THE VATICAN STARTED IT:
consideration of sexual orientation and priesthood
October 15, 2005
Since 1961 the
Vatican has put special emphasis on the question of homosexually
oriented men and their suitability or not for the priesthood.
in itself carries with it no moral implication. I do not know of
anyone who would disagree that many saints, popes, bishops,
founders, and reformers of religious orders can be reasonably
assumed to have had a homosexual orientation.
But over the years
the Vatican’s emphasis has shifted its understanding of gay
orientation and burdened it (unreasonably many think) with an
unnecessary moral judgment beyond the boundaries of original sin.
Not only has same sex behavior been named inherently evil but those
with a homosexual orientation have been branded as humans inclined
toward an intrinsic evil.
Navarro Vaals, Pope
John Paul’s spokesman, one time publicly went so far as suggesting
that homosexual priests had been invalidly ordained because of their
inherent inclination to an intrinsic evil.
are big words. They carry heavy consequences. They “brand” in the
real sense of the word. Applied to people this brand makes an
indelible mark that classes someone (here arbitrarily) as bad or
undesirable. The tragic consequences of branding homosexually
oriented priests (and gay men generally) have only begun to take its
toll on the priesthood and the church.
judgment is untenable. It is indefensible, not only because of the
history of gay saints, but also because of the multitude of gay
priests now serving the church with honor and distinction.
The Vatican is now
compounding its awkward and foundering attempts at trying to purify
itself (and to cover up) the extent and variety of the sexual
activity of its priests who are not behaving celibately by
scapegoating one segment of its population. Their target population
aims at men who are in no way attached to the ministry—aspirant
seminarians. Their target objective to predict the
unpredictable—future sexual behavior—is evanescent.
Not only are the
bishops off the mark from any genuine and scientific understanding
of human sexuality, they are setting up straw men—men applying for
entrance to seminaries—in the pretense that if gay men are
eliminated from seminaries celibacy will flourish in the church. Sex
and celibacy just do not work that way.
The assumption that
the Vatican’s fight against intrinsic evil will be won by men who
are rigidly orthodox and doctrinally pure is fallacious. It is
doomed because it confuses intellectual conviction with practical
responses to basic drives. Belief that something is undesirable or
even evil does not protect a person from himself.
I have said before
that the Vatican is approaching its valid concerns about the
practice of celibacy in the wrong way and in the wrong place.
The valid question
is: how are homosexually oriented leaders—cardinals and bishops who
are now among the ranks of the clergy—practicing the celibacy they
The answer to
that question will tell us something valid and useable.