Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Gay Priest Ban: The Real Story

If that title doesn't gain attention, I don't know what will...

John Allen reports from Rome with the most concrete details to date on the rumored "gay priest ban". As I'd been expecting, it sounds like the actual directive from Rome will be more nuanced than various rumors had suggested:

A forthcoming Vatican document on homosexuals in seminaries will not demand an absolute ban, a senior Vatican official told NCR Oct. 7, but will insist that seminary officials exercise "prudential judgment" that gay candidates should not be admitted in three cases.

Those three cases are:

  • If candidates have not demonstrated a capacity to live celibate lives for at least three years;

  • If they are part of a "gay culture," for example, attending gay pride rallies (a point, the official said, which applies both to professors at seminaries as well as students);

  • If their homosexual orientation is sufficiently "strong, permanent and univocal" as to make an all-male environment a risk.

In any case, the Vatican official said, whether or not these criteria exclude a particular candidate is a judgment that must be made in the context of individual spiritual direction, rather than by applying a rigid litmus test....

The document will likely be approved in forma specifica, the official said, which means that although it is a document of the Congregation for Catholic Education, the pope has nevertheless imparted his personal authority to it.

(HT Amy Welborn) This report smells right to me in a way that previous more extreme ones did not, in that it seems in keeping with the Church's refusal to consider same sex attractions to be an ontologically defining characteristic. This sets the Church apart from 'progessive' elements who tend to assert "I am gay and thus deserve to be able to marry" but also from extreme 'conservative' elements who might say "gay people are evil". The Church says, rather, that all people contain temptations to various forms of disorder, and each person is responsible for resisting those temptations and living according to God's law, however hard that may be for him or her.

UPDATE: Catholic blogger and Courage (the only Vatican approved ministry to Catholics suffering from same sex attraction) member CourageMan offers some good thoughts on the news about the pending document.


Steven said...

Dear Sir,

I can't wait to see the actual document. This is what I was hoping for and thinking likely. But still we do not have a document in hand, and may not for some time to come.



Kate said...

I agree that this sounds much more in keeping with the Vatican's subtle grasp of these issues. Of course, as always, the trick is implementation...too much wiggle room will leave the seminaries operating just as they have been...and the crisis will continue.

Darwin said...

Indeed, it seems a sort of devil's dilemma that if you offer a correctly nuanced explanation of Catholic doctrine, though give those who reject it wiggle room, while if you make the statement so excessive as to be un-wiggle-able, then it ceases to be authentically Catholic.

Anonymous said...

I've very mixed feelings about it. Of course, I'm happy that the Vatican seems to be less strict about the subject.
But I wonder a few things: how will the candidates to priesthood be able to prove they had no homosexual relationship for the past three years? Why shouldn't the heterosexuals prove the same? Chastity is for everyone when becoming a priest. And I wonder why should homosexual orientation be the main criteria (it seems to me being the same given that there is some need to "examinate" the situation) to say if someone will be a good priest.
I hope this document won't be a "poisoned gift".

Darwin said...

Whether it is a "poisoned gift" probably depends a great deal on what one wants. I think the Church's desires remain much the same as they have ever been, she wishes her priests to uphold the teachings of the Church (including the teaching that sexual intercourse with someone of one's own sex is always wrong) and to life according to her disciplines, including the discipline of priestly celibacy. There have throughout history been various guidelines for evaluating whether 'straight' men are up to this task. However, it would seem, certain seminaries have not been doing a good job of selecting for such qualities when it comes to men who are primarily attracted to other men.

Jimmy Mac said...

Folks, I hate to burst your bubble on this, but most of us ho-mo-SEX-youalls DON'T "suffer" same sex attraction, we have it and live life with it.

Darwin said...


The Church teaches that engaging in intercourse with someone of one's own sex (or anyone else whom one is not married to) is a mortal sin. To the extent that being 'homosexual' involves an inclination to that sin, one might just as legitimately describe someone as 'suffering' from same sex attraction as one might describe me as 'suffering' from a short temper and tendency towards anger.

Certainly, many people who are attracted to their own sex may not consider that to be a source of suffering in their lives, while other do. But that doesn't change the accuracy of the description from the Church's point of view.