Just in time for the season of peace and goodwill to all, the Roman Catholic Chuch has done the unconscionable: It has banned gay men from its priesthood.
From the New York Times:
The long-awaited document, which has leaked out in sections over the last few months, was published Tuesday in Italian by an Italian Catholic Web site, AdistaOnline.it.
The document appears to allow ordination only for candidates who experienced “transitory” homosexual tendencies that were “clearly overcome” at least three years before ordination as a deacon, the last step before priesthood. It does not define “overcome.” Several critics worried that that language would make it nearly impossible for men who believe their basic orientation is gay – but who are celibate – to become priests. …
The document puts the onus on bishops, seminary directors and the spiritual advisers “to evaluate all of the qualities of the personality and assure that the candidate does not have sexual disorders that are incompatible with priesthood.”
A candidate, in turn, would have to be honest about his sexuality.
“It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality, regardless of everything, to arrive at ordination,” the document states. “Such an inauthentic attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and availability that must characterize the personality of one who considers himself called to serve Christ.”
How about the inauthenticity of a church that claims to proclaim Jesus’ message of love and tolerance?
The Church — whatever this contemptible document signed and approved by Pope Benedict XVI says — is telling gay men who are prepared to live chastely and who know in their hearts that they are called by God to serve as priests that in order to fulfill that call and do the Creator’s will, they must lie.
This will be horrifying — certainly for the men who feel they are forced to lie, but also for the Church itself. As the Rev. Gerard Thomas, a gay priest, writes for Beliefnet:
The only gay men who will enter will be either clueless, closeted, or lying. This is a disastrous way to prepare men for healthy life as a priest, and gives rise to the very environment that everyone wanted to avoid: the repressed, fearful seminary where sexuality is a forbidden topic.
So, what is the bottom line here? Gays can’t be celibate? As Fr. Thomas notes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says that gay men should (a debatable point) and can be celibate. So the truth is, good men are being told that they are not worthy because of who they are, not because of what they do. Though they were created, we are told, in the image of God, they aren’t good enough to be priests, according to this document. Hell, the Church is treating them like they treat women. (The difference being that the leadership doesn’t label women as “objectively disordered” — it only treats us that way.)
Prada-clad Benedict and his richly robed henchmen ought to be ashamed. Doubtless, they feel pleased with themselves. I imagine that they believe they are protecting their Church, their flock. They are wrong: The Church’s child-abuse scandal is not about homosexuality. It is about a culture of arrogance and secrecy in the ultimate Old Boy network, a culture that allowed pedophiles the freedom to molest children. Pedophilia is not about homosexuality. The men who abused innocent boys — and girls (though they don’t matter as much in Catholic culture, do they?) — are sick, dangerous people. Good priests — the ones who teach, nurture, and inspire; the ones who live up to their vows — come in all sexualities. Decent, honest, celibate priests and seminarians are being punished for the sins of pedophiles and cowardly bishops and cardinals who were negligent in their duties to protect children.
Again, from the Times:
The anticipation of the document has divided Catholics, especially in the United States, igniting contentious debate over whether this is an appropriate response to the recent sex scandals and whether celibate gay men can still be good priests.
Whether? According to the document, the Church believes gay men do not have the capacity to relate to men or women. This is nonsense: The Catholics served well by gay priests certainly would disagree with its bigoted leadership’s vile contention. The fact is that gay men can be and are good priests. No document can deny that. I know many priests who happen to be gay; they are among the best priests and the best humans I know. They do not deserve this.
Imagine: Gays and the people they serve with honor and distinction are punished. The bad guys, save for a few like former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, walk away scot-free. This is not justice. If Jesus would approve something like this, I am wasting my time believing in his teachings.
Banning gays from the priesthood will not solve the Catholic Church’s problems. In fact, it will create problems.
Late last year, before his death, Pope John Paul II, himself no friend to GLBT people, verbalized his concerns over the shortage of priests, calling it a “stark challenge” that can not be ignored. According to Future Church, which describes itself as “a national coalition of parish-centered Catholics who seek the full participation of all baptized Catholics in the life of the Church,”
Aside from the net loss of priests, our priest population is aging, so that by the year 2005, US priests will be older with almost half being 55 or above and only one in eight under 35. To compound the crisis, the total number of US Catholics is expected to increase by 65 percent in the same period.
Currently 27 percent of US parishes do not have a resident priest according to the 2000 study done by the US Bishops. An estimated 58,000 parishes and 112,000 mission stations worldwide are without a priest according to the 1997 Vatican Statistical Yearbook.
And once the document sees its official release next week, expect that some seminarians and priests will turn in their Roman collars.
From the Associated Press:
“Our seminaries are likely to be depopulated to a significant extent,” said Rev. Donald Cozzens of John Carroll University. He cited estimates that put gay priests at 25 percent to 50 percent; [Rev. Eugene Lauer of the New York-based National Pastoral Life Center] guessed that 10 percent is closer to the mark.
Cozzens also warned that “the hunters might turn out to be the hunted,” meaning that there are gay priests among Vatican officials, bishops and other church leaders.
It is now the year 2005. Here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the nation’s first See, many Catholics I know attend churches that do not have resident priests and share stretched-to-the-limit pastors with other churches. (That is, if their parishes — as many have — have not been shut down already.) In some parishes, nuns run the show. These women do a phenomenal job, but being second-class citizens within the Church, their activities are limited, which makes it difficult for parishioners to receive the sacraments they need. Does it make sense to deprive these faithful people of good priests because of a cynical, hateful attempt to give the Church the appearance of taking action to stop the specter of child abuse by priests?
In fairness, any adult who works with children is a possible threat. Check the headlines: All too often we see stories about teachers and clergy — male and female, Catholic and not — being charged with molesting or having sex with minors. In the vast majority of the cases I have seen, the suspects have been heterosexual.
Should we ban the hets? I mean, there are many more of them, so the possibility of danger is great. Of course, the idea is ludicrous on its face. So too is the Roman Catholic plot to ban homosexual men from studying for the priesthood and from serving as priests. In this former Catholic’s opinion, that’s a sin against the Creator — and her children.
Now that the document is published, the witchhunt begins. Its instructions direct rectors and spiritual directors to ask men already in seminaries and formation programs to leave. What a beautiful holiday activity: rounding up the scapegoats. The Jesus I know is weeping.
And so this is Christmas. Around the world, masses will be held to herald the birth of a special child. The story says that this child’s parents traveled many miles to take part in a census mandated by a cruel, vicious, power-mad government. When the couple arrived in the little town of Bethlehem, they sought shelter and were told there was no room at the inn.
If there is any comfort in this at all, gays called to the priesthood can take heart in knowing that they, like Mary and Joseph, were trapped in a situation controlled by evil forces. They are victims to circumstances beyond their control. And they should know that those of us who believe in Jesus’ mandate to love and his call for justice won’t stop fighting for them — and for the renewal of a broken Church that has lost its way.Powered by Sidelines