Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

The Instruction Arrives!

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 23, 2005

Vision Book Cover Prints

Seldom have I been more happy to be wrong.

The Doomsday Doc -- in what appears to be its final form -- has been leaked, and contrary to my own dire prognostications, the Holy See has given us a doc that can hunt.

  • The Instruction bases itself on the priest's "configuration to Christ" and the "spiritual paternity" that it includes. Thus the Church speaks to us about those truths of which she is a teacher -- in fact the preeminent teacher -- as opposed to speaking in terms of clinical psychology, where she is a pupil. The good that she is guarding is a spiritual good, and she views homosexuality as contrary to the affective maturity that is a component of this good.

  • The Instruction makes it clear that no one can carry homosexual baggage across the seminary threshold. If your homosexual propensities were transitory and you've put them behind you, you can be given the chance to proceed. If your homosexual propensities are deeply rooted, you should be treated gently and with respect (con rispetto e delicatezza), but you don't get in the door.
  • The Instruction's footnote number 10, in reference to the point above, cites the May 16 2002 CDW letter, which said, "A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders." Its citation here indicates plainly that the CDW letter still has directive force and the Church teaching on which it is grounded has not been changed or "surpassed" in any substantive way.
  • The Instruction tacitly dismisses the tendentious claims that homosexuality is innate, or unchangeable, or changeable only in rare circumstances. While it acknowledges the disorder can be deep-seated in some persons, it maintains that it may also be just an adolescent hang-up one can leave behind. Here the Church's moral wisdom rescues her from the errors of politicized academic fashion. To treat adult homosexuality (except in rare cases) as a self-indulgent prolongation of juvenile weakness and infatuation may rattle some gay ideologues, but it's more realistic and more charitable than the standard APA account. In summary form, the Church is saying, "For the love of Christ, knock-off the pansy act and grow up."

This is as it should be. As the self-designation "gay" indicates, adult homosexuality is essentially frivolous, and no one can really take it seriously. Or better, the only circumstance in which we can take it seriously is in the case of persons who are trying to rid themselves of it.

There's a close analogy here with certain strands of iconoclastic feminism. When nuns tell you you should give up monotheism and start sacrificing marigolds to Ishtar, you recognize they've been damaged somehow and feel sorry for them, but you don't deal in earnest with their theology. It can't take the weight.

The underlying rage, however, is very real. This is as true in the case of gays as of feminists. And this brings me to the controversial part of the Instruction. It says that men with transitory homosexual tendencies may be admitted provided such tendencies are "overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate." Note that the three-year plan applies to tendencies, not "activity" -- as earlier reports suggested and as some of today's headlines erroneously repeat. If the proviso is read (as it should be) so as to exclude those who tendencies have been actualized in mortally sinful ways, there's no problem. Taken otherwise, it seriously underestimates the anger and anarchic destructiveness that attend the gay lifestyle. As Robert Gotcher of HMS pointed out earlier, "if the requirement is three years of celibacy before diaconal ordination, that means practically speaking no more than six months before entering the seminary." Thankfully, the text asks for a lot more than celibacy.

Are we closer to solving the problem? Not in the foreseeable future. The men asked to use this Instruction to guide their seminary admissions are the men who find the Vagina Monologues in keeping with Ex Corde Ecclesiae. But the Instruction seems to recognize this, insisting that "the candidate himself is the man most responsible for his own formation." Sure, a crypto-gay can lie his way through to ordination if he's devious enough. But if so, his choice for duplicity -- that is, for adolescent dishonesty -- performatively concedes the truth of the teaching he's trying to circumvent. But the good news is that there are honest men out there with the guts to tell the truth about themselves and (in Cardinal George's words) to let the Church be the place where Christ changes them. They've got a document they can work with, and we've got a document we can defend.

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