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Reaffirming the ban on homosexuals in the priesthood

There had been some speculation that a passing comment by Pope Benedict XVI during his in-flight press conference (well, a staged response to a few carefully-chosen questions--but who's to quibble!) may have signaled a change of policy regarding the ban on gay men entering the seminary. In addressing the sexual abuse scandal, the pope said, "I would not speak in this moment about homosexuality but pedophilia, which is another thing." Thatseemed to be abrushback to those who want to equate pedophilia and homosexuality.But it apparently did not signal a new papal openness to allowinghomosexuals to continue to be ordained. As this CNS story relates, the pope has shut that door and said, in response to 'numerous requests for clarifications," that the 2005 instruction "is valid for all the houses of priestly formation, including those that depend on the Congregation for Eastern Churches, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life."The Vatican ain't California...

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Is the thinking Bertone's or Benedict's? It makes Ratzinger looks like a loose cannon, whose "off the cuff" remarks have to be retracted by the Curia. Makes me wonder who is really in control.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man/pope had better speak up early and often or the blind power brokers will upstage him.

Hmmm...it seems to me that the "clarification" only specifies that the 2005 Instruction applies to all houses of priestly formation. What it does NOT seem to specify is whether men who are homosexually oriented may be ordained. Recall Bishop Skylstad's comment at the time of the Instruction (here as reported by Ian Fisher in the NY Times,) "Bishop Skylstad said that for people who wonder whether "homosexually inclined" men can be good priests, the answer is yes." Also Bishops Theodore McCarrick of Washington, Matthew Clark of Syracuse and Salvatore Matano of Vermont held to a similar reading of the document, that it did not bar all homosexual men from the priesthood, but only those who were sexually active or strongly inclined to be homosexually active. So this clarification seems not to clarify the central unclarity of the original instruction. It does seem to me that the most direct reading of the Instruction would be to see it as banning men who are homosexually oriented from ordination. However, the document is admissible to a more lenient reading, in which only men who are homosexually active or strongly inclined to be homosexually active, are banned. I do remain surprised by the relative silence of gay priests to the Instruction's attack on their vocations. If it is true tthat 30-50% of priests are homosexual by orientation, why didn't more of them speak up when told--at least in the more direct reading of the document--that they are unfit, even dangerous ministers? And where was the outrage from the ranks of straight priests on the occasion of this attack on their gay classmates, associates, superiors and ordinaries?

Lisa: a partial answer to your questions follows. Do not forget, however, that anti-gay feelings are just as prevalent in the priesthood as the rest of society. Ordination doesn't automatic mitigate beliefs and feelings that are carried into the seminary and further into life.---------------------------------According to Father (James) Martin (at the 2005 Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles), the U.S. church has great difficulty discussing the issue of gay priests at all. He cited eight reasons for this situation:---Fear and hatred of gays and lesbians. ---Assumption that being a gay priest means that one is, by definition, sexually active and incapable of chastity. ---Assumption that being a gay priest means one is a pedophile or ephebophile.---Fear that discussing the existence of gay priests will drive away straight seminarians, leading to a gay dominance among clergy.---Fear that if a gay priest is held up as a positive role model, it might undermine the teachings of the Catholic Church.---Fear that any discussion of gay priests would scandalize the faithful.---Fear that discussion of gay priests would invite negative media attention.---Fear that knowledge of the number of gay men in the priesthood would make the Vatican use this as an opportunity to discipline the American church or take punitive action against any who broach the topic."Some of these reasons could be set aside if only there were more public models of gay priests," said Father Martin. "In the absence of any healthy gay priests for Catholics to reflect on publicly, and with the only examples being notorious pedophiles, the stereotype of the gay priest as child abuser only deepens." As for why gay priests are reluctant to speak openly about their lives, Father Martin offers the following reasons: Gay priests are often forbidden from speaking about their experiences by their religious superiors or bishops; they may experience pressure from superiors, colleagues or parishioners to be silent about their sexual orientation; and/or the gay priest may be fearful about reprisals or identifying himself with a group that is now frequently blamed for the clergy sexual abuse crisis."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 gay priests among the clergy as 25 percent. "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."(snip)Workshop panelist Dr. Greer Gordon, a professor at the University of Massachusetts and religious education consultant, said sexuality formation is essential to help priests, whether gay or heterosexual, remain faithful in the midst of the church community. "We have made both men and women religious asexual. Asexuality is not how God created us. We are sexual beings, and it's part of what we bring into any way we deal with other people, no matter what our orientation may be," said Gordon.According to Gordon, catechists need to rise above fear to understand homosexuality. "We have to be willing to assist (some of) our clergy, who are themselves homosexual, in learning what it means to live a life that is free, a life that is open, but a life that is celibate," she noted, http://www.the-tidings.com/2005/0318/celibacy.htm

Lisa, I agree with you that many if not most bishops will read the document that way, and I think it is a realistic reading. The Vatican doesn't intend it that way, as seems clear by the commentary that accompanied the document. But such is the way with most Roman insturctions, esp the most problematic ones. There is the principle, and then the interpretation. As for gay priests (and their straight confreres) speaking out--I just think it is such an oppressive atmosphere for priests now, very threatening, whether gay or straight, that it is asking a lot for them to face such scrutiny and most likely, penalties. Moreover, a lot of these homosexual priests don't want to admit to their orientation, so there's a good deal of self-deception going on. And that is the real shame of the Vatican instruction--while we may be able to find loopholes, the central message is that gay men shouldn't be priests, that they are somehow defective, and that contributes to a very uncharitable atmosphere. Ugly, basically.

I was ordained for a midwest diocese and served as a priest for 11 years. I left active ministry after 11 years because in my heart I could not remain serving as a priest who is gay (and celibate) in a Church which considers gays to be "intrinsically disordered." In part I feel I have let down the many gay Catholics who remain a part of the Catholic Church despite what the Church teaches. I miss serving as a priest but had I remained active in ministry and spoke out against what the Church teaches regarding homosexuality I would have faced reprisals from laity and clergy alike.

I also believe that there are a number of gay archbishops, bishops etc. who are celibateand have been all of their lives. Trying to impose this ban on others must be no only heart-wrenching, but frightenening for them as well. In his book"Freeing Celibacy" Fr. Donald Cozzens addresses this issue in his chapter 'Celibacy and Homosexuality' where he states "the Instruction (from the Vatican 2005) directed bishops not to appoint gay priest as seminary rectors or gay mane to seminary faculty positions...the document raised fears in some church circles that angy, celibate gay priests, frustrated with the ingongruity if not hypocrisy of gay bishops and rectors implementing the Instruction, would "out" gay bishops and other highly placed churchmen."

Some day I hope all of this will be seen as a sad chapter in the history of the Church.

"the pope has shut that door" in 2005, now today, and will do it in 20......In Italy we call this sort of clarification " Grida Manzoniane", with not usefull application.I think this clarification only will hurt many faithful gay priests that work with great love in the Catholic Church and cherish God's people entrusted to their care.

Christ would never use the terms heterosexual, homosexual etc., to define any person because such terms are demeaning and do not respect the Sacredness and Dignity of Human Life. God created Male and Female, Man and Woman."You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultry', but I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with his heart."Defining a person according to sexual attraction is a lie from the start.

Nancy:"Defining a person according to sexual attraction is a lie from the start"The Vatican's document defines priest according to same sex sexual attraction. So you assert that BXVI is a liar.

John Borst: don't you think that this already is "a sad chapter in the history of the Church?"

When BXVI was here, surrounded by his team of US prelates) he came to and to some degree did convey a mesage of positive hope.Since then, it's only been back to the past.I continue to find myself more and more one of the peopel adrift - not like Jean who will critique bit follow the rules, but one who sees the silliness of some rules but no change, only fear and top down.

I take the instruction to mean "homosexually [homoerotically] active" priests [or, I suppose, nuns]. Is this much different from heterosexually active priests [or nuns]? Is not celibacy as difficult for the one group as for the other? Are not the temptations of attraction - and acting upon them - as strong for the one group as for the other? Indeed, it is not only the acting but even the desire to act - as Our Lord reminded us. Are we not forgetting, in the discussion, how difficult it is for married people to remain faithful - even in thought? Does a pastor dare suggest to a shapely young woman that hot pants are not appropriate attire at Mass? Or to [what Jane Russell described as] a "full-figure gal" serving as Eucharistic minister on the inappropriateness of an expansive decollete. Is not the sacrament of ordination meant to give special help in the circumstances? Just as the sacrament of marriage is meant to give special help to the partners?

Mary, what is the date and name of the document you refer to?

It is a truth of the Catholic Faith that ANYONE who is not married is called to be celibate. Those who are married are called to be faithful to one another in covenant with God.

[...] posted the other day about the Vatican reaffirming the ban on gay men taking holy orders. According to Radio Veritas, [...]

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.