As 'Gay' Paper Nears Release, Pope
Nears Crossroads That May Define His Papacy
The intersection has been reached
at which Pope Benedict XVI will establish his papacy as a strongly distinct one
or will head in the direction of an interregnum -- more an in-between papacy.
Both directions have their
advantages. Striking it has been how dedicated the former Cardinal Ratzinger
has been to John Paul II -- profoundly invoking devotion to him, praying at his
tomb, recalling fond moments, and following John Paul's policies in such
striking actions as visiting a synagogue and maintaining the new Vatican
relationship with Castro. Thus far, he has been a caretaker -- from Youth Day to
ecumenism, keeper of his predecessor's incredible flame.
That is highly comforting. No one
wants that eclipsed. The time may be coming, however, for bold action. At Notre
Dame, Father Richard McBrien, torch bearer for the modernistic faction of
says that at this point in Benedict XVI's
papacy, “I have observed little or nothing from my vantage point that would
trouble me or other reform-minded Catholics."
It may be time to trouble him.
A crossroads will come on
November 29 when the long-and-hotly awaited document on homosexuals in the
priesthood is issued by the Vatican. It will define the papacy (or at least its
early phases) as either an interregnum or a distinctly empowered one.
Considering his age, and the possibility of a short reign, such impressions
could end up as lasting ones.
According to initial reports, the
document will ban new priests who exhibit "deeply rooted" homosexual tendencies
but not exclude those who have overcome such tendencies four years before their
final ordination, according to the Italian newspaper, Il Giornale. It
will not boot out those who already have been ordained but makes it clear that
homosexuals, at least active ones, are not qualified to be priests.
How this document is perceived
will define Benedict's papacy. Will it be seen as a toughening up of the Church
-- a purge of sexual evil that has brought it the greatest scandals since the
Middle Ages -- or will it be viewed as a document with a tad bit too much
Arguably, it must be perceived as
tough not only for Pope Benedict to be viewed as establishing a strong identity
of his own but also, ironically, in maintaining the policies of his predecessor
-- who used powerful language in speaking of sexual immorality and who in the
face of great evils like Communism, abortion, and human cloning never
It is still
unclear how restrictive the new Vatican requirements on homosexuality
will be, and how they will be enforced. One report mentioned that potential
seminarians who indicate "support" for the gay culture would also be excluded.
Now the questions: What is meant by a "gay inclination"? How will this be
defined? And how will it be detected? Will liberal nuns still be in charge of
screening applicants? We have heard from priests who say that during Vatican
seminary reviews many years ago, facts were easily hidden. At the same time,
there are feminine men who are not homosexual but may be thusly mistaken (if the
Vatican is rigorous).
Which leads to the next question:
will the new document be seen as a sea change, or as mere window dressing? We
have argued that homosexuality is a spiritual affliction and that before anyone
who has ever exhibited such tendencies is considered for the priesthood, he
should not be simply subjected to psychological screening but spiritual
deliverance. The eradication of such tendencies, and strict new ways of
enforcing celibacy, should be the aim.
Will this cause a "schism"
between gay and heterosexual priests?
While the Vatican is not
threatening to remove those with such deeply-rooted tendencies who already have
been ordained, some of them have expressed concern that the new document will in
effect be saying to them, "in ordaining you, we made a mistake."
Father Timothy Radcliffe, who led
the Dominican Order for nearly ten years, last week attacked any suggestion of
barring homosexuals from the priesthood and suggested barring "homophobes"
instead. "Any deep-rooted prejudice against others, such as homophobia or
misogyny, would be grounds for rejecting a candidate for the priesthood, but not
their sexual orientation," he said.
Such language should startle us.
It is a stand which ignores the fact that homosexuality is considered an
"intrinsic disorder" by the Vatican and it ignores the fact that gays account
for 82 percent of sexual abuse cases. In blunt language, the Church has been
decimated by homosexuality.
In Rochester, New York, Bishop
wrote a column perceived by many as assuring
homosexuals that they were welcome and appreciated as priests in his diocese.
"Critically important as it is,
we should remember that formation for a life of celibacy is not the only, or
even the primary, issue here," wrote Bishop Clark. "The task of seminaries is
much wider than that. Their task is to form candidates toward intellectual,
emotional, psychosexual, spiritual and pastoral maturity, regardless of the
sexual orientation of the candidate.
"To gay young men who are
considering a vocation to priesthood: We try to treat all inquiries fairly. You
will be no exception." As for "homosexual priests who spend themselves each day
in faithful, loving ministry to God’s holy people," continued Clark, "we deeply
value your ministry."
This is not to degrade
homosexuals -- who are worthy of as much love as anyone, but let us respectfully
differ with the bishop and point out that a person who maintains a homosexual
orientation is not qualified for the ministry but rather (as we have said
before) in need of ministry.
We believe that such inclinations
can be extinguished in many cases through fasting and prayer. There are
ministries in cities such as New York that have shown this. While initial
reports indicate that the Vatican has no intentions of booting out those "gays"
who already have been ordained (with which we agree), there should be a strong
program for homosexual deliverance -- no matter how much the secularists
Will gay candidates now drop out?
Will the shortage of priests become yet more acute?
Let the chips fall where they
may. The Catholic Church is about truth, and if it keeps to the truth, vocations
of the right kind, along with the Church, will rise again.
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Taking A Good First Step With Its
New Document, Vatican Must Now Remove Those Who Disobey Guidelines on Gays
We expressed the view
that how the new Vatican document on gays in the priesthood is perceived would
be more important than what it actually says, and the initial reaction is that
it is a significant response to priestly homosexuality.
That's the good news.
The New York Times described it as "strong
and specific language" that "bans" gays from the seminaries.
The Los Angeles Times called it a
"qualified ban." Noted
Fox News: "Vatican says active gays unwelcome
If this last headline is the
impression of the general public, and particularly those who are contemplating
priesthood, the document, to be issued November 29 by the Congregation for
Catholic Education, has done its job and hit its mark. However, if it is seen
more as a mixed comment or "middle-of-the-road" ruling, any good effect will be
CNN began is reportage with a headline that
made the document seem strongly prohibitive against unnatural sexual tendencies,
by mid-morning it had adjusted matters. "Vatican to allow priests who 'overcome'
being gay," was the new headline, focusing on just one side of the document.
The impression that should be
left is that homosexuality is wrong and that those homosexuals who made it to
the priesthood are not legitimate priests if they act upon or tolerate such
proclivities. What the document says is that it is necessary "to clearly affirm
that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot
admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have
deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture."
"Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave
sins," says the document. "Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically
immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be
approved under any circumstance."
certainly settles the matter on where the Church stands when it comes to the
general subject of such behavior.
regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain
number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a
trial for such people," said the document. "They must be accepted with respect
and sensitivity; every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be
avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and to
unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter."
Precisely. Like one born with a
tendency toward alcoholism, or adultery, or any other abnormality, homosexuals
who want to be priests must seek deliverance, and be helped in doing so. The
Vatican says such a candidate must be sex-free for at least three years before
being ordained a deacon, the last step to priesthood.
In fact, according to one initial
translation we have, the Vatican states that homosexual tendencies "must be
clearly overcome" before a man is fit to be a priest. Case closed again, it
But already there are those
finding loopholes in the document.
First of all, how will it be
"The 21-paragraph document --
which advises bishops and seminary rectors on how to deal with potential gay
priests entering the church -- did not spell out how the 'transitory problem'
could be overcome, or how a potential priest could offer proof that he no longer
had such tendencies," noted one report.
Vatican places the matter in the hands of "Bishops, Episcopal Conferences, and
Superior Generals," who assign the screening process to seminary directors and
in some cases to nuns who in many past incidences have shown a clear openness to
men with strong homosexual leanings.
"There are people on the right
wing who from the beginning saw this document as a kind of magic wand that would
remove the taint of the sex abuse scandal," said the Rev. John A. Coleman, a
Jesuit sociologist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. "I think
that's wishful thinking."
the Bishop of Rochester, New York, has publicly stated that he welcomes
homosexual candidates, and as Tod Tamberg,
spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese (which is rife with abuse claims),
commented, seminary candidates there already are required to be celibate
for at least two years before they can be admitted.
"The challenge, I think, for the media is to make sure it is not sort of taken
out of context," Tamberg said. "There will be some people who from what they
hear in the media will think: 'Oh my God, this means no gay will ever be
ordained in the priesthood again or anybody with a homosexual orientation will
never be ordained again.' That's simply not true."
One news accounts spun it that
the document "stops short of ordering an absolute ban on homosexuals in the
priesthood, as had been feared in some circles."
Thus we see that as far as
conservatives are concerned, the document is a shot over the bow but not a home
"The Vatican has made a wise
decision to come down in the middle of the road on this dispute," said Brian
Saint-Paul, editor of a Washington-based Catholic journal. "This new document
acknowledges the incompatibility of active homosexuality with the priesthood but
does leave the door open to men who have been able to live chastely with their
If this is the lasting
impression -- that it stops short of a ban, and still allows a priest to
feel homosexual, instead of "overcoming" such a tendency -- there is trouble
The entire game will be won or
lost in enforcement, and those who do not enforce the restrictions are acting in
a way that is now gravely illegitimate.
candidate is actively homosexual or shows deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his
spiritual director, as well as his confessor, has the duty to dissuade him, in
conscience, from proceeding towards Ordination," says the document, which
was approved by the Supreme Pontiff on August 31.
approval by Pope Benedict gives it a bit more teeth, along with more specific
instruction, than a very similar condemnation that was issued by Rome in 1961.
Then, too, active homosexuals were barred from the priesthood.
there was little enforcement, and the 1961 condemnation was followed by an
absolute explosion of homosexuality -- such that it is estimated about 11
percent of those in seminaries between 1970 and 1973 eventually molested
youngsters, the vast majority homosexually.
"An estimate of the number of
gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent,
according to a review of research by the Reverend Donald Cozzens, an author of
The Changing Face of the Priesthood. Other estimates have been as low as
10 percent and as high as 60 percent, according to news agencies," noted CNN.
time, the Vatican must make sure that the instruction is heeded.
Mere words will not solve this
The Vatican must review the
reviewers: those who screen and counsel candidates. It must also remove bishops
who support the homosexual culture, and do so immediately.
Homosexuals must be treated with
charity. Yes. With love. But they must be delivered -- or kept at great
distance from the sacred priesthood.
"Regarding [homosexual] acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are
presented as grave sins," says the instruction. "Tradition has always considered
them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence,
they can never be approved under any circumstance."
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As The Dust Settles, Vatican
Document on Gays Holds Promise of Renewal
It was not the way it should have been released. For
weeks now, there have been leaks about the contents of the Vatican instruction
on homosexuals in the priesthood, which stripped it of its drama and thus some
of its power.
But all is well that ends well
and the crux of the media spin after official dissemination Tuesday seems to be
that it is a tough document.
"The Vatican's long-awaited new
guidelines on homosexual seminarians were released yesterday, barring even
celibate homosexuals from seminary," reported The Washington Times, while
liberal newspapers, citing upset in the gay community, went into a bit of
In an especially ironic twist,
The Boston Globe -- which first and
gleefully exposed the scandal of sex abuse -- now complains that homosexuals,
who were responsible for an estimated 81 percent of that abuse, should not be
They called the Church confused,
but if there is confusion, it is with newspapers like the Globe, which
are torn between their advocacy of homosexuality and their urge to tear down
Upset too is singer Elton John,
who along with the man he plans to marry, truculently
attacked the Pope for the stand on gays.
That of course is a good sign --
an indication that the Vatican is cutting to the chase, is finally being heard,
is defining itself -- and now that the dust is settling, after those weeks of
leaks, the message to the world, if one renders all the headlines, is that
Catholicism is not a "gay" religion and the priesthood is no longer a safe haven
Such is a strong and crucial
statement to a world that was beginning to wonder.
If enforced, the document,
released by the Congregation for Catholic Education, will lead to the renewal of
a Church plagued and even severely threatened by an historic scandal. The
Vatican is being seen as "banning" homosexuals and should be seen as
banning homosexuals (along with fornicators, adulterers, drug abusers, and
others who are suffering the cross of a disorder and need help, not enabling).
Had it been delivered in one fell
swoop, the effect of the document would have been startling. And when it comes
to the morality of the world and its tolerance of immorality, there is a current
need to startle. Many editorialists have tried to make the Vatican document seem
"messy" or "confused." So have some priests and with all due respect even a few
bishops -- a number of whom seem to think that homosexuals, if they remain
celibate, can still be admitted to the priesthood.
But the Vatican was stronger than
that. Its newspaper,
L'Osservatore Romano, said on
Tuesday that homosexuality risked "destabilizing people and society" and had no
social or moral value and could never match the importance of the relationship
between a man and a woman, as Reuters reported. The remarks were in a commentary
that accompanied the instruction -- and would have added power if it too had
been known at the same time as the document's actual contents.
Be that as it may, the Catholic
Church has now strongly stood against a great and expanding immorality, one it
has stood against since its inception in simple accordance with Scripture. Gays
are not ever to be despised by good Christians. They are not to be persecuted.
But what they do, if they are active, is morally intolerable and against the
natural order. Period.
When we accept that fact, and
work to deliver them of this proclivity, instead of excusing it (and treating it
as incurable) we will have taken a strong step back to a stable society.
Instead, for weeks, the secular
media was allowed to present the new instruction in drips and drabs with
analysis that tried to make it seem muddled.
Confusing it was to
hear -- according to The Washington Post -- Bishop William S.
Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, say
that according to the new Vatican directive, men who are attracted
to the same sex can be ordained as priests as long as they control
their impulses and are not "consumed by" them.
However, and with all
due respect, this does not seem at all what the document, which is
straightforward in excluding those with "deep-rooted homosexual
instruction is in accordance with centuries of Church law that
prohibited homosexuals from ministry. One French priest has cited
decisions by the Council of Paris in 819 and the 3rd and 4th Lateran
Councils in 1169 and 1215.
Those who are
homosexual and already priests but celibate, on the other hand,
should be left alone and honored as priests as long as they display
no affinity whatsoever for a deviant culture.
In Los Angeles, again
with all due respect (the views of bishops must be held higher than
our own), the stance on gays
remains confusing. We can not afford to
be anything but unified. It is time for love but tough love.
It was also time for
the Vatican to restate itself in a culture that during the past four
decades has changed dramatically.
allowed to infiltrate the Church in huge numbers during the Sixties
and Seventies -- when immorality in general gushed into the world
and when seminaries became increasingly desperate for candidates as
priests forsook their vows and there was soon a looming shortage.
"Not only the U.S. is
afflicted," writes a psychologist named Dr. Gerard J. M. van den
Aardweg. "The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, even
Catholic Poland have had their share of homo-scandals, open or
concealed, in progressive and in orthodox circles. Surely, the
homosexually inclined priest is no novel figure, but there is much
to indicate that his presence in Europe has greatly increased since
the past sixties.
"It would be a very
cautious estimate to state that 10 percent of the West European
priests have some kind of homosexual orientation, but here and there
it is likely twice that number (It is not much more than two percent
in the overall adult population). Something is wrong, undeniably.
The problem is not specifically Catholic, by the way, as the
situation in Protestant circles is not different. From personal
experience and contacts in many West- and North European countries,
I am acquainted with the fact that many male Protestant ministers
and theology students have homo-erotic inclinations, irrespective of
their denomination or adherence to their Protestant orthodoxy:
Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, evangelicals adherents of so-called
Free Churches. As for the female theology students and pastors, the
over-all impression is that lesbianism is overrepresented there too,
although it is more difficult to get a realistic estimate than with
It is thus the entire
Body of Christ that is in need of a purge, and a purge the new
instruction -- if enforced (big "if" here) -- could be.
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