Action Alert!

Pointing, guessing, and self-reporting

By Diogenes (articles - email) | 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?

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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