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Homosexual Orientation Is Not a "Gift" | James Hitchcock
New instructions from the Holy See concerning homosexuals in the priesthood
have been dismissed by some people as irrelevant ("they change nothing")
and criticized by others as repressive. I think that, if implemented, they
will have a greatly beneficial affect.
The obvious starting point, which many of the critics do not acknowledge,
is the simple fact that the Church has always taught that homosexual activity
is a sinful disorder and that no one can legitimately engage in it. Many
homosexuals openly reject that teaching and live in defiance of it, and
the only thing they want from the Church is a stamp of approval, a kind
of official apology. The dominant homosexual ideology rejects all attempts
to distinguish homosexual orientation from homosexual activity, on the grounds
that to suppress such activity would be unnatural, perhaps even impossible.
Homosexuals point out that all priests, indeed all unmarried persons, must
be celibate, but there is a difference. Heterosexual priests give up something
that the Church holds to be a tremendous good marriage in
order to live entirely for the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas homosexuals give
up something intrinsically disordered. Priests can be granted permission
to marry, but no one can be granted permission to live an active homosexual
Homosexuals do have gifts to bring to the priesthood, but their sexual orientation
is not one of them and is in fact an obstacle to overcome, as all of us
have to fight against our temptations. It would be quite bizarre if an avaricious
priest boasted that his greed was a "gift" that he brought to his ministry.
Homosexuality is perhaps the only sin whose practitioners are organized
and boast publicly of their activity. Imagine, for example, a group demanding
moral acceptance for adulterers or embezzlers.
The new document identifies certain signs that warn against admitting a
homosexual to the priesthood, one of which is participation in the homosexual
subculture. But some homosexual priests do exactly that joining in "gay
pride" events, signing petitions, openly "affirming" their sexuality, all
activities that are designed to undercut the Churchs teaching. Some
priests make no secret of the fact that they frequent homosexual gatherings
of various kinds.
Heterosexual behavior is again an enlightening contrast. We would, I think,
be dubious about a priest who made much of the fact that he is attracted
to women, that sex is important to him, even if he insisted that he was
celibate. His attitude would indicate a kind of obsession that showed maladjustment.
Anyone whose identity is mainly defined by his sexuality is not suited for
One priest has severely criticized the new document because of a clause
that says that spiritual directors in seminaries should urge seminarians
to leave if they are not prepared for the celibate life. The mode in which
the priest made his criticism _ on the front page he New York Times
seems to me to show that he is precisely the kind of priest the new document
But the substance of his criticism goes even farther. He is outraged that
spiritual directors might prevent some men from being ordained, when he
thinks their job ought to be to encourage them. This is nothing less than
a denial that the Church should make judgments of any kind about the character
of future priests. The idea that seminarians should always be "affirmed"
and never discouraged goes a long way towards explaining many of the scandals
that now afflict us.
The sexual orientation of a priest or future priest has to be of concern
to his superiors, whose task it is to discern whether he is leading a celibate
life. If he is, it is no one elses business. But if orientation leads
to action, it becomes everyones business.
Homosexuals have done their cause a great disservice in ignoring the question
of celibacy. But one good result of the new document is that Catholic defenders
of homosexuality will now have to state publicly that "Of course we are
talking about chaste homosexuals" and will have to affirm celibacy, about
which until now they have been studiously ambiguous.
(This article originally appeared in November 2005 on the
Women for Faith and Family website.)
Other IgnatiusInsight.com columns by Dr. Hitchcock:
Authority of Scripture vs. the "Hermeneutic of Suspicion"
Ideology: The Grilling of Judge Roberts
Court's Penumbra of Politics
Ratzinger: Man for the Job
Modern Culture; Asserting the Gospel
Bishops, Liberal Results
The Myth of
the Wall of Separation
The Church and
Theory of the Enlightened
Dr. James Hitchcock, (e-mail)
professor of history at St. Louis University, writes and lectures on contemporary
Church matters. His column appears in the diocesan press, in the Adoremus
Bulletin, and on the Women
for Faith and Family website. He is the author of several books, including
The Recovery of the Sacred, What is Secular Humanism?, and Years
of Crisis: Collected Essays, 1970-1983.
Princeton University Press just published his two-volume history of the
Supreme Court, The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life:
The Odyssey of the Religion Clauses (Vol. 1) and
From "Higher Law" to "Sectarian Scruples"
(Vol. 2). He is also a regular contributor to many Catholic periodicals,
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