Instruction from Rome

Writing about the Vatican takeover of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) from bishops’ conferences (“Lost in Translation,” December 2), John Wilkins offered the rule of thumb he used when editor of the Tablet of London. “If the curial congregations became concerned about an issue, it should always be assumed that they had good reason,” Wilkins wrote. “But the methods they used and their answers could be wrong.”

That is a rule worth keeping in mind in the wake of the Congregation for Catholic Education’s November 29 “Instruction” banning men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” from seminaries and ordination. Much ink has been spilled over what the phrase “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” means. Some Catholics, welcoming the document as a clarification of what “has always been taught,” argue that the meaning is plain: homosexuals, even if celibate, cannot be ordained. And even some defenders of ordaining gay men concede that the Vatican’s language is all too unambiguous.

Several bishops and bishops’ conferences have interpreted the Instruction differently: “deep-seated tendencies” to act on same-sex...

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