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Bad Will and False Witness

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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.

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About NR Davis

  • So now the Catholic Church shouldn’t decide who gets to be priests? So who should? Personally, I think the whole celibate priesthood thing is wrong (look at 1 Timothy 4:1-3 if you want to see what the Book has to say about it). But the RCC can pretty much have whoever they want as priests as far as I’m concerned. They don’t answer to me — I’m Baptist, and we have our own stuff to deal with.

    The American Catholic church has gone counter to what Rome has said for so long, I expect before too long that they’ll start their own denomination. That or just keep on ignoring what the Vatican says and do what they want anyway.

    And Christ’s message was a lot more than just love and tolerance. I seem to remember a “go and sin no more” thrown in for good measure, and a rather intolerant, exclusive “I am the Way … no man comes to the Father but by Me” along the way. Modern Christianity at times misses a lot of His points, but please don’t water down the message that He had.

  • Nancy

    This is nothing new; the Catholic church has been abusing & persecuting innocents for over 2 millenia now. Apparently those in power gloss over the passage in the N.T. about “those who will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but I tell you, I know you not!” as not applying to them. Boy, are THEY in for a rude awakening.

  • Natalie Davis

    “So now the Catholic Church shouldn’t decide who gets to be priests?”

    Where did I say that, Mr. Warren? I stated my opinion. What, am I not allowed?

    And let’s not get into the matter of “sin no more.” No doubt your interpretation of Scripture and definition of sin differ from mine.

    Another thing, a bunch of fancy guys in Rome decided. The Church is the people in the pews, who were not asked.

  • gonzo marx

    thanks for the nice read, Ms Davis

    and remember kiddies…

    gnosis > dogma

    nuff said?


  • Robo

    I don’t think the Catholic Church has gone far enough. Gay bashing? Give me a break. IT is not a pedophile problem, but a gay pedophile problem. During the 60’s and 70’s the Catholic Church was swarmed by gay men looking for boys to molest. Out of all the cases we read about in the media, I’m guessing that 97% of the molesttation cases involved boys. Yes, it is a gay problem and ALL gay priests should be made to leave. If it were ONLY a pedophile problem, then the majority (90%+) of the cases would involve girls. I myself, would like to see the celibacy rule changed, if only to get rid of the homosexual priests and get more caring hetro sexual priests. I may not agree with gays and lesbians, and I can tolerate them, but I wish they would stop trying to cram it down my throat via tv shows, movies and books. I am never talking about my straight life style so why do i need to hear about their escapades. It is sickening. 🙁

  • Considering gays are already priests, this action seems kind of pointless.

  • Baronius

    1 This isn’t a new rule. I believe the last time this was declared was in 1971 (and is still in effect). It has been consistently held by the Catholic Church.

    2 The Catholic Church doesn’t have a pedophilia problem; it has a homosexual ephebophilia problem. I don’t know what things are like in Maryland, but most of the stories I’ve been hearing involve priests and boys in their early teens.

    3 This rule, if enforced, will likely increase the number of priests. The perception of the priesthood as less than masculine has been a deterence to many who would otherwise pursue a religious vocation. Anyway, religious history shows that restrictions increase participation, not decrease it.

  • Gay pedophiles? A pedophile is a pedophile, period! The gender of the victim has nothing to do with sexuality. A pedophile is all about control and the theft of innocence.

    Insofar as anyone cramming the gay lifestyle down your throat, that’s a bit over the top. Nobody is cramming anything anywhere. The straight lifestyle is all over everything for us to see from printed to broadcast media. There is nothing wrong with fair, accurate depictions of people in gay lifestyles. We have a right to be acknowledged and the more mainstreaming the better.

    Perhaps you’ve never experienced any kind of discrimination. I have — on many levels from my sexuality to my nationality, religion and parentage. It’s not fun, my friend. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky straight caucasian WASP dudes who haven’t suffered these indignities. If you are, consider yourself fortunate. In the meantime I refuse to take any more shit from anybody. I’m an equal in this society; if you don’t like it, that’s just too damn bad.

  • “Another thing, a bunch of fancy guys in Rome decided. The Church is the people in the pews, who were not asked.”

    Now THAT I can agree with. (Technically, the church is the body of all believers, assembled locally, but I digress. Ecclesiology is not my strong suit.) And I think that if the people in the pews were asked, the American Catholic Church would be markedly different from the Roman Catholic Church. Might be interesting — I wonder where the papacy of the American Catholic Church would be centered ….

    As far as interpretation of Scripture — I’ve always thought the passage was pretty clear cut. The woman was engaged in sin (based on Mosaic law). The people accusing her, and judging her, were more guilty than she was (probably were adulterers themselves, for that matter — possibly with her). Christ alone was worthy to judge, and He refused, knowing her heart. But His parting comment to her was a simple “Go, and sin no more.” He did not condemn, but He also recognized that she was wrong. We tend to do too much of one, and not enough of the other.

  • Baronius

    Nancy, won’t THEY be surprised on Judgement Day?? They? I can’t imagine a more dangerous attitude. The Pharisee anticipates the other person’s surprise at Judgement.

    Won’t WE be surprised on Judgement Day.

  • When our neighbors are hurting nobody, and we learn their theology differs from ours on some minor point, if we anticipate they will face an unpleasant surprise at the Day of Judgement, then indeed we share in the sin of the Pharisees.

    When we anticipate an unpleasant surprise for the oppressors and the unjust, for those who gain unfair advantages in this life at the expense of the downtrodden, then perhaps the sin is not so great.

    Especially if we envision the unpleasant surprise for the sanctimonious might not be their own damnation, but rather the surprise of seeing the very people they despised in life standing right beside them among those whom God has graciously forgiven for their sins.

  • Anthony Grande

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.

    You do realize that the Catholic Church also banned heterosexuals from priesthood also way way back?

  • Anthony Grande

    Holy Bible Leviticus 18:22 “A man shall not lay with another man as one lies with a woman.”

    Living Bible Leviticus 18:22 “Homosexuality is forbidden for it is an enormous sin.”

    King James Bible Leviticus 18:22 “Mankind shall not lay with makind as womankind.”

    So why is this a surprise to anyone?

    These Bible passages also prove that there is no such thing as someone born gay because why would God create something and then declare that it is a sin?

    That is like if after God created Eve and then declared that being a women is a sin.

  • Anthony Grande

    Oh and some more Bible passages that support this act of the Catholic Church:

    Romans 1:26-27:
    “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions: for their women exchanged the natural use for that which is against nature. And in the same way also the men abandoned the natural use of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.”

    Leviticus 20:13:
    “If a man lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination and they shall surely be put to death.”

    And remember that ALL sexual orientation has been banned from the Catholic Church.

  • Liberal

    Hey Anthony,

    Maybe you should read the whole book.

    1 Samuel 18: 1-4

    And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

  • Nice mistranslation, Liberal.

    The phrases that are used to describe Jonathan and David’s love are used elsewhere in the Bible to describe the love of a parent for their children (especially Jacob’s love for his son Benjamin). Jonathan’s clothing was a symbol of his inheritance — the kingdom. He knew that David was to be the next king in Israel, and was showing his subjection to David.

    Amazing what happens when you read modern cultural practices into an ancient document, isn’t it?

  • Many theologians contend that St. Paul was deeply troubled by his sexuality. It’s not so much that he was “gay” as it was that they believe he was one who slept with both genders. His writings suggest a man who had a deep hatred and mistrust of women while being tortured by his own repressed love for one of his slaves. There are many passages in the Old Testament which were once considered law that would be totally unacceptable today. Those fundamentalists who say that we can’t “pick and choose” would do well to remember that they are guilty of the same. Try and deny that one.

  • Anthony Grande

    Sorry but Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 24:13 and Romans 1:26-27 are very clear and the Bible does not condradict itself.

  • gonzo marx

    once again…

    Ant G sez..
    *and the Bible does not condradict itself.*

    factually incorrect as usual…

    now…4 Gospels, yes?….go and look up 2 things in each of them

    Christ’s Last words on the Cross

    what was on the sign above his head when he was crucified

    go on Ant….i’ll wait….

    find it?..now go look at the next one…make sure you check all 4 Books…

    happy now? those that mention each Event do NOT agree with each other

    those examples were just the first ones off the top of my head as to where the New Testament completely does NOT agree with itself in a most contradictory manner

    and we still don’t get french benefits


  • Leviticus 19:19“Keep my statutes: do not breed any of your domestic animals with others of a different species; do not sow a field of yours with two different kinds of seed; and do not put on a garment woven with two different kinds of thread.”

    Leviticus 19:20“”If a man has carnal relations with a female slave who has already been living with another man but has not yet been redeemed or given her freedom, they shall be punished but not put to death, because she is not free.

    Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism:“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

    Somehow, I think the Buddha got it right.

  • Marcia L. Neil

    The persecution of priests is nothing new in human history, contingent upon their knowledge of cultural behavior and defensive yet not specifically military psychosocial roles. Charges of abuse directed toward priests may be yet another example of military minds shifting blame from themselves and their own abuses toward the religious personnel who absorb and channel such experiences of congregation memberships into the realm of theological history.

  • …and we still don’t get french benefits…

    But can we get some french kissing? Or maybe even a croissant?

  • Nancy

    Thank you, Victor, you clarified what I was trying to say: those who think they’re so tight with God are going to be shocked at who God says is tight with God; S/He doesn’t judge by our low & narrow standards.

  • Baronius

    Nancy, I understood your statement. My point is, you’re judging people on the basis of their judging people, because judging people is wrong.

    Silas, homosexual activity is forbidden in the OT and NT. You can’t write off the rule as OT ritual. Questioning Paul’s motives doesn’t help your argument either.

  • Anthony Grande

    You got to remember that the New Testament is compilation of a few 2nd hand sources that still drive the same point home.

    “and we still don’t get french benefits”

    If it weren’t for the French benefits during the Revolutionary war we would probably still be ruled and oppressed imperial England.

    P.S. “Fringe” = “French” I am not stupid.

  • I found an interesting take on this at GetReligion:
    “So far, it appears that the traditional side of the Vatican (there are divisions in Rome, as well as elsewhere) is trying to ask this question: ‘Should the Roman Catholic Church strive to ordain only men who believe its doctrines, including its teachings on homosexuality?'” Why should an organization put people in positions of authority who disagree with it’s basic teachings?