angeles to head the Prison Ministry office in the denomination headquarters. In addition he was asked to take on the position of Director of Publications in Rev. Perry’s office. He edited the denomination's magazine, In Unity, and edited and published several books, including Christian Sexuality, which he wrote and published in 1975, and Gay Lifestyle in 1976 by the world famous Process theologian, Father Norman Pittenger, the 69th of his nearly 100 books.
In the meantime he worked in MCC parish ministry at MCC LA, and interim pastor in Upland, and then pastor of MCC Ventura. Throughout his time in the Los Angeles area Rev. Mickley served as teacher of Theology, Christian Sexuality, and MCC Polity in the growing MCC seminary there, with classes sometimes numbering 30 or 40 in some subjects.
His experience in parish work convinced him that most people who come for “pastoral” counseling are looking for psychological counseling. He took a leave of absence and earned a Masters degree in Psychological Counseling at Sierra University, and then decided that a doctorate would be even more helpful. He was awarded the Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from International College in 1983. While working in administrative positions in several Los Angeles colleges, he continued his clinical work in psychological clinics.
In 1988 he was called back into parish ministry, through the intervention of the Rev. Ken Martin, and soon thereafter was called as pastor for the struggling MCC Auckland, New Zealand. After three and half years he realized Auckland had a large congregation and several competent ministers on staff by that time, and he decided to answer a desperate plea from another country, “When is MCC coming to the Philippines? I have been rejected by my church, and there is no one here to help us.”
The Pride Mass at the First Gay and Lesbian
Pride March in Manila (and Asia) 1994 He borrowed enough money to fly to Manila in May 1991. He knew no one when he arrived. He networked for 5 weeks and on June 26, 1991, held the first public Gay and Lesbian Pride Mass in the Philippines at the high altar of the Holy Child National Cathedral with 50 people in attendance. A week later he left for Los Angeles with a petition signed by 43 gay and lesbian Christians calling him to return to Manila and set up a gay and lesbian Christian ministry.
With the approval of Rev. Perry and the MCC Board of Elders, after returning to Auckland, resigning his pastorate, giving up his house, salary and car, he went to Manila, having filed for U.S. Social Security benefits in order to be self-supporting in what was then called a “third world country.” Rev. Mickley established MCC Manila officially on September 7, 1991. It was the first openly gay and lesbian organization in the country.
In 1992 Pro Gay Philippines was founded as a politically activist group. Together with Oscar Atadero, an officer in both groups, it was arranged that Pro Gay would sponsor, with MCC Manila as co-sponsor, the first gay and lesbian Parade in the Philippines. It was held with 50 brave gays and lesbians marching on a rainy day, June 26, 1994. Recently footage was discovered on YouTube of that historic march, which turned out to be the first Gay and Lesbian Pride March in Asia.
MCC Philippines pastors and friends, December 2009
Seated: Fr. Richard, Pastor Myke, Pastor Ceejay, (Oscar Atadero, far right)
Standing: 2nd from right, Pastor Art, (Pastor Regen, not seen, on Keyboard)Rev. Mickley found himself in a swirl of media opportunities as a result of that march, and for years thereafter he was invited to guest on popular television shows, speak at universities, and address various organizations. The message of God’s unconditional, limitless love and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people began to reach the grassroots homes of the Filipino people. Rev. Mickley introduced wedding ceremonies of Holy Union into the Philippines, and hundreds of couples came to make their vows of love and commitment.
The rest is history. Marches got bigger and bigger. MCC grew to have four churches by 2010: with Pastor Art in Manila, Pastor Regen in Dasmarinas, Pastor CeeJay in Quezon City, and Pastor Myke in Baguio.
In 1995, MCC pastoral policy required Pastor Mickley to retire. He founded the Order of St. Aelred to continue supplementary ministry, but not to duplicate the MCC parish ministry. Rev. Mickley continued to encourage and refer members to MCC for participation in parish life.
He was invited to join the alumni group, Amicus CPPS of the Society of the Precious Blood, in 2003 (and that same Order which had told him “to find a nice wife” developed an affirming ministry for gay and lesbian people).
In 2004 Bishop James Burch, founding and Presiding Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit (http://www.onespiritcatholic.org) ordained Father Richard Mickley as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Philippines to enhance his ministry to the LGBT community.
Looking to the future…At 81 his ministry continues and he is thankful that he can continue to help people over the hump of destroyed self-esteem because of condemnation not only of same-sex love, but of masturbation and using condoms — in a country which is the only country in the world (other than the Island of Malta) which does not have divorce — because, in his words, “of the power of the Roman Catholic bishops over the three branches of government.”
Mickley lives in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines with his partner of eleven years with their unfulfilled wish for canine and feline companions.
In reflection upon his nearly half century of sex-positive ministry in MCC, the Order of Saint Aelred, and the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit, Mickley offers these observations:
“After 81 years I look back. I think of all the people in the countries where I have worked. I think of their worries about their ‘sexual problems.’ I realize that in most cases, especially where religion is involved, their ‘problems’ are some variation of my teenage masturbation trauma (TMT). My own TMT set the stage for a life of ministry dedicated to helping gay and lesbian Christians face and triumph over the mental and spiritual trauma from sex-negative theology inflicted upon them by the churches.
Rev.Troy Perry (in front of world globe), founder world-wide MCC,
Rev. Richard Mickley (holding Philippine flag), founder MCC Philippines,
MCC General Conference 1993“All my life I have remained a fervent believing Christian. At the same time I have learned through experience. Perhaps mostly through association with Rev. Troy Perry, Rev. Paul Breton (http://www.lgbtran.org/Profile.aspx?ID=235), Fr. John McNeill, Fr. Norman Pittenger and many, many other luminaries of sex positive theology, I have learned to combat destructive sex negative theology which is neither of divine nor Biblical origin, but has driven uncounted numbers of God’s beloved children to trauma and/or to abandoning the all-loving God who has been so blasphemously misrepresented to them as a hateful monster.
“My experience of teenage masturbation trauma, more than a doctorate in clinical psychology, made it possible for me to provide empathic ministry to struggling gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender Christians facing church-established sex negative and unchristian prohibitions which in every age and every nation cause so much pain and desperation (loss of hope). The list of church imposed no-nos include: 1) the myth of sinful masturbation; 2) the prohibition of 100% natural same-sex love; 3) The outlawing of condoms (inexplicable except for the doctrine that sex is only for procreation); 4) denial of the right of separation when incompatibility is incompatibility; 5) the denial of the right to a loving partner of one’s choice without discriminatory gender rules.
“All of these experiences (of moral slavery), and too many more, fall under the same oppressive mantle of trauma – from shame and guilt and loss of self-esteem – that I experienced when I wanted to be good but was condemned and self-condemned because of my teenage masturbation.”
Mickley currently serves as co-coordinator of The Well, the LGBT Healing Center, with Argel Tuason, co-founder in 2013. The Well provides free support groups for persons living with HIV, helping one another to live in wholistic wellness. There are groups for stepping out of various addictions in 12-Step programs and groups for coming out of internalized homophobia and stigma. The Well is serving people in Manila, Philippines. Richard said, “Undeserved in my twilight years, but one of the most gratifying works of my long ministry.” The Well is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thewellphilippines
(This biographical statement provided by Richard R. Mickley, O.S.Ae., Ph.D.)