Tuesday, November 29, 2005

New Instruction Doesn't have Much that's "New"

The new instruction entitled "Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders" (what a title) has finally arrived (officially). The document itself seems to simply reiterate the Church teaching on homosexuality, as found in the Catechism and various other encyclicals and pastoral letters. It states that men who "practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'" are not to be admitted to the priesthood.

The document states, again, that the homosexual tendency is an "objectively disordered inclination." I know some people have needed clarification on this point: although the Church distinguishes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies, the tendency itself is considered to be objectively disordered. The act is "gravely sinful," just as a heterosexual act of fornication is.

Here's the document in full. I'm open to comments, particularly on whether or not those with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should be allowed to be priests. The other two things - those who practice homosexuality or support the gay culture - seem more obvious.

18 Comments:

At 11:07 PM, Anonymous wondertwin said...

I don't know, Becky. I'd say not allowing those who "...support the so-called 'gay culture'..." to be admitted to the priesthood is not too obvious. For one thing, the term "gay culture" is pretty vague. What exactly entails "support" for that "gay culture" seems equally as nebulous to me.

Admittedly, I didn't read the document in full (maybe I will later), but it would be suprising for me to find that the Church would put out something with such vague wording that is seemingly open to a lot of interpretation.

 
At 12:25 AM, Blogger Gabriel said...

Wondertwin,

I don't see a lot of vagueness is the statement surrounding "those who '...support the so-called 'gay culture...'" The teaching of the Catholic Church is clear on the matter and any support for "gay culture" (i.e. homosexuality, the homosexual lifestyle, homosexual acts) would be contrary to that. It's no different than disallowing individuals from the priesthood who would support murder, rape, incest, or even sola scriptura. All are contrary to the teaching of the Church and all who would support them have no business in the priesthood.

As for the document itself, I find it both neccessary and unfortunate; necessary because of the current climate in many of the American Catholic seminaries and unfortunate because the position articulated in the document should already be clear to Catholics. There is nothing "new" in there.

I believe the reaffirmation of the Catholic position on the matter is fully justified given the long-standing position on homosexuality and homosexual acts. I do believe that if one is able to gain control of their passions (hetero or homosexual), there is no reason to disclude them from the priesthood. However, given that the Catholic Church views homosexuality to be "objectively disordered," it only seems reasonable that a heightened standard of scrutiny be given to those who have had homosexual tendencies who wish to enter the priesthood. Even so, they are fallen just as we all are and as such are just as subject to lapse into impure thoughts and desires as a heterosexual priest. One would hope for bishops with discernment to care for the matter, but that's an entirely different can o' worms I won't bother to open.

I will say, speaking as an Orthodox Christian (not a Catholic), that one of the most outstanding spiritual leaders and thinkers in Orthodoxy in the 20th Century--Fr. Seraphim Rose--struggled with homosexuality and overcame it. There is every good reason then to believe those with homosexual tendencies can overcome their difficulties and go on to make exemplary spiritual leaders.

 
At 8:15 PM, Anonymous becky said...

Wondertwin,

The reason I feel that "gay culture" and "homosexual acts" are obvious, is that both deny the true meaning of sexuality as defined by the Catholic Church. Someone with "deep-seeded tendencies" doesn't necessarily deny the truth about human sexuality as the living out of the inner life of the Trinity.

Participating in the gay culture means participating in a movement that sees homosexuality as something intrinsically good and worthy of such things as pride parades and the like. The gay culture denies chastity.

All I'm saying is that the first two go to whether a candidate is prepared to live a life of chastity. Obviously, if they're practicing homosexuals or participating in a movement that denies chastity, they are not fit to be priests. Anyone who participates in a "fornication-like subculture" (like what exists in the ND undergraduate dorms) isn't fit to be a priest either. There is a question, however, about whether someone with deep-seeded homosexual tendencies is necessarily acting contrary to chastity. That's what I'm worried about.

In other words, it could be that a homosexual man who is committed to chastity could be a good priest.

 
At 9:04 PM, Anonymous wondertwin said...

Yes, but the wording wasn't "participating" in the gay culture it was "support[ing]" the gay culture. Support doesn't mean you have to participate any more than having tendencies means that you act upon those tendencies. Of course "support" could mean actual participation of some kind, but... well, you see? Where is the line drawn between "supporting" and "not-supporting" something?

I guess the term "gay culture" just doesn't sit well with me because it's something that gets thrown around because we like the sound of it, but it's not something that is clearly defined. "Support for American culture," for example, is not that clear, neither is "support for the latino culture" or "support for the African-American culture." The Church should have stressed what it was about "gay culture" that could not be supported. This has already been stated in previous documents, I know, but it should have also been included here.

I am sort of also weary about what "deep-seeded tendencies" has to do with priesthood, since (as you said) "...a homosexual man who is committed to chastity could be a good priest." I agree, and if the view is that the action of homosexuality is a sin (always, as opposed to heterosexual fornication which is viewed as "ok" after marriage), then the tendency to want to perform that action alone doesn't seem like it should stop someone from being admitted to the priesthood. Afterall, I'm sure heterosexual men have "deep-seated" heterosexual tendencies, yet if they don't act on them, they can be admitted.

 
At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

Wondertwin,

But it wouldn't just be the fact that heterosexual didn't act on those tendencies that would make them fit for the priesthood. We're talking about the actual virtue of chastity here. If there is a heterosexual man who struggles with pornography, but only acts upon it sporadically, there is still a big problem with letting him become a priest. There needs to be some sort of indication that the man is practicing the virtue of chastity and is overcoming struggles of impurity, etc.

Could it be that a tendency is a little bit more than an orientation? Tendency to me seems to connote some sort of action, as well as an orientation. What do you think?

 
At 1:06 AM, Blogger Gabriel said...

Quickly I will point out that one fundamental difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals in the priesthood is that the priesthood is a male institution; the temptations for a homosexual are going to be greatly heightened. Speaking as a heterosexual male, I can't imagine how difficult it would be for me to keep my thoughts pure and chaste if I were thrust into a close quartered environment with females everyday (some likely to be "my type"). I think that concern is a genuine one, which again sets the bar for scrutiny in this instance.

 
At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Becky said...

Gabriel,

Good point. The Bishop of the Fort Wayne/South Bend diocese actually made that point a couple of months ago to me in conversation.

 
At 1:31 PM, Anonymous wondertwin said...

"Tendency" and "orientation" do seem to be slightly different, but it doesn't change the fact that heterosexual males have exactly the same tendencies or orientation... only focused on the opposite sex.

Gabriel brings up an interesting point, but I don't think it would be any more difficult to have pure and chaste thoughts as a homosexual male than a heterosexual male. They will be surrounded by males, but it's not like they will be naked males. Surrounding a heterosexual male with females wouldn't necessarily mean that it would be more difficult to have pure and chaste thoughts. Replace those with naked females and... well... I'm sure that would be different. ;)

Surrounding myself with candy might make it a little harder to not eat candy, sure... but it doesn't mean that I won't be able to control my "tendency" to eat candy.

It seems to me that the only way you can rationalize this is by believing that it is harder for homosexuals to not give in to their sexual desires than heterosexuals, and I don't think is true at all. Homosexuals have the same amount of sexual control as heterosexuals, and I haven't ever seen anything that would dispute that.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger Gabriel said...

Wondertwin,

You are still missing the point that all things being equal, one with homosexual tendencies is going to be surrounded with more temptations in the priesthood than a heterosexual. One doesn't have to engage in any speculation as to who is or is not more/less able to keep hold on their hormones. Now, of course, there may be some homosexuals far less likely to have unchaste desires in such an environment than others, but that is where careful discernment is needed on the part of the bishop or other leadership in the clergy who are supposed to oversee the conduct of seminarians and priests.

However, prudence requires precautionary measures. A homosexual seminarian in an environment with all heterosexual environments may be a lot less tempted than a homosexual seminarian in an environment with many other homosexual seminarians. As we have already seen in the Catholic Church, such environments have already given rise to sodomy in the seminaries and a lax attitude towards homosexuality as an "objectively disordered" state.

 
At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabriel, you seem to be missing the point that as a person in the world, a heterosexual priest is going to be surrounded by temptation. Have you ever known a faithful gay priest or seminarian? If not, I suggest that you speak with one. You may be surprised by the reality of their experience.

And, Becky -- "Anyone who participates in a 'fornication-like subculture' (like what exists in the ND undergraduate dorms) isn't fit to be a priest either." Where are you getting your information? And hat on earth is a "fornication-like atmosphere"? This hasn't been my experience in the undergrad dorms.

 
At 12:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Bishop of the Fort Wayne/South Bend diocese actually made that point a couple of months ago to me in conversation."

It's probably worth noting that Bishop D'Arcy has also admitted that he has never known an actual gay person. Take that for what you will.

 
At 10:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon #1,

exactly, they always say that heterosexual fornication etc is also a sin blah blah, but there's really no effort or call to weed out those kinds of priests. Similarly i often hear them compare homosexuality to alcoholism as a "disorder" yet at least 2 priests in my life have been "recovering alcoholics"- they were RAVING DRUNKS. yet people w/ that disorder are not banned from the priesthood. It is a VERY thinly veiled hatred for homosexuals. Plain and simple

 
At 12:37 PM, Blogger Gabriel said...

This is just silly and beyond the realm of reason. I have no doubt that a heterosexual priest will have temptations, just as a homosexual one would. Like I said, "all things being equal." That is completely beside the point that there is a possibility for heightened difficulties for the homosexual priest who, in seminary, will be placed in a close quartered environment with other males (some who may even be homosexuals). Now, we know that doing that has led to "sodomy in the seminaries" and a lax attitude towards the Catholic Church's official position on homosexuality. It only seems prudent then that greater scrutiny towards homosexuals--a group thought of as "objectively disordered"--be made.

As far as the sins of priests generally, they should be dealt with accordingly under the supervision of their bishop. However, that is all beside the point. What are discussing here is a particular class of individuals the Church believes to be "objectively disordered" and hence in need of more careful scrutiny. There are a myriad of other faults and disorders which may bar priests from the priesthood or, at the very least, raise certain flags for considering them as seminarians. Individuals with a history of alcohol, drug abuse, fornication, and so forth would likely not be good candidates for the priesthood just as individuals who engage in sodomy or believe it to be "ok" (even heterosexuals) are likely not to be good candidates for the priesthood.

As for the rest of the anonymous posting, it's really just childish invective. If the Catholic Church has failed to "weed out" seminarians and prists who are actively and unabashadly engaging in sin, then it can rightly be criticized for not doing so. However, I have a feeling that it being brought up at all is just a not-so-clever way of trying to lower the bar the Church has set for its seminarians and priests. I can't imagine anyone who would want to do such a thing is at all a faithful Catholic or has the best intentions of the institution at heart.

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now, we know that doing that has led to "sodomy in the seminaries" and a lax attitude towards the Catholic Church's official position on homosexuality.

We do? It's no more logical to accept this as a natural consequence of admitting homosexuals to seminary than it is to accept that many (and, yes, many) priests have relationships with female parishoners as a natural consequence of working closely with them in parishes.

Inherent in your contention is the mistaken assertion that homosexual men cannot control their sexual urges. There is nothing about the nature of homosexuality that makes it any more difficult for a man to remain celibate while living in the close company of other men than for a heterosexual man living in the close company of women.

The problem is that there have been a few circumstances (which have, of course, been inflated beyond reality by writers like Michael Rose) where unfaithful seminarians have either broken under heavy pressure or simply succumbed to desire -- but that is hardly a "natural consequence" of considering homosexual candidates equally fit for the priesthood as heterosexual ones. That is a consequence of poor applicant screening and, more importantly, poor formation.

These "guidelines" seem to me nothing more than an inducement for men with vocations to lie about their sexuality for fear of being disqualified from consideration.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger Gabriel said...

It's no more logical to accept this as a natural consequence of admitting homosexuals to seminary than it is to accept that many (and, yes, many) priests have relationships with female parishoners as a natural consequence of working closely with them in parishes.

Except for the fact heterosexual seminarians aren't having sex with other seminarians. My point was that homosexuals have an additional level of temptation in an all male seminary that heterosexuals would not have. Please, read clearly what I say before asserting claims that can't even stand up to logical muster.

Inherent in your contention is the mistaken assertion that homosexual men cannot control their sexual urges.

Really? Before putting words in my mouth or riders onto my statements, perhaps you would do well to quote what I said and specifically point out what statements display this "inherency" of mine. Nothing I've said implies that homosexuals are any more/less capable on average of controlling their sexual urges than heterosexual priests. The difference here is that heterosexual priests are not put into a close quartered environment with females. So, all things being equal, there is an unequal temptation for homosexuals to contend with. When that is coupled with the fact that homosexuality itself is "objective disordered" and the standards are raised, it really isn't that difficult to see why that would be a cause for concern.

These "guidelines" seem to me nothing more than an inducement for men with vocations to lie about their sexuality for fear of being disqualified from consideration.

If they would lie to get into seminary, how much would the Catholic Church really want them as priests? I love how you seem to have nothing wrong with actively engaging in sin to get into a seminary, but find it apalling that the Catholic Church would take precautionary measures against the tarnish of sinful sexuality. Amazing.

I'm done with this thread. Thanks.

 
At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha- gabriel doesn't want to play anymore

 
At 6:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, hehe that's the true mark of someone who has been bested.

"I'm done with this thread. Thanks." = "I don't want to think anymore because I know I am losing. Thanks."

 
At 7:25 PM, Anonymous Becky said...

Actually, I got the impression that he might have been bored with the conversation because people weren't addressing his points. It also seemed like people were misconstruing his responses, something that would make me frustrated enough to leave.

I thought he did a pretty good job of explaining the instruction for someone who is not Roman Catholic.

 

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