Thursday, October 13, 2005

A problem that won't go away by itself

Mr. Michael Brown has written an excellent article on the homosexual problem within the Catholic Church and the need for the Vatican to act decisively. It may be found at:


It's crunch time in Rome as we pray for the discernment of the Vatican. In front of a new Pope is the new document on how to handle homosexuals in the clergy and rumors have swung back and forth, between those that claim it will be an '"H-bomb" -- a tough document restricting all homosexuals from the priesthood, even if they are celibate -- and those that predict the Vatican will allow those with gay tendencies into the clergy if they can prove that they have been celibate for three years and appear that they will remain so.

We have to believe -- perhaps "hope" is a better word -- that despite recent reports, the Vatican will not blink and that its choice will be the former. The Church hierarchy must be cleansed, and immediately, of homosexuality. We still recall the ways of John Paul II, and it's difficult to see him issuing any document unless it was tough on this particular problem. Under him, homosexuality was dealt with compassionately but as an "intrinsic disorder" (as are other sinful tendencies). This seems to us the Christian route. We can love those with such tendencies at the same time that we realize they should not be ministering but rather should be ministered to.

Then there is the issue of practicality: how could a seminarian with homosexual tendencies (themselves difficult, often, to detect) prove that he has been celibate? And even if he has, is three years long enough? Isn't that number a bit toward the short end?

Lastly is the matter of 1961. That was the year the then-Sacred Congregation for Religious issued a document on the selection of candidates for the priesthood in which it was clearly stated that "those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty should be excluded from religious vows and ordination."

The 1961 document was reaffirmed, under John Paul II, in March of 2002, when Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls stated to The New York Times that "people with (gay) inclinations just cannot be ordained."

Such language is strong, to the point, and correct.

However much we can cherish the good aspects of people who fight such temptation (as all of us have crosses), it seems that the "gay" tendency is a matter for deliverance, not for compromise; it is a serious disorder that must be purged before a man is fit to minister; it is nothing that should be tolerated due to a politically-correct atmosphere.

Those with homosexual orientations often can and should be helped rid themselves of this obsession. They can only be helped if we stop treating it as an issue of sociology.

It is a spiritual issue. And the crisis is hardly over. Huge headlines on extensive and horrible abuse of youngsters by priests has erupted in just the past several week from Philadelphia to Los Angeles.

If the Vatican is seen as succumbing to political and social pressure (the media has been in a frenzy about the alleged and perhaps mythical "H-bomb," as have some leaders of religious orders), it could be very damaging to Benedict's XVI's papacy and more so to the priesthood. Heterosexual men will continue to be discouraged from entering seminaries (fearing the label of "gay"), and the critical shortage of priests will grow increasingly severe.

That in turn will lead to more intense pressure, in coming years, for married clergy.

Thus our prediction: a tolerance of celibate homosexuals in the priesthood will lead to married priests. Our remedy: take the strong medicine now. If the number of seminarians plunges as a result of disqualifying gay candidates, so be it; it will be temporary -- whereas putting a bandage on the hemorrhage will allow the bleeding to continue. It has already discouraged enough good men from the ranks.

"To your point about homosexuality in the priesthood, my brother went to the Gregorian University in Rome to study for the priesthood in the mid-eighties although he did not complete his studies and become ordained," writes Kathy Ronning of Yardley, Pennsylvania. "He told me that at the time a third of the priests-seminarians were homosexual and had made advances towards him (he's heterosexual). Unbelievable that in the backyard of the Vatican men of the cloth are proclaiming that the faithful should be heterosexual, monogamous, and refrain from using birth control or masturbating, and all the while they are participating in these illicit activities."

An initial step may be to make sure modernistic nuns (who have been known to weed out heterosexual men) are not involved in the screening process. Replace them with heterosexual priests. And forget psychologists, who too often excuse all sorts of sin.

In a 2001 interview with Catholic News Service, then-Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, who was secretary of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation, explained that while the homosexual inclination is not sinful in itself, it "evokes moral concern" because it is a strong temptation to actions that "are always in themselves evil." He defined the homosexual inclination as "a temptation that, for whatever reason, has become so predominant in a person's life as to become a force shaping the entire outlook of the person." Persons with a homosexual inclination, he too said, should not be admitted to the seminary.

It is the choice before us.

In a couple short weeks we will see where the Vatican leads. Will it "reformulate" the 1961 document or stick to it guns, taking the rough and tough road that certainly seems like the correct medicine? Will we hold tight despite the crisis of priest shortages or soften requirements for the sacred priesthood -- which may create far greater shortages in the long-term, as heterosexuals are permanently discouraged from entering?

The 1961 document recommended that any candidate for the priesthood with serious unresolved sexual problems be screened out, saying that the chastity and celibacy required by religious and priestly life would constitute for them a "continuous heroic act and a painful martyrdom." That 1961 document has never been abrogated, and so is still technically valid.

Will the Vatican stand by it in coming days or will it now be invalidated?

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