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tears of grief and anger

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 19, 2003

Chesterton once wrote that, in the eyes of the world, a priest is reckoned a knave for breaking his vows and a fool for keeping them. In his op-ed in today's NYT ("Losing a Church, Keeping the Faith"), Andrew Sullivan attributes both the knavery and the folly to the celibate. Like most of Sullivan's lamentations on the predicament of gays in the Church, it is very well-written and deeply dishonest. He affects to believe that the Church condemns "infertile" intercourse (full stop) and "emotional" and well as sexual relationships between gays -- without further qualification. As a specimen of polemic, very adroit; as personal testimony, wholly contemptible.

Gay men are being deterred from applying to seminaries and may soon be declared unfit for the priesthood, even though they commit to celibacy. The American Catholic church has endorsed a constitutional amendment that would strip gay couples of any civil benefits of any kind in the United States. For the first time in my own life, I find myself unable to go to Mass. During the most heated bouts of rhetoric coming from the Vatican this summer, I felt tears of grief and anger welling up where once I had been able to contain them. Faith beyond resentment began to seem unreachable.

Putting aside the fact many people besides gays are required to make painful decisions in order to follow Christ -- decisions with consequences more far-reaching than any he contemplates -- Sullivan fails to acknowledge the honesty and guts of those homosexuals who struggle against the odds to remain chaste, precisely because they believe God speaks through His Church. Yet Sullivan saves his compassion, not for those who heroically resist temptation, but for those who succumb.

Granted also that Sullivan is right in claiming that there are many gay priests who live duplicitous lives, there are also priests who not only keep their vows but who work (quietly and without public congratulation) to help homosexual Catholics understand the Church's teaching and live it with integrity. Perhaps Sullivan can dismiss them as fools -- admittedly it isn't a shrewd career move. But must they be accounted knaves as well?

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