Homosexuality and the Clergy
“Homosexually Oriented” Priests:
Something Doesn't Sound Right
Gary L. Morella
People should just acknowledge we have homosexual priests and “receive it prayerfully,” a panel speaker told a packed workshop audience at the 2005 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles (The Tidings, March 18, 2005). “For generations, ‘gay’ men have served in the Catholic priesthood,” said Tom Beaudoin, assistant professor religious studies at Santa Clara University, “They have lived and living holy lives, human lives, celibate lives. It’s time to try to open up the conversation about that.” What is “that?’ It is examining the blessings and challenges of homosexual priests the same way we look at the blessings and challenges of straight priests. This will allow Catholics to become “more human and more holy” – by finally “dealing with the reality.” (Ibid.)
Another panelist, Jesuit Fr. James Martin, associate editor of America magazine, announced the need for “public models of gay priests” to counter “the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser.” "As I see it, there are very many gay men who are good priests in the church today," declared Father Martin, who estimated the population of homosexually-oriented priests among the clergy as 25 %. "The vast majority are healthy, hard-working, faithful, loving celibate members of the clergy. That is simply the truth. In order to grow as a people, we need simply to admit that truth." (Ibid.)
Dr. Greer Gordon answers a question after the panel presentation at LA 2005 Religious Education Congress -The Tidings, March 18, 2005
Another panelist, Prof. Greer Gordon from the University of Massachusetts and a religious education consultant, encouraged catechists to overcome “feelings of bigotry and bias around homosexuality.” She said we should assist our clergy who are homosexual or homosexually oriented to learn “to live a life that is free, a life that is open, but a life that is celibate.” (Ibid.)
Now, if something doesn't sound right, it usually isn't. And it doesn't sound right to talk of our "homosexually oriented" but celibate priests. What are they giving up when they are celibate? Cardinal Bevilaqua, former Archbishop of Philadelphia, rightfully reminds us that "they're giving up sin, which we are all called to give up, while a heterosexual is making a distinct sacrifice for God following His celibate example, giving up the prospect of marriage to be married to Holy Mother Church in God's service."
We are taught to avoid the occasions of sin. How, then, can this be done by allowing individuals with unnatural inclinations into an environment where the temptations for them are significantly increased? The Church holds that the homosexual condition is neither normal nor natural, that having an actively sexual attraction to another person of the same sex can never lead to a morally good act between the two individuals, but rather will always lead to an immoral act since the unitive and procreative aspects of sexuality are violated. The orientation to homosexual behavior is objectively disordered because it is an orientation to a misuse of human sexuality, an orientation to acts which are sins against nature and God. The unitive aspect is violated because two men were not made to be together, and the procreative aspect is violated as a result.
Moreover, the word "orientation" has serious theological implications. If you believe that some people are homosexual by nature, you turn Christian anthropology on its head. The Church holds that we are all heterosexual in our God-given nature, though some heterosexuals have a problem with same-sex attractions. If you believe that homosexuality is part of a person's nature, given by God, then homosexual acts become a fulfillment of a person's God-given nature, and that has never been the Catholic teaching.
There is no such thing as a "gay" Catholic, much less a “gay” priest, as the panelists kept saying. You cannot be a practicing homosexual and be Catholic, period! To say that the present crisis in the Church has nothing to do with homosexuality is a heinous lie! We're talking about men abusing boys, here, which are homosexual acts. If you are a person inclined to homosexual acts, your inclination in the eyes of the Church is toward an intrinsic moral evil, thereby making the inclination itself objectively disordered.
We need our best men for the priestly vocation, not those who have demonstrated that they have some serious problems with their sexuality, problems that should be addressed maturely by professionals qualified to do so. The priesthood is not that place. The primary job of the priest is to save souls; the priesthood is not supposed to provide a vehicle to baby-sit immature men who are not sure about their sexuality. If you are not sure about your sexuality, you have no right for consideration as a candidate for seminary.
Are Catholic parents supposed to feel comfortable when Fr. Martin tells them that 25 % of the clergy are homosexually inclined? Should they feel safe in allowing their sons to be exposed to priests who are homosexually inclined, which is in clear violation of Church directives that forbid the ordination of homosexually inclined priests for the very good reasons given in the 1961 document approved by Pope John XXIII titled “A Careful Selection and Training of Candidates for the States of Perfection and Sacred Orders”(S. C. Rel., 2 Feb., 1961).
It clearly states: "Advancement to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers." A similar admonition is given another more recent Church document approved by Pope John Paul II that refers to Canon Law, “Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life Directives on Formation in Religious Institutes” (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, Rome, February 2, 1990).
With regard to questions of Canon Law, the canonists from the St. Joseph's Foundation (San Antonio, Texas) remind us to look at what is required of candidates for ordination: "One who does not regard homosexual acts as seriously sinful, whether he be inclined to commit them or not, could certainly be considered as lacking the requisites of ‘integral morals and proven virtues’ per Canon 1029.
The idea is to distance oneself from occasions of sin, not the reverse. Again, sanity is required here. Would you hire a "recovered" alcoholic for a job where his chances of reverting back to his disordered state are increased? No, you would hire someone else for that position. Similarly, if the choice is between two individuals, one claiming to be completely recovered from being inclined to homosexual acts, and another who never had that problem in the first place, everything else being equal, who would you want to ordain? The answer is simple, given that the occasion of sin consideration is foremost in your mind.
There is considerable evidence that orthodox dioceses have many "good men" with vocations. Conversely, in dioceses where heterodoxy reigns, as a consequence of permissiveness and the encouragement of unchecked dissent from Magisterial teaching on everything from the liturgy to faith and morals, vocations are sorely lacking.
The phrase, "We looking for a few good men" is nowhere more apropos than for the Catholic priesthood, with the emphasis on "men" in the full virile sense of the word because a priest acts as alter Christus, another Christ, whose masculinity was undeniable. How could it be otherwise since the Church theologically is the "Bride of Christ"? What normal individual wants to be a bride to someone whose masculinity is in question? The theological analog regarding Holy Mother Church is no less compelling. Nationally known priest, Fr. John Trigilio, Jr. says, "Our seminaries need chaste, manly men to lead them; orthodox men to teach them; and reverent, prayerful men to help them worship God properly."
Posted March 18, 2005
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