Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Scapegoating Gays?

The UK's Pink News writes today that the Catholic Church is scapegoating homosexual candidates for the priesthood in the new guidelines that have emerged for screening priests in the wake of the recent child sex-abuse scandals.
This really isn't a new issue. The Vatican's 2005 directions basically exclude "gay" men from the priesthood -- a decision that has caused significant controversy, and which remains controversial. The controversy is not merely political, but also practical: the precise meaning of the Vatican's directive has been given widely different interpretations by different groups within the Catholic Church. In some dioceses, the directive has been interpreted very strictly, so that any applicant to the priesthood who admits to same-sex attractions is immediately given the boot. In others, a more liberal approach is taken.
The interpretive dilemma rests on the exact meaning of the term "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," which is sort of the lynch-pin of the discernment process. A candidate who has had homosexual experiences or feelings, but has overcome them, is allowed to receive Holy Orders: "such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate." So the question is, what are deep-seated homosexual tendencies?
Courage seems to take the interpretation that this is related to a compulsive tendency towards homosexual sex -- that "those responsible to discern candidates for admission to seminaries and eventually to priesthood should consider that there will be some persons with ssa [same sex attractions] who are chaste and lacking in deeply rooted homosexual tendencies." In other words, a man may experience homosexual attractions but have the sort of affective maturity required to fully live the life of chastity to which priests are called.
This, to me, makes a great deal of sense -- but I'm not sure that it's the obvious interpretation of the directive, or that it is the way that it is interpreted in most places.


  1. I was allways taught that the decision to call a man to the priesthood was God's and the role of the seminary governors etc. was only to discern it. Does God call gay men to the priesthood? He certainly has in the past. Why would He stop now?

  2. I am grateful to the writer for this thoughtful article. I see two things that deserve comment.

    First, gay men/bisexual men are not pedophiles. By and large that would be an affliction of heterosexual men.

    Second, a priest, my defintion in the Latin (Western) Rite of the Roman Catholic Church is a celibate by Church discipline and in cannon law. Why aren't the bishops concerned with the seminarians' compassion for others, capacity to dialogue with others, be a leader, and, just generally, the qualities of a decent human being that translate into being a decent Catholic priest along with commitment to the vocation?

    I would point out that no one has the affrontery to ask a priest what his sexual orientation is after he is assigned to a parish by the bishop. For one thing, it's impolite, tactless, and no one's business because it does not pertain to a priest who is doing his job, the norm, not the exception as with the current abuse scandal in the news.

  3. I heartily agree with Anonymous above.


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