It is no secret that for the past several decades, there has been a serious problem with rampant homosexuality in many of our seminaries. This much is beyond dispute and does not need to be reiterated here; it is documented thoroughly in Donald Cozzens' book The Changing Face of the Priesthood and more famously in Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men, which is a must read for anybody who cares about the future of the Catholic Church.
Besides the problem with open, flamboyant homosexuality in the seminaries, which is extremely alarming, we ought to be equally concerned by what can only be considered a compromise with homosexuality. I am referring to the position that, while a dissenting, openly practicing homosexual is an unsuitable candidate for the priesthood, an orthodox man who has homosexual tendencies but keeps them to himself and does not try to act on them is suitable; i.e., a homosexual "living chastely."
The idea that the only difference between a suitable homosexual candidate and an unsuitable one is whether they are living chastely or not is extremely problematic. Homosexuals should simply not be ordained at all. Period. Chaste or not. If you are a man who is sexually aroused by other men, you should simply not be ordained. It is astounding that some orthodox Catholics believe that ordination of homosexuals would be fine so long as they weren't engaging in homosexual activities. Yet why is this "compromise" so commonly accepted?
In our opinion, the source of this compromise is due to the distinction the Catechism makes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. If we are looking at the problem from a standpoint of sin, the CCC rightly points out that while it is always sinful to engage in homosexual acts, it is not necessarily sinful to be afflicted with homosexual tendencies, and that persons with homosexual inclinations can approach "Christian perfection" if they strive after chastity and practice self-mastery (CCC 2359).
Some, I think, see this as a tacit acceptance of homosexual orientation as a neutral trait, or even a positive one, so long as it is not acted upon. Perhaps this is seen by some as a via media
between the liberal total acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle and what is often perceived as a "homophobic" rejection of homosexuals as persons. It constitutes a compromise whereby one is able to justify supporting a certain presence of "good" homosexuals in the priesthood while condemning the more flamboyant ones.
This compromise is extremely problematic. It must be remembered, that not only homosexual acts, but the inclination itself is "objectively disordered" (CCC 2358), and this applies whether or not it is acted upon. Homosexuality is a moral disorder; it may be that one is afflicted with it unwillingly, but that does not make it any less disordered. Even if they are not acting out upon it, do we want persons with "objectively disordered" characters as priests?
If this sounds harsh, it is actually pretty much what the Church has always taught on this issue. Religiosorum Institutio
, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1961, stated that, "Advantage to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality
or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers" (RI, 4). Not only active homosexuals, but even persons "afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality" are barred.
More recently, the Vatican's 2005 directive on this matter, cumbersomely titled Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders
, says that Bishops "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" (2).
The same directive
goes on to say that anyone who has been afflicted with homosexual tendencies in the past needs to "clearly overcome" them at least three years prior to even entering seminary. This is not referring to homosexual acts, but homosexual tendencies, even those that, as the document says, are "only the expression of a transitory problem" (2). Interestingly enough, the document's first section on spiritual fatherhood and maturity suggests that those who struggle with homosexual tendencies cannot be said to have attained "affective maturity" and cannot thus become proper father figures (1). Therefore, the problem with homosexual candidates, even chaste ones, is one of immaturity, not necessarily of sin.
Pope Pius XI made an interesting observation in his encyclical on the priesthood, Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (1935) on the connection between chaste celibacy and God's nature as a Spirit. He wrote:
"A certain connection between this virtue and the sacerdotal ministry can be seen even by the light of reason alone: since "God is a Spirit," it is only fitting that he who dedicates and consecrates himself to God's service should in some way "divest himself of the body." The ancient Romans perceived this fitness; one of their laws which ran Ad divos adeunto caste, "approach the gods chastely," is quoted by one of their greatest orators with the following comment: "The law orders us to present ourselves to the gods in chastity -- of spirit, that is, in which are all things, or does this exclude chastity of the body, which is to be understood, since the spirit is so far superior to the body; for it should be remembered that bodily chastity cannot be preserved, unless spiritual chastity be maintained."
In the Old Law, Moses in the name of God commanded Aaron and his sons to remain within the Tabernacle, and so to keep continent, during the seven days in which they were exercising their sacred functions. But the Christian priesthood, being much superior to that of the Old Law, demanded a still greater purity..."
(Ad Catholic Sacerdotii
Bodily chastity, inside and out, is required because we are approaching a Being Who is pure spirit. But more so, the bodily chastity is dependent upon and presupposes a spiritual chastity. Can one be said to maintain spiritual chastity while afflicted with homosexual tendencies that are themselves "objectively disordered?" Obviously not. This would apply to heterosexual persons as well if they were unable to "divest themselves of the body" and overcome their sexual inclinations. It is true regardless of sexual orientation, but it needs to be emphasized with regards to homosexuals, because too often homosexuals are given a pass and praised as suitable priestly candidates so long as they maintain bodily chastity.
It also must be pointed out that heterosexual desires, even when they are improper, are not disordered in the same manner as homosexual desires because it is natural for men and women to be attracted to one another.
In 2008, Cardinal Bertone, at the behest of Benedict XVI, issued a clarification
of the 2005 directive, stating that it was to be applied universally to all seminaries and houses of religious formation in the Catholic world. No homosexuals are to be admitted to the priesthood or religious life. Period. Whether they act out or not. Homosexual tendencies constitute a real obstacle to priestly ministry because they skewer proper relations between persons. The 2005 directive states, "Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women
. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences
that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies" (1).
We also should not fail to take into account that the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood, even orthodox, chaste homosexuals, will tend to reinforce the idea of the priesthood as a "gay vocation." Chaste homosexuals often have a difficult time integrating their faith life with their personal struggles; to the degree that the priesthood is seen as an appropriate avenue for them, it will encourage more homosexuals to pursue ordination and, consequently, drive away heterosexual candidates who will increasingly view the priesthood as something for homosexuals.
In light of the statements and insights provided to us by the current and previous Magisteriums, it is hard to imagine any justification for any sort of compromise with homosexuality that allows homosexuals into the priesthood so long as they are orthodox and "don't act on it." Whether it is acted upon or not, it is a sign of affective immaturity, is objectively disordered, and can result in serious "negative consequences." No homosexuals should be admitted to the priesthood or religious life at all. "Gay Catholics," orthodox or not, are not suitable candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood.