Gay Seminarians

Is the Vatican Bigoted or Prudent?

The recent instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education regarding the ordination of homosexuals suggests to me that seminaries are hardly the best place to help gay men mature, learn from their experiences, and seek the support of similarly oriented men in keeping their promise of celibacy. The congregation’s controversial cautions about ordaining gay men may be more prudent than critics realize.

In recent years, many seminaries enrolled gay men if the candidates were thought to show the the potential to live celibately and were willing not to publicly identify themselves as homosexuals. Yet a large literature on the social psychology of stigma suggests that admission to Catholic seminaries might be a disservice to these men. Indeed, given the church’s teaching that homosexuals are “objectively disordered,” barring homosexuals from ordination may be more charitable than subjecting them to the contradictory demands and rigors of an institution that morally chastises them.

In the classic Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Erving Goffman defined a stigma as a social marker that separates an individual from the group and can ultimately lead to the discrediting of the whole person as tainted or discounted. Stigma calls into question the full humanity of the person. In the eyes of others, he or she is seen as flawed or contaminated. While church...

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About the Author

Rev. Paul Stanosz is a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the author of The Struggle for Celibacy (Herder and Herder/Crossroad).