Spirit Daily


As 'Gay' Paper Nears Release, Pope Nears Crossroads That May Define His Papacy

First story

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 Catholicism, 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 "tolerance"?

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 compromised.

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 Matthew Clark 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 Gods 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 scream.

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

Second story

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 in priesthood."

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 transient.

Worrisomely, while 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."

This certainly settles the matter on where the Church stands when it comes to the general subject of such behavior.

Case closed.

"As 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 would seem.

But already there are those finding loopholes in the document.

First of all, how will it be enforced?

"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.

The 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."

Already, 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 run.

"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 same-sex attraction."

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 ahead.

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.

"If a 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.

That 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.

But 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.

This time, the Vatican must make sure that the instruction is heeded.

Mere words will not solve this issue.

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."

[see also: Full text of document]


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As The Dust Settles, Vatican Document on Gays Holds Promise of Renewal

Third story

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 apoplexy.

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 singled out.

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 Catholicism.

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 for homosexuals.

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 tendencies," says.

Instead the 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.

Homosexuals were 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 the men."

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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