Action Alert!

The Instruction Arrives!

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 23, 2005

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.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 24 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fr. William - Nov. 29, 2005 7:09 PM ET USA

    Thank You, Jesus, for this directive from Your Vicar here on earth! May the bishops exercise the virtue of obedience to which You have called them. And, thank you, Diogenes, for keeping us well-informed.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 25, 2005 7:52 AM ET USA

    My next question is: if men with ssa are unfit to serve as priests because they have a disorder, then what about priests or bishops who have come out of the closet? How can they be fit to serve if they are confused about the proper roles of male and female? How can they counsel marriages if their sexuality is back in the third grade as the document suggests? How can they choose fully mature men to be ordained as priests?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2005 3:28 PM ET USA

    My hat off to Uncle Di! He is the only one that I have seen who points out correctly that the three-year plan applies to tendencies, not "activity." But it will be interpreted by many to mean a 3 year time of living chastely as it was, by the way, interpreted by the earlier leaks of the document. Many dioeces and Religious orders already have such a waiting period of chaste living already in place. And they will claim that they are already in compliance with the document. Leonard

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Nov. 24, 2005 9:58 AM ET USA

    You notice that the document lists 4 filters that should sort out those who should be ordained from those who should not. 1) bishop or major superior, 2) rector and formatores, 3) spiritual director, and 4) the candidate himself. I think that we should add a 5th filter: All of you who read this and their friends. Where there is the neighbor boy who is in the sem and is gender challenged you should wave the lavender flag indicating your concern.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2005 7:59 AM ET USA

    If we can't love and accept those with same-sex attraction, then what is the good of being Roman Catholic? However, to love one with a disordered "lifestyle" doesn't mean to accept everything that he thinks or does. Father Reese seems to want a Church that is non-hierarchical to the point that everyone may decide for him(her)self if he is called to be ordained (we faithful are all part of the royal priesthood, no?). Fr. Reese may be more comfortable in a less discerning body of the faithful?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 24, 2005 12:26 AM ET USA

    Parachus, Father Tom Reese did not do his homework. The last I heard , Jesus gave Peter the authority to rule His Church.The Pope sits in Peter's Chair (The Holy Chair) and has the authority and obligation to protect the church that Jesus instituted. It is a betrayal, if a Priest or a Bishop works against the Pope's directive on on this matter. Obviously, the Holy Spirit prompted this document, not to accept a homosexual into the priesthood, for the umpteen time. The Holy Spirit has spoken.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 11:11 PM ET USA

    Yes, God does have a Divine Right to call whomever He chooses to His service. However, God cannot contradict himself (see Aquinas and others). Christ calls men to be priests. The Holy Spirit is safeguarding the Church. The Holy Trinity cannot be divided since it is ONE in Being. The discernment process also relies on the Holy Spirit for confirmation of a vocation. Doesn't sound like God or His Church are contradicting Themselves.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 10:25 PM ET USA

    As has been said better than I can hope to say it: the key to the success of this document is enforcement. How will that be done by a decidedly pink hierarchy and seminary rectors? I applaud the document but the cynic in me has grave doubts as to its effectiveness.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 23, 2005 9:18 PM ET USA

    For all you skeptics, As the song goes, "What are you doing with the rest of your life...???" It is time for laymen to abandon the bleachers and get down into the arena... Pope Benedict is already there.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 7:40 PM ET USA

    A very smart general told me when questioned what is your best advice for a manager who wants to be effective and a good leader: "never give an order that you can not enforce." It remains to be seen, Can Benedict enforce the order? I hope and pray that he can and thqat he will. This is the last chance for many before checking out.

  • Posted by: opraem - Nov. 23, 2005 6:38 PM ET USA

    great document. but will it be used or collect dust in the chancery offices/seminaries across the us? will the bishops and seminary rectors follow the rules? and if they don't follow the rules, will they be disciplined? with our collection of negligent cardinals and corrupt bishops, i'm not an optimist.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 4:40 PM ET USA

    Whether or not this document is good (and I think it is) it will mean nothing unless it can be enforced. That is why I believe a specific law addressing the prohibition against the admission of homosexuals to seminary is necessary. And this law should call out harsh punishment--excommunication for the laity and permanent loss of office or faculties for clergy--regardless of the person’s prominence in the Church.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 23, 2005 3:58 PM ET USA

    You "expect" justice to prevail, Pseudo...??? Interesting probability.... About as "uncertain" as the Rock of Peter.... Which seeks ultimately to protect souls from that terrible certainity...the Final Justice of God.... By the way everybody...., don't forget to give thanks...We have a lot to be thankful for... JP

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 3:52 PM ET USA

    Now comes the fork in the road. Which way will we turn? To the left, the document is ignored. Business as usual and we continue in mediocrity. Bravely to the right, the document is heeded. Bishops and seminary directors without the courage or conviction to implement are suddenly found in new lines of work. The lawmakers and judges turn on us and a persecution like you've never seen in your life overtakes us. And the Church is purified a dozen ways.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Nov. 23, 2005 3:50 PM ET USA

    "But if so, his choice for duplicity -- that is, for adolescent dishonesty -- performatively concedes the truth of the teaching he's trying to circumvent." The Lord has taught me to enjoy wisdom, Diogenes, and the above is certainly that. I have also learned that Our Lord can take care of "His" end of things as long as we make the sincere effort to take care of ours.... and Benedict has done nothing less than that...

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 2:00 PM ET USA

    Re:John "slice and dice" Allen. Well, yes, there are many heterodox canon lawyers who would love to process annulments at warp speed. And, yes, the sophists in Ancient Greece believed that you could argue both sides of any question. There are, unfortunately, some absolutes in life, death being one of them. Just as there a canon sophists, however, there are canon anti-sophists and I expect Justice to prevail, eventually. Slice and dice? Nice. Think twice. The Trinity is thrice.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 1:52 PM ET USA

    The question I now have for bishops and priests in the Catholic church who are now involved in homosexual relationships, celebrate homosexual relationships, defend them as though it was their right by natural law,will you now grow up and leave behind your adolescent personality that has persisted in you long beyond middle age? Is your disorder more important to you than the church. The church does not teach that you are born gay, but that it is sin and must be left behind. Will you now grow up?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 12:46 PM ET USA

    "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." Pardon my ignorance, but what's that supposed to mean?

  • Posted by: parochus - Nov. 23, 2005 12:32 PM ET USA

    But Father Tom Reese, a U.S. Jesuit scholar and author, said the Vatican had not necessarily done its homework on the issue. "If someone is called to the priesthood by God but denied it by church officials, then it is not a violation of a human right, it is a violation of a divine right--the right of God to call whomever he chooses to the priesthood," he said. Memo to CDF: QED.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Nov. 23, 2005 11:58 AM ET USA

    slice & dice: (from AP report) "But John Allen, a columnist for the National Catholic Reporter in the United States, said this would give seminary directors latitude to continue to make individual judgments. 'Canon (Church) lawyers have told me you can slice and dice this thing a thousand different ways,' Allen said." Hopefully Allen will soon be report on those who've tried the "slice & dice" and been run out of the kitchen by the proper Church authority. We know what the doc says!

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 10:26 AM ET USA

    This is a Godsend -- literally!!! What profoundly moves me is the Church's teaching that transient homosexuality is curable by true Christian conversion. The tacit implication in this teaching is that homosexuality is disordered, often a horrible trial, yet not necessarily permanent so long as the trial is offered up to Christ for His conversion of the penitent. What a slam against the gay culture this is! The Church is saying that miracles and true conversions are alive and well.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 9:42 AM ET USA

    Attacks on the instruction, from within the Church, already have begun. The proof of the pudding is whether clerical dissenters will be allowed to continue on their destructive course. Will the Holy Father insist on discipline in the ranks? Or will the gates of hell prevail? The Lord already has given us the answer.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Nov. 23, 2005 9:38 AM ET USA

    I remember a very insightful article in COMMENTARY some 20 years ago by Midge Decter. Speaking of homosexual men, she made the serious observation that they were not men acting like women, but men acting like teenage girls. Bullseye, I think. Peter Pan never grows up.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 23, 2005 9:21 AM ET USA

    I just wish the CDW had placed the document in your inbox for review and revision, Uncle Di, before release. As it is, we'll have to rely on the force of your remarkable intellect and logical sense to "defend" the instruction.