Justin “JT” Tucker is under intense scrutiny by the people of Hathian due to recent accusations of homosexuality and association with anti-homosexual religious organization, St. Magdalene Parish.
On January 13th a series of questionable photos involving Tucker surface on Twitter. These photos show him engaging in intimate, but not sexual, acts with men. Twitter users quickly point out Tucker’s relationship with those men seems more than platonic.
Many users express outrage, citing conflicts of interest between Tucker’s past and association with St. Magdalene Parish. Others defend Tucker. Supporters respond, stating his history is a personal matter and outing his past relationships crosses lines of privacy.
St. Magdalene’s Parish tweets Tucker’s dismissal from their organization the following day.
“After careful consideration and a detailed background review, we are saddened to say that (Tucker) is no longer with the Saint Mag Parish. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our parishioners and are preparing a replacement for this Sunday’s mass. God Bless.”
Twitter users negatively respond to the news and call for forgiveness. St. Magdalene Parish firmly holds to their decision.
“The church cannot condone one of our Priests being a homosexual.”
Amidst exposure and dismissal, Tucker speaks on his own behalf. On Twitter, he details the nature of those photos.
“That’s an old photo,” Tucker writes, “I had forgotten about a Facebook account I used to have years ago. Never had the heart to take it down after I left to go into the church. Then just forgot about the account altogether. It’s my fault. I have no one to blame but myself.”
He further denies speaking against homosexuals.
“I have never condemned any gay person. Not once.”
Though Tucker now speaks little of his ordeal over Twitter, he agrees to an interview with the Hathian Observer.
Question if the decision of his dismissal is of St. Magdalene Parish or his own, Tucker replies he takes no part.
“I didn’t want to leave the church, no,” Tucker verifies. “That decision was of their own making. I loved what I did there. The volunteer work, reaching out to the community, counseling those that are in need of it. I’m hoping to continue that work, just no longer through the church itself.”
Tucker further shares his own personal struggles relating to the event.
“I’m incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing. My love life, or lack thereof, was never meant to be a public spectacle.”
Though Tucker has no intentions of putting his past relationships up for public scrutiny, he divulges their nature.
“I never denied being gay, and most of those pictures that were leaked are from around ten years ago. It was before I became a clergy member. I was dating someone in my first year of college and those came from that. The other picture, the more recent one, was of a friend of mine and me taking a trip down to the beach. He was teaching me how to surf. I have to admit I’m not very good at it.”
Delving more into his past, Tucker shares his upbringing. Coming from a staunch Catholic background, his own homosexuality meets with disapproval by his parents. They give an ultimatum.
“They gave me a choice. I could either choose to be straight or I would be disowned. After some weeks of debating my options I decided to divert from my college courses in Massachusetts and move to New York where I could get my degrees in philosophy and theology.”
By relocating and altering his education, Tucker’s goal is to suppress his homosexuality. He hopes to quell romantic desires by dedicating himself fully in service to his faith in God.
“I know that being straight or being gay isn’t a choice. It’s something you either are or are not, but I had hoped I’d become content in my life to serve God.”
Tucker fails, as photographic evidence shows; however, he reflects upon past relationships with content.
“I tried. I was young. You know how it is with teenagers who are barely on the adult scale. You venture out, try things. I was happy.”
From the experience of his upbringing and latest exposure, Tucker share his insight on coming out as homosexual.
“Coming out to your friends, family, the world, is a very personal choice or at the very least should be a choice and not forced. Some people feel they never need to hide it, others feel they need to hide it for life. Neither choice is wrong if it is their own. You have to first be comfortable with who and what you are before expecting the world to be and even then not everyone will be okay with it. It takes strength of character to say ‘this is who I am and I love who I am’. That strength sometimes takes a good deal of time to gain and some never find it at all.”
Shortly after Tucker’s dismissal, St. Magdalene Parish burns to the ground. It is a catastrophic loss resulting not only the total destruction of the church but also the demise of Sister Barbara Ann.
Tucker shares his sympathies for those affected by the fire.
“I want to say that my prayers and thoughts go out to the church and those affected by the fire. No matter what choice the church made to dismiss me they didn’t deserve that. People found solace in the church, peace, and hope. To see it gone is a real travesty.”
Locals speculate the fire as an act of arson. Though police and fire officials are currently investigating the scene, they have yet to make a breakthrough. Tucker too is left without answers.
“I honestly have no idea. I’m not sure if it was accidental, purposeful, done by someone who doesn’t like religion or just someone needing attention. It’s impossible for me to say and at this point would be a guessing game. To my understanding the Hathian Police Department are on top of it the last I heard. I hope they find out what happened, I truly do.”
No longer a member of St. Magdalene Parish, Tucker continues his counselling work through Hathian General Hospital. For him, the hospital affords many new opportunities of outreach.
“With the church comes many rules and guidelines. For instance, if someone wanted to see me for counseling they had to be not just a registered Catholic but also a member of the parish. There were some that stated they wanted to see me but they weren’t religious and so I thought perhaps if I extended my skills to the hospital I could see people there that didn’t feel comfortable in the church. Now that I’m no longer employed with Saint Magdalene I can focus full time on the patients at Hathian General Hospital.”