Can I Quote You On That? Talking to the Media About Homosexuality and the Priesthood | Mark Brumley | November 23, 2005

Can I Quote You On That? Talking to the Media About Homosexuality and the Priesthood | Mark Brumley | November 23, 2005


The following piece is an artistic (but accurate) representation of a real and very recent conversation with a reporter from a major media outlet.

"What are your thoughts about the Vatican’s instruction on homosexuality in the seminary?"

"I haven’t seen the document."

"You haven’t seen it?"

"No, I have seen only an unofficial translation of what purports to be the document. But the official document I have not seen. Have you?"

"Well, the document is posted on the Internet."

"The official document?"

"No, but one that has been confirmed by a Vatican source to reflect the official document."

"So you haven’t seen the official document yet, either."

"Well, no. Anyway, what are your thoughts about the unofficial version?"

"It seems sound to me. People who are actively homosexual should not be in seminary and they should not be ordained. People with deep-seated homosexual tendencies should not be in the seminary and should not be ordained. People who support homosexual activism and the gay culture should not be in the seminary and should not be ordained. Sounds like common sense and pastoral prudence. We are, after all, talking about men who want to be Catholic priests, who will be called upon to exemplify and teach the whole range of Catholic doctrine, including its moral doctrine. They shouldn’t be expected to be perfect, but they also shouldn’t be actively engaged in things contrary to that teaching or have deep-seated tendencies to violate that teaching. Again, that seems to be common sense."

"So you don’t think someone with deep-seated homosexual tendencies can be chaste or can be a good priest?"

"Did I say that? It’s a question of a general policy–there may be exceptions to the rule, but in general, it’s not prudent to ordain men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies. Priests have enough challenges to their vocation; they don’t need struggling with deep-seated homosexual tendencies in the necessarily-male culture of the presbyterate to be added to the list of challenges. And the Church doesn’t need to add to her list of problems priests who are so struggling. That doesn’t mean that those who are such priests should be booted out. But it does mean that they should work hard to overcome the moral and pastoral problems resulting from their struggle. And it means that we shouldn’t open the Church up for more difficulties by ordaining men who have significant struggles with their sexual orientation."

"What about priests without such deep-seated tendencies?"

"Priests or candidates for the seminary?"

"I’m sorry, candidates for the seminary."

"It seems that if they’re chaste and have been so for at least three years they can be admitted to the seminary and be considered for ordination. At least that’s what the unofficial version of the document being circulated on the Internet says. So what’s you’re question?"

"Does that mean that the Church thinks someone who is gay can become straight?"

"As far as I can tell, it means that that there are young men who manifest homosexual tendencies as a result of, say, delayed adolescence. Apparently, such young men can overcome the problem."

"Really?"

"That’s what the document says."

"But do you think what it says is true?"

"I can give up my layman’s opinion that it seems so to me, but I’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist. Ignatius Press publishes a book on the subject called The Battle for Normality: A Guide for Self-Therapy for Homosexuality by Dr. G.J.M.Van den Aardweg, a psychiatrist with years of practice who says it can be done. There are other experts who claim as much as well. And they’re talking about men with deeper problems than a young man in a delayed adolescence."

"How do you think this document will affect the Church’s efforts to recruit priests?"

"It can only help. There are heterosexual men who won’t give the priesthood much thought because they don’t want to go into a ‘profession’ that they think–rightly or wrongly–is increasingly seen as a ‘homosexual profession.’ Of course, priestly ministry is more than a profession–it’s a vocation. But it’s a vocation with professional elements. So how it is perceived as a profession is important. But beyond that, we need priests who wholly accept the Church’s teaching on sexuality and priestly identity. We don’t want men whose personal problems are going to tempt them to dilute that teaching."

"But it seems as if the Catholic Church is saying that gays aren’t welcome."

"No, the Catholic Church is saying that she wants heterosexual males to be priests. Priests sacramentally represent the male Christ in relation to his bride, the Church. Everyone–homosexually inclined people included–is called to find truth, freedom and love in Jesus Christ and in the community he founded. But people can’t have their cake and eat it, too. They can’t find that truth, freedom and love in Jesus Christ and at the same time choose to live contrary to the truth, to freedom, and to genuine love, and expect the Church to accept it. Homosexually inclined people are welcome in the same way the rest of us sin-inclined people are–through the doors of repentance from sin and loving faith in Christ."

"Only gay men can’t be priests."

"People with certain severe problems can’t be priests. Being homosexually active, having deep-seated homosexual tendencies, and supporting the gay culture are among them. Being unwilling or unable to remain heterosexually chaste is, too. Which is why men with that problem shouldn’t be ordained, either."

"But men with deep-seated heterosexual tendencies aren’t barred from seminary and being ordained."

"No, but those whose deep-seated heterosexual tendencies make them unwilling or unable to be chaste are."

"That seems inconsistent. It seems as if the Church thinks there’s a problem with homosexual tendencies as such and not a problem with heterosexual ones."

"Yes. That’s the point. Homosexual tendencies are intrinsically disordered–inclining people to the wrong goal, sexual union with members of the same sex. Heterosexual tendencies aren’t intrinsically disordered. In fact, they’re intrinsically good. Men should be attracted to women. They should be inclined to sexual union with members of the opposite sex. Men shouldn’t be sexually attracted to men. If they are, there’s a problem. It may be that those men aren’t to blame for their problem. It may be that there is a genetic predisposition to same-sex attraction. Or that there are environmental factors behind same-sex attraction. Or perhaps it’s both heredity and environment. But whatever the cause, same-sex attraction is a problem. And if same-sex impulses are acted on, with full knowledge that same-sex activity is contrary to true human good, and its acted on with consent, then it’s a moral problem, a sin. Furthermore, if same-sex attraction is ‘deep-seated’ or it’s regularly acted upon, or otherwise endorsed by a man, it’s a problem that will keep him out of the seminary and the priesthood. At least if the Vatican’s Instruction is put into effect."

"Will it be?"

"That is the question, isn’t it? Whether it will be remains to be seen."



Mark Brumley is President of Ignatius Press.

An former staff apologist with Catholic Answers, Mark is the author of How Not To Share Your Faith (Catholic Answers) and contributor to The Five Issues That Matter Most. He is a regular contributor to the InsightScoop web log.

He has written articles for numerous Catholic periodicals and has appeared on FOX NEWS and other television and radio programs.



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