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Pointing, guessing, and self-reporting

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 26, 2005

Bishop George H. Niederauer of Salt Lake City wonders how seminaries could enforce a policy that bars homosexual men.

Absent self-reporting, the bishop questions how a seminary determines that a person is homosexual. "What are you going to do? Look and guess?"

The bishop has a point. Reliance on looking and guessing– or self-reporting, for that matter – puts the institution in a quandary. For one thing, someone with a serious moral disorder in one area of his life might easily hide it by dissembling or lying. For another, a man with a weakness might develop in different directions depending on the environment to which he’s subjected.

And there you have the seed of the answer. Rather than create elaborate psychological instruments at great expense that might or might not actually work, and rather than looking and guessing (and whom can we appoint to make that highly scientific measurement?), seminary reformers could turn to a time-tested, simple method of ensuring the best outcome for those committing to a difficult state in life: asceticism.

It’s true that a diocesan seminarian isn’t signing up to become a Carthusian, but if he found a life closer to that of a monk than of a playboy, perhaps he’d have a chance to harden into a man of service. And if Spartan conditions were the norm for priests (and dare I add bishops?) perhaps we’d get the sort of men we need to be priests. If seminaries and rectories lacked TV, alcohol, soft furniture, and air conditioning, the kind of man who seeks pleasure in material things would self-select rather than have to self-report.

It comes down to this: you can’t provide someone with virtue, but you can provide him with the material pre-conditions for virtue.

It’s a lot easier to say, “this man has shown he can live a tough life,” than to say, “this man will be able to live a tough life.”

Or then on the other hand, we could make things really hard for would-be priests. We could make them live with alcoholics and homosexuals-- no, make them subject to alcoholics and homosexuals! Add in a few neurotics! Then force them to express "respect and obedience" to the bishop who tells them to be obedient to the alcoholics and homosexuals.

Why not just remove their manhood at the get-go and promote them when their voices are high enough?

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Show 33 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Oct. 01, 2005 12:46 PM ET USA

    could candidates for the Priesthood be asked, "do you have a sexual attraction to members of the same sex? have you engaged in homosexual acts? etc." Other questions that might be asked: "Do you have any problems with what the Church teaches?" Maybe this can be done after swearing them in, so to speak, at the very first interview with the vocations director? If they lie, that's on their soul...but at least another hurdle has been placed ...

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Oct. 01, 2005 9:22 AM ET USA

    Hannah: Great! My point is that all of us who are "in the world," are called to sanctity according to our own vocations. I admire the Trappists and the Missionaries of Charity, both of whom I have worked with. (Just as I admire self-sacrificing Catholic parents.) But my vocation is not to those ways of life. In the 21st Century U.S., having air-conditioning in the Summer,living room furniture and an old TV set are not part of a sybaritic lifestyle. Alcohol is a separate discussion.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 30, 2005 5:07 PM ET USA

    Don V., I'll tell you what I've given up as a parent : I live in a 50 year-old house, I drive a 10-year old van, I go without expensive clothes and spend the money on kid's uniforms, I don't need air-conditioning in my climate, but when I'm cold I put on a sweater, I rarely drink alcohol, I've never been to Hawaii or Europe (my vacation is Disneyland every few years), we buy what we can second-hand or on sale, and what extra money we do have, pays for Catholic School education. Good enough?

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Sep. 30, 2005 2:58 PM ET USA

    I am a secular priest. Like Catholic laity, I am called to sanctity in the world. Presumably, Diogenes et al are trying to practice sanctity in the world, like all good Catholics. How many of YOU have given up "TV, alcohol, soft furniture, and air conditioning"? How many Marines give these things up for life? All of those things can be found in my rectory, and I'll bet in your own homes as well. I admire the Trappists, Carthusians, and members of penitential orders. I'm just not one of them.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Sep. 30, 2005 7:22 AM ET USA

    Another thought: As there are questionares that men and women must respond to before contracting marriage, there should be likewise for prospective priests. Signing a document indicating assent to church doctrine( including the teaching on homosexuality) and asking about various behaviors that priest should not exhibit would go a long way. You could then nulify an ordination if it was discoverd that the man was lieing just as a marriage would be nulified if one of the partners lied.

  • Posted by: benedictusoblatus - Sep. 29, 2005 9:58 AM ET USA

    Asceticism and piety would go a long way toward "self-selecting" the right people for the priesthood. For those queer weasels who somehow get through despite such precautions, let them be treated (when discovered) like the young man at the wedding feast who wasn't wearing wedding garments - the Good Lord through him out into the exterior darkness where there is but wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 28, 2005 7:01 PM ET USA

    Well, I guess the honor system is out. How encouraging!

  • Posted by: quique - Sep. 27, 2005 9:30 PM ET USA

    It looks to me like a both-and attack is in order. More like a multi-prong attack. Do sniff out "ducks". Do resurrect asceticism. Do pray for the conversion of Bishops. And, I'll venture to add, for the envigoration of limp & non-existant fathers...biological ones...for there lies the rat's nest. For the latter chain to be broken we need either another Flood, God-forbid, or His miraculous intervention. We're in luck, He's ruled out the Flood option.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Sep. 27, 2005 8:04 PM ET USA

    Indeed, "Novus Est," such questions spring from objective truths that are ecclesiological, theological, historical & anthropological. e.g.: the same qualities that would make a man a good & holy husband & dad, are similar qualities that would make him a good & holy priest. If God calls a man to priesthood, that man should be conscious of giving up wife/children for the sake of the Kingdom... So, if a seminarian says "no," I've never thought about women/marriage/family, then there's a problem...

  • Posted by: Novus744 - Sep. 27, 2005 3:29 PM ET USA

    Fr. Special Ops, I think you have the best idea so far - ask the seminarians if they've ever contemplated marriage. Ask them if they are attracted to women. I think one could easily tell if someone were lying in such a scenario. Even if you couldn't tell, you would have a much better idea of the truth than asking them if they are attracted to men.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 27, 2005 10:54 AM ET USA

    John, Ignacio, opa, Charles, frjmc, Pete and Pat Cleburne ought to get together and propose some possibilities for seminary reform and entry requirements, for they all have valuable insights. Reform needs to begin almost simultaneously at the top and the bottom, and those who ardently seek it while in the seminaries should have recourse above and beyond rectors and bishops that are "gay" friendly. By the way, it's not the "American Church" but the Church in America, or the Caribbean, or Ireland.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 27, 2005 10:15 AM ET USA

    I don't know much about dissenting bishops, but I do know about the seminary. Your suggestion that one in the seminary should be closer to a monk than a playboy, although accurate, has nothing to do sexuality. Most seminaries have few to none of the problems described in Goodbye, Good Men, as you somehow think they do. The problem of homosexuality is a deeply guarded issue; there is no way to enforce a mandate that all men with homosexual tendencies leave the seminary.

  • Posted by: opraem - Sep. 27, 2005 1:17 AM ET USA

    as long as the cardinals and bishops whose episcopal malfeasance caused the breakdown in sexual morality of the clergy remain in their jobs, NOTHING will change. bishops are responsible for the seminaries in their dioceses, but the vatican and fraternal correction have been proven not to work in disciplining the errant shepherds. bet on the visitors and their recommendations being dead on arrival. bishops don't criticize other bishops.

  • Posted by: Fr. William - Sep. 27, 2005 1:13 AM ET USA

    Great essay, Diogenes. Let's pray that bishops & priests take your suggestions to heart, putting them into action. "JohnG" & "Ingacio" offer some practical steps. Here's two more: (1) Hire some striking female models to accompany the Visitation Teams. Seminarians who either completely ignore the women or who pay attention to the women's clothing/hair/makeup would be candidates for questioning. (2) Ask each seminarian: Are you attracted to women? Have you ever contemplated marriage?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 26, 2005 10:23 PM ET USA

    While the seminaries need a more ascetic regimen, I think we should refrain from referring to it as "Spartan." The term expresses much more than mere asceticism. Maybe we should call for a "Roman" discipline, which would imply obedience to the Church, self-denying service, military discipline, and asceticism.

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Sep. 26, 2005 8:09 PM ET USA

    We have been incredibly naive for a very long time. A couple of male religious I used to work with "cruised" the downtown strip for years, and I didn't find out until years later. I've talked to administrators who lived with pederasts and they didn't know anything. These people are incredibly clever about covering up and dissembling. The only thing that will work is a very thorough & expensive background check.

  • Posted by: Andy K - Sep. 26, 2005 8:07 PM ET USA

    Dear Convert, Not all Catholics are Roman. Most are, but not all.

  • Posted by: Pete133 - Sep. 26, 2005 7:52 PM ET USA

    I don't believe fixing the seminaries will completely do the job. Until the bishops and priests who refuse to obey the Church laws are removed from office, the problem will never completely go away. Fixing the seminaries will help. But fixing a seminary in the diocese of a dissenting bishops will only lead to more dissent as he transfers men back into the seminary who will agree with his position. Then we will have to clean out the seminary again and again. Clean out the bishops first

  • Posted by: - Sep. 26, 2005 7:19 PM ET USA

    Diogenes is on to something profound here. In military training, stress is used for two main purposes: to harden the recruit and to test the recruit. Under prolonged periods of stress, the true nature of the individual is revealed. If an individual can't handle it, it comes out. So too, over a prolonged period of restricted, somewhat harsh living, the true nature of the seminarian will come out. And Ignacio, you were eloquent, but I would add: If it looks like a duck, sashays like a duck....

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Sep. 26, 2005 7:17 PM ET USA

    Great idea, Diogenes. And might I suggest that when a young man who is studying to be a Priest reports something, that there is someone who is going to listen!!! And if not, that he has many more places he can report the problem!!! No more hidding these!

  • Posted by: Catholicity - Sep. 26, 2005 5:39 PM ET USA

    You hit the nail on the head, Uncle Di. How could we all have missed it? What is the goal of seminary, after all? To produce brilliant theologians? Nah. Great administrators? Well, historically in America at least...mmmmmm maybe. Nah. Saints? YEAH. To produce Saints who will in turn inspire the minting of more and more Saints. And I don't know of many Saints or SITs (Saints in Training) who would poo-pooh this advice. Bravo.

  • Posted by: frjimc - Sep. 26, 2005 4:58 PM ET USA

    Charles, Opa: we need to start over, from the bottom-up, so to speak. The lavender infiltration began as seminarians; they have reached all levels of the hierarchy. The fixing of the problem has to begin at the seminarian level also. In a few years, the whole wardrobe will have been replaced, one suit at a time.

  • Posted by: Opa - Sep. 26, 2005 4:16 PM ET USA

    I am so sorry to have offended Convert1994. I am certainly aware of the fact that we are all Roman Catholic but this is how the Church in the USofA is referred to in your own press, books and periodicals-do forgive me, no offence was meant. I'm from the Caribbean - the Caribbean Catholic Church. God bless.

  • Posted by: Convert1994 - Sep. 26, 2005 3:18 PM ET USA

    American Catholic Church? No such entity exists. We are all Roman Catholics, unified in faith, no matter our nationality. To use the term American Catholic Church smacks of the various national Orthodox churches. It also implies disunity and nonaffiliation with Rome.

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Sep. 26, 2005 3:18 PM ET USA

    I have to agree with Opa. The problem is not that we don't know how to keep out gays, or dissenters, or those who would make the liturgy a penance. The problem is the bishops. Period. We need better bishops, either through attrition or conversion. Until that happens, encyclicals, visitations, and the like will have no effect. Once that happens, they won't be necessary. I guess I should pray more for bishops. That they convert or die. Either way is pretty much fine with me at this point.

  • Posted by: Opa - Sep. 26, 2005 12:34 PM ET USA

    Forgive me!This is not funny!Over a period of 7 to 9 years surely a man's disordered sexual orientation will surface.The problem lies with those who are in charge of the seminaries.They are the ones who have to be dealt with and from all accounts in articles I have read through CWN and the writings by Michael Rose and George Weigel that the American Catholic Church knows exactly who these people are-they did not write their books for the fun of it but to educate us.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 26, 2005 11:35 AM ET USA

    I was just going to a drop a line to say that this is one of your most insightful posts ever, Diogenes. Then I discovered that DWB took the words right out of my mouth. Right on.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Sep. 26, 2005 11:14 AM ET USA

    Let us not back off of metaphysical realism in to a subjectivism or relativism. Let's use tests. HIV testing could be a start. I suppose that a proctologist could identify tell tale traces of perverted sexual behavior. Interviewing highschool and grade school teachers could provide info. Then too one could check electronic records and see what are the internet sites the man consults. Then there is observation: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, its a duck

  • Posted by: DWB - Sep. 26, 2005 10:36 AM ET USA

    This is one of Diogenes' most insightful postings (and that's saying a lot). If we did as he suggests (including the air conditioning--did Archbishop Lamy have A/C?), the subject of homosexual tendency would be irrelevant. The mind boggles contemplating what the results of this practice might be.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 26, 2005 10:24 AM ET USA

    One may be able to hide some behaviors some of the time. However, over a seminary career the true character of a man will emerge in a noticeable way. Now if you have teachers who are willing to make use of the emerging behavioral data then you really have something. It seems barring homosexuals from ordination requires a multifaceted approach, one in which the "organization men" and their characters play a crucial role. Homosexual bishops and rectors will order homosexual candidates.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Sep. 26, 2005 9:51 AM ET USA

    We are a teaser people.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Sep. 26, 2005 9:04 AM ET USA

    Of course, the bishop could drop in unannounced around 10 PM on a Friday or Saturday evening to see what's going on. As the commanding officer of military units, I always found that unanncounced late night visits gave me a good insight into the character of my troops...things that I wouldn't see during the day, or expect from what I saw during the day.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 26, 2005 8:49 AM ET USA

    O.K., I can do without the TV, alcohol, and soft furniture, but not the air condition. Do you know how humid it gets in August?

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