whether homosexuals can be priests

By Leila Marie Lawler ( articles ) | Jul 11, 2003

I have read a lot of the comments on Mark Shea's blog, answering the question he poses: Can men with same-sex attraction be barred from becoming priests?

I think the question and the answers interestingly reveal some assumptions going on in our society, assumptions that contribute mightily to the state we're in and the terrible one we're headed for.

One assumption, skulking way in the background of Mark's question and lots of the responses, is that same-sex attraction is a sort of genetic or otherwise uncontrollable but not defining little blip on the chart of a regular-type guy. And that is just not true.

People with homosexual inclinations are suffering, suffering from an emotional disorder that leads them into spiritual and moral disorder for which they are culpable more or less as the involvement of their will makes them. I would guess that usually, in my humble and lay opinion, their disorder mainly stems from having been abused as children or adolescents.

I'm just going out on a limb there and saying it. I'm not trained in psychology or moral theology. I'm just a mother and a wife who is responding to reality -- what I know about natural law, God's plan for man and woman, and my observation of homosexuals I've actually met and how they live -- as opposed to what strangers say in the New York Times about themselves.

The problem is, as our friend Dr. Rick Cross points out, that people are not reliable about what they say about themselves. More reliable is what they do and how they act. So, as he says, a man can say all sorts of things to the counselor at the seminary, but what counts is if he can live without sex in any form for a prescribed length of time. If he can, he shows virtue -- the virtue of fortitude, not least of all. If he can't, it doesn't matter what he says about himself.

This is a good criterion because one can imagine a young man with an extremely sensitive conscience agonizing over what he thinks is SSA but isn't, and another who frequents gay bars but is so divorced from reality that he claims to be under control. In fact, the immaturity and arrested development characteristic of homosexuals guarantee this kind of disjuncture.

You just can't go by what people who are disordered (and that means all of us, really!) say about themselves. Guess what -- you need older, wiser men making judgements about who can hack the difficult life of a priest and who can't.

And that brings me to another assumption lurking in the discussion --the notion that a priest is this fellow who administers a parish, a nice guy, a guy who can get along without falling into sin -- and that's all we can ask!

But that's not the kind of priests we need. We need the kind that Eugenio Corti writes about in his moving book The Red Horse: the kind that keeps his village on the right path, that teaches the young men to be virgins before they marry, that helps the parents pray so that their children will be chaste, that goes to the Russian front and comes back more holy than ever.

We have our own Russian front these days -- and our own atrocities. Without holy men to give us the sacraments and help us, their flock, be holy, we won't make it. We need men for priests!

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