A PRELIMINARY REVIEW OF
ASH WEDNESDAY 1 March 2006
In a play, The Prince of L A,
author Dekin Matthews constructs a fictional drama in which Matthew
Cardinal John of Los Angeles is called upon to deal with the sexual
allegations by a priest (Kieran O’Reilly) in another diocese against his
bishop (Aloysius Thornton). The cardinal, his secretary-canon lawyer, (Fr.
Paul Munoz) and a nun-pastoral-minister (Sr. Dominic) examine the facts of
the case. Penetratingly, profoundly, and poignantly they expose the actual
sexual dynamics of the Catholic Church more incisively than any media
coverage of child abuse by clergy has done so far. The accusing priest
reveals that a priest-professor sexually abused him already while he was
in the seminary. The bishop admits that he was sexually involved with
Kieran and confesses that he is “in love” with him. In one exchange Fr.
Paul tells Mathew John that half of the priests in his archdiocese think
that the cardinal is gay. When the cardinal asks “Which half?” Paul says
“the straight half.” (Cf. Denys Horgan, NCR 11-18-05)
Beyond dramatic presentations, the
sexual abuse crisis in the United States has focused the media, the
courts, lay people, the hierarchy, and the Vatican on a whole range of
questions about the sexual activity of Catholic clergy and the need to
protect, especially children, from harm. The Vatican in 2005 instituted a
visitation of Catholic seminaries in the United States. The question of
the relationship between sexual orientation and suitability for ministry
in the Roman Catholic priesthood is one important topic in that inquiry.
(Cf. INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS for the Apostolic Visitation of the
Seminaries and Houses of Priestly Formation in the United States of
America. Vatican 2005. also Roma Locuta: Causa Aperta Est.
Discourse on the topic of sexual
orientation and ministry cannot be limited to candidates for seminary
training once the Vatican opened the door to that question by
investigation. The broader question of orientation within the Catholic
priesthood naturally comes up for consideration and discussion. (Cf.
Sexual Orientation and the American Roman Catholic Bishops. 02-10-06
Only a person can be certain of his
own orientation and the particular mix of his drives. As explained in
earlier discussions, the consciousness of one’s sexual orientation is a
process of self-discovery. The dictum Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
has been used within the Catholic priesthood long before it was applied to
the US armed forces. The legitimate theory supporting this stance for
Catholic clergy was that any man ordained to the priesthood had to make a
prior promise of perfect and perpetual chastity and non-marriage—that is,
celibacy. Therefore sexual orientation really had no practical effect in
considering a candidate for ministry. Progress in the psychological
understanding of sex and celibacy forces all who care about the church to
search for deeper consideration of both subjects.
In considering the subject it must be
remembered that sexual orientation and sexual behavior are distinct
Having an opinion about a person’s
sexual orientation is in no way an accusation of any particular sexual
activity or wrongdoing.
There should be no moral judgment
attached to a person’s sexual orientation. This is a sustained teaching of
the Catholic Church. (In spite of some recent statements that imply such a
judgment, i.e. inclination toward an intrinsic evil, which we
There is no medical or psychiatric
diagnosis attached to a sexual orientation.
If there is currently some stigma
attached to one or the other sexual orientation this bias is part of the
evolution of social understanding and justice. The Catholic Church
preaches social justice and is dedicated to fight against religious,
racial, economic, gender, and human discrimination, injustice, and
intolerance wherever it is found. Discrimination against people of one
orientation or another should be combated by all Catholics in accord with
the church’s tradition of social justice.
Men of either sexual orientation can
be, and many are, celibate in practice. Long-term studies of priests
Men of either orientation can involve
themselves is a variety of sexual activities regardless of their basic
orientation. Behavior is not always an infallible proof of orientation.
Sexual orientation is neither a guard
against abuse nor an assurance of celibate observance.
The sample that follows is not
intended to embarrass anyone, but to indicate opinions and the public
record that suggest (or allege) a man’s orientation.
This inquiry seeks to promote
responsible dialogue about issues of human sexuality that are of vital
practical importance to Catholics, clergy and lay.
This study is intended to help the
Church reach reasonable and honorable decisions about its clergy and their
formation, education, and supervision. The commissions the American
Catholic Bishops established to help them deal with the sexual abuse
crisis have highlighted deficiency in these areas. (Cf. The John Jay
Report and The Report of National Review Board. 02-27-04)
If there is a public record of
allegations or admission of non-celibate activity, it should be presumed
that a bishop can return to the practice of celibacy and even attain a
refined spirituality in spite of, or even because of, any misadventures.
Saint Augustine and Thomas Merton are but two examples of conversion and
re-conversion to celibacy.
Opinion is simply that—a point of view
people take on an issue that can be based solely on personal judgment. Any
person has a right to form an opinion of a public person and that opinion
may or may not have well developed reasoning or multiple data behind it.
Of course, the more data available for consideration the more useful are
the opinions for discourse.
Opinions about some member of the
hierarchy are strongly colored when he has been identified by allegation
or public knowledge of his behavior. Even that may or may not be a valid
indicator of orientation.
By asserting that one or the other
member of the hierarchy seems to posses one or the other sexual
orientation is in no way an allegation in the legal sense of the term that
implies some wrongdoing or misbehavior. Every man posses a sexuality in
spite of the fact that we are not use to discussing its nature. That
oversight is harmful to the health of the church.
The purpose of this opinion survey
will be to garner some idea about the status of the sexual orientation of
church leaders to aid in the education of candidates for the priesthood
and promote reasonable dialogue among clergy and laity alike.
Below is merely a sample of
well-established opinions about some members of the hierarchy. The final
survey report hopes to list a significant number of the current members of
the hierarchy by State and Diocese.