Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

none so blind

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 31, 2010

The challenge for American seminary rectors, the New York Times tells us, is "deciding whether gay applicants should be denied admission under complex recent guidelines from the Vatican that do not explicitly bar all gay candidates but would exclude most of them, even some who are celibate."

The 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education was reasonably clear, saying that the Church should not admit homosexual men to the priesthood or, therefore, to seminary training. Where's the confusion?

Some seminary officials found that instruction puzzling. Yes, of course they understood that they should not admit active homosexuals. But the Vatican's instructions were not clear, they said-- "less obvious," as the Times helpfully put it-- regarding men who identified themselves as gay but celibate. And surely the prohibition would not apply to men with a same-sex attraction who had not engaged homosexual activities since-- well, since the last time.

Actually the original instruction answered the question, explaining that the Church:

...cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."

But since the seminary rectors professed to remain confused, the Vatican spoke again, saying quite explicitly that abstinence from homosexual activity is not enough to qualify a man for priestly training. "It is also necessary to evaluate his sexual orientation." 

That makes it crystal clear, right? Wrong.
Some seminary directors were baffled by the word “orientation,” said Thomas G. Plante, a psychologist and the director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University, who screens seminary candidates for several dioceses in California and nationwide.

If you're stuck on the word "orientation" in that sentence, you're likely to have problems with "necessary" and "evaluate" as well. And the confusion will persist, as long as some clerics resist the clear message from Rome: that homosexual men should not be admitted to the priesthood.

The New York Times says that the confusion can be traced to the complexity of the Vatican's instructions. Yet ordinary readers, skimming those same instructions, get a clear picture. So why the confusion? Mark Jordan, a frequent critic of Church teaching on homosexuality, gives away the game:

“And not the least irony here,” he added, “is that these new regulations are being enforced in many cases by seminary directors who are themselves gay.”

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