The National Catholic Review
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One major fallout of the current crisis of leadership in the Catholic Church is the scapegoating of homosexual priests and seminarians. One bishop was quoted as saying that his “unscientific conclusion is that most sexual abuse by priests is against adolescent boys and therefore is rooted in societal acceptance of homosexuality.” He went on to draw the bizarre conclusion that there are some fields that should not be open to certain people: “I don’t think drug addicts should be pharmacists, I don’t think alcoholics should be bartenders, I don’t think kleptomaniacs should be bank tellers and I don’t think homosexuals should be priests.” Obviously he believes every homosexual person is a sex addict and, if we barred them from the priesthood, the sex scandal would be quietly ended.

 

Other bishops do not go so far as to consider all homosexual men to be sex addicts; nevertheless, they bar them from the seminary and the priesthood. Their policy reflects the judgment provided in a report prepared by the theologian Germain Grisez: “Can men with a homosexual orientation become good candidates for ordination? There are reasons to doubt it. Sexuality profoundly shapes the lives of human persons, and a homosexual orientation, albeit less bizarre than the commonly recognized paraphilias, is a grave disorder. Homosexual men no doubt can be perfectly continent, but the charism of celibacy involves more; peaceful chastity and the sublimation of sexual energy into priestly service for the kingdom’s sake.”

Some critics of the acceptance of homosexual men into the priesthood, like Charles Wilson, head of the St. Joseph’s Foundation, a canon law organization in Texas, would like to see the church make the ban on homosexual seminarians more explicit in canon law, although he contends that if canon law is interpreted correctly it already prohibits homosexual seminarians.

In fact, one bishop has already publicly taken this position. He insists: “There is a difference between a heterosexual and homosexual candidate for the priesthood. A heterosexual candidate is taking on a good thing, becoming a priest, and giving up a good thing, the desire to have a family. A gay seminarian, even a chaste one, by his orientation is not a suitable candidate for the priesthood, even if he did not commit an act of [gay sex]. He is giving up what the church considers an abomination.”

Last March Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the official spokesperson for the Vatican, publicly linked pedophile priests with homosexuality and even went so far as to suggest that gay men could not be validly ordained. His statement in itself would not be of great concern, since Dr. Navarro-Valls is not in any sense part of the church’s magisterium. However, his remarks seem to take on an authoritative nature, because no bishop in the Vatican or elsewhere has publicly rejected those remarks. This can certainly leave the impression that he speaks with official support.

All of this focus on gay men in the priesthood and religious life, as a response to the recent sexual scandals, leaves many gay priests and brothers feeling very vulnerable and afraid. In a recent article one religious, Bro. Jack Talbot, a friar in the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph, quoted a friend: “It’s such a difficult journey just to be out; coming out in religious life requires another level of courage and conversion. With the Vatican’s recent attack on homosexuals in religious life, I fear that some parishioner will turn my orientation into something ugly and vile, and the next thing you know I will be reading about it in the local paper.”

All this must stop: the scapegoating of gay priests for the sex abuse crisis, the demand to reject homosexual persons for the priesthood and religious life, the unchallenged suggestion that the ordination of a gay man would be invalid. All these positions contribute to the sharp increase in the negative feelings that so many in the church and our society have toward homosexual persons.

The first step toward reversing these harsh judgments and negative feelings about gay priests and homosexual persons in general is to examine our own experience. Without being aware of it, untold numbers of people in the church have been blessed by the compassionate and healing ministry of gay priests and bishops. Ordinary common sense tells us that such ministry is of God. It is authentic and it is valid.

It might also be helpful to recall what the U.S. bishops wrote in their document Always Our Children. In speaking to parents who discover that their child is homosexual we asked, “How can you best express your love—itself a reflection of God’s unconditional love—for your child?” And then we urged:

Don’t break off contact; don’t reject your child.... Your child may need you and your family more than ever. He or she is still the same person. This child who has always been God’s gift to you may now be the cause of another gift: your family becoming more honest, respectful and supportive. Yes, your love can be tested by this reality, but it can also grow stronger through your struggle to respond lovingly.

Would it not be a blessing for parents who are struggling to accept and unconditionally love their homosexual child if the church were to accept gay priests and bishops openly and gratefully? And if the gift of a homosexual child can be the cause of another gift to the family, is it not even more likely that a homosexual priest could be the cause of such a gift to the parish community? A community that could accept this gift would grow in its ability to be honest, respectful and supportive.

We must also ask ourselves: do we really want to deprive the church of the valuable and blessed ministry that is already being provided by priests and religious who are gay or lesbian? Do we really wish to increase the pain and hurt that many of them have experienced throughout their lives? Do we really want to instigate a “witch hunt” to expel from the ministry gay priests, and, I might add, gay bishops?

As a bishop for over 30 years, I have worked with and come to know well many gay priests. They are healthy psychologically, and their committed ministry has been very effective. I am inspired by their love of God and of the people they serve so well and generously. I also know the struggle they now face as they see the bishops deal with the current crisis in the church.

A few letters that I have received recently show clearly how this present attack on homosexual persons is being experienced. One priest wrote:

I am a Roman Catholic priest in good standing, and celibate. I did not choose to be so, but in God’s infinite love and mercy I was created a gay man....

I have struggled with the knowledge of my sexuality. I have sought ways that my gifts and talents could be used fully for building the Kingdom of God. However, the fear of “witch hunts” continues to keep a part of me “in the closet.” How I long to be able to be “out” (in appropriate ways) and honest with the people I serve. I feel rejection by the people I try to serve in love, which causes me much pain. Sometimes I wonder if I should remain a priest....

I love the work I do. I live celibacy one day at a time, and I believe that I am a good priest. But I am also saddened that I am prevented from sharing those parts of who I am, the source of my compassion and that which energizes me.... I find unbearable that there is so much hate that continues to be fueled by those who claim to speak for our reconciling God.

Here is another example:

I am a priest who is gay and celibate, and I have struggled all my life with the many issues associated with being born homosexual.

The Holy Spirit has obviously called many gays to the priesthood in the last few years. How do the bishops explain that? Do the bishops understand the hatred and opposition they are stirring up toward gay priests by their remarks? Do they see that, like opposition to minorities entering the priesthood years ago, their opposition to gays has no foundation in the teachings of Jesus? Bishop Gumbleton, you have encouraged gay priests to be open about their orientation. And I have been—only to be questioned now by parishioners as someone who has been ordained mistakenly. In all my years of sacraments, today was the first time a young couple in our parish asked me if the baptism of their baby would be valid—since they had heard from their parents that I was a homosexual.

It seems clear to me that these priests who have been totally faithful in following out their call to the priesthood deserve better of us. They must not be harassed and forced to live in fear and even suffer the violence that our society often directs against homosexual persons. Open support and love for gay priests and bishops would remove the sense of isolation and loneliness that many experience. This, together with the freedom to no longer “hide an important part of who I am,” would greatly lessen the number of those who otherwise might fail to be faithful to their celibate commitment.

And I insist that we must reject any suggestion that a gay priest or bishop cannot make the same celibate commitment a heterosexual man would make. It is a very inadequate understanding of celibacy to say that, as the bishop quoted above put it, a heterosexual priest is “giving up a good thing, the desire to have a family.” Celibacy is not simply a “giving up” of something. It is a positive way of loving—truly loving and being loved—but with the exclusion of sexual intimacy. Homosexual people can also love celibately and be a sign of God’s love just as genuinely as heterosexuals. In Always Our Children the U.S. bishops taught this clearly when they stated:

Everyone—the homosexual and the heterosexual person—is called to personal maturity and responsibility. With the help of God’s grace, everyone is called to practice the virtue of chastity in relationships. Chastity means integrating one’s thoughts, feelings and actions in the area of human sexuality in a way that values and respects one’s own dignity and that of others.

As a heterosexual person I have had to learn how to integrate my sexuality in a healthy way in all of my loving and mutual relationships. As a celibate person, I chose to do this without full sexual intimacy. And as Professor Grisez puts it, I arrive at a point of “peaceful chastity and the sublimation of sexual energy into priestly service for the kingdom’s sake.”

What is true of me as a celibate heterosexual person is just as true of the celibate homosexual person. The celibate homosexual priest or bishop brings the same charism to the service of the church as the heterosexual and can achieve the same “peaceful chastity and sublimation of sexual energy” for priestly service.

To say that the only thing a gay priest has to give up is “an abomination” manifests not only profound ignorance of what celibacy really is, but also is an insult to every homosexual person. Again, while celibacy represents a sacrifice, it is not simply a “giving up.” It is a unique way of loving, a charism given by God to persons who are homosexual or heterosexual. For this reason, it is absurd to suggest that the ordination of homosexual persons is invalid simply because of their sexual orientation. Obviously God has called many gay men to the priesthood and to the episcopate throughout the whole history of the church. Indeed, to declare all of these ordinations invalid would call into question the integrity of our whole sacramental system.

Another important reason to reject this attack against homosexual priests and bishops is that by identifying homosexuals as the cause, or an important part of the cause, of the current crisis we will fail to deal with the most basic cause of the scandalous situation. The radical cause was identified in 1971 in the psychological study of Catholic priests and bishops in the United States, authored by Dr. Eugene Kennedy. This study, of course, included homosexual and heterosexual priests. It indicated that a very large percentage of priests were seriously underdeveloped in terms of psychological maturity. This can result in a situation in which a person may be chronologically an adult but psychologically, affectively and emotionally still a teenager. Obviously such persons will tend toward inappropriate relationships. (A person who is psychologically an adolescent would feel more comfortable in relationships with younger people—with “teenagers” like himself.) And whether such a relationship is homosexual or heterosexual, it is wrong and can even be criminal.

But the problem confronting us is not a problem of homosexual priests among us. It is a problem of seriously underdeveloped priests. Yet this is a problem that can be overcome. Underdeveloped persons can be guided toward a fuller stage of maturity that will enable them to function in a psychologically healthy way. This is just as true of the underdeveloped homosexual person as it is of the underdeveloped heterosexual person. The important thing to work toward in the seminary and in religious formation is approving for ordination only those persons who have achieved an adequate degree of healthy psychological development. This must include healthy psychological development for both homosexual and heterosexual persons. Various psychological studies indicate homosexual persons are as healthy as anyone else. This can also be the case among priests and bishops.

There are a number of additional reasons why we must reject attacks upon homosexual priests and value their ministry in the church. For example, in his book, Spiritual Direction and the Gay Person, James Empereur, S.J., states: “Homosexuality is one of God’s most significant gifts to humanity. Through their testimony of suffering, God has chosen gays and lesbians to reveal something about God that heterosexuals do not.” Drawing on this insight, Bro. Jack Talbot points out that homosexuals “minister through the language of our pain, of our passion story. As we begin a new century, a recontextualized gospel of reconciliation is required, and healing medicine can be offered from the marginalized. Our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters can help our institution during this moment of suffering and humiliation.”

I agree. What a loss if we drive these “gifted” people from our midst!

A further gift gay priests bring to our church is an exceptional ability and courage to proclaim the truth—something demanded by the prophetic nature of the priesthood. This can happen because of the often arduous “coming out” process homosexuals must undertake. Gay and lesbian people have had to identify, accept and affirm a truth about themselves that others have defamed. Coming to this awareness can be enormously difficult. In fact, it often had to be done without any encouragement or guideposts from others. They have often experienced opposition to knowing the truth about themselves, accepting their truth, and being willing even to share it with others. By living out this painful process, gay priests develop a deeply prophetic courage.

Gay priests also can offer a depth of compassion not always shared in a comparable way by heterosexual priests. Gay people have often been treated as outcasts by society, church and even family. Because of this experience, they can develop an awareness and sensitivity to those who are being excluded and included in various situations. Such a gift of compassion surely enriches one who is called to minister to others.

For all of these reasons, I urge our church leadership to rejoice in the blessings that can come to us by recognizing and supporting gay priests rather than shunning or rejecting them. Bro. Jack Talbot describes very well what needs to happen if we hope to achieve a good resolution of the current crisis in the church:

The church hierarchy needs to accept the help of her gay and lesbian members as ministers of healing, rather than making us scapegoats for a problem that we did nothing to create. Let us be advocates for the church during this crisis. Hear our stories.... For many, our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters may be unlikely teachers. Nevertheless, they can be God’s healing balm, God’s grace and peace at a time when the fragility of our society is painfully demonstrated in the crisis spots that are in the forefront of the news and in the frailty of the human heart.

See also James Martin, S.J., "The Church and the Homosexual Priest," America, Nov. 4, 2000.

The Most Rev. Thomas J. Gumbleton is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Mich.

Comments

mae Grant | 11/11/2008 - 10:46pm
God did not create anyone as homosexual he destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for that same sin now if God had indeed create some men like that it wouldn't be fair for him to than turn around and destroy them for it. its time for you people to stop blaming God for your perversion and sins. God is holy and good he cannot create people to sin people choose to sin and if people don't turn from their sin and repent God is going to destroy us all. how can anyone seriously think that they can do Gods work when they are willfully sinning and have the audacity to say God made them so .Just remember God cannot be mock you reap what you sow.and i personally is sick and tired of people who continue to blame God for their sinful behavior after God speak out so much on how he hate all sin especially the ones against your body.and is pleading with us to turn away from sin .well one one God is going to put a end to all these evil and i cant wait .
mae | 11/11/2008 - 10:34pm
God did not create anyone as homosexual he destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for that same sin now if God had indeed create some men like that it wouldn't be fair for him to than turn around and destroy them for it. its time for you people to stop blaming God for your perversion and sins. God is holy and good he cannot create people to sin people choose to sin and if people don't turn from their sin and repent God is going to destroy us all. .
Michael | 5/1/2008 - 11:00am
I am amazed that those who call themselves educated can accept homosexuality as being a good thing. You may have your own version or interpretation of the Bible but the Bibles Protestants read are very clear about the sin of homosexuality. I have no ill will toward gay people, God loves all of us the same. However, if we do not repent of our sins, there will be no redemption. Many gay people have been delivered out of the sin of homosexuality. Please pick up another version of the Bible and read it. I am not homophobic. I love you as God loves you, I just happen to believe with all my heart that being gay is anti-Christ behavior. Please beat me up with your words if that is where your heart is.
Charles J. Norman, OSFS | 10/1/2002 - 1:32pm
Bishop Gumbleton's address of the gay priests controversy merits the Church's gratitutde. Without voices such as his, more injury will be done to the already vulnerable and wounded gay community; but, most especially, on the segment of that population gifted with Holy Orders, but who now suffer the suspspicion that those very orders are invalid from within deep reaches of the Vatican. Contemplating the refusal of ordination to those like themselves, and the questioning the validity of those orders, are a caustic events for gay men who have already lived out much of their lives as preistes. Estimates of the sexual orientaton of the Catholic priesthood in the United States find that a large percentage are homosexual. If that be so, one can only ponder the effect of the current contention. I conclude using the words of a friend whose expression betters my own: "I do hope a few write in to congratulate Bishop Gumbleton who remains nothing less than a miracle---a bishop with backbone, cojones, intelligence and pastoral sensitivity. There are not too many like him!"

Roberta M. Sanders | 10/21/2002 - 8:21am
It has taken me nearly one month to write this letter because of the extremes in emotion I felt when reading the September 30 articles on the ordination of gay men. Interestingly enough most of the letters written in response to both articles thus far have been from clergy. It seems important that the views of a lay person be expressed as well. Fr. Baker's article brought feelings of deep anger and outrage. His views are reprehensible! How can a priest, a man of faith, describe another human being as fundamentally flawed who can never "image" God and never contribute to the good of the person or society? It is impossible to comprehend such thinking. On the other hand, in Bishop Gunbleton's article, is a letter from a priest who wrote, "I did not choose to be so, but in God's infinite love and mercy I was created a gay man...." This letter brought me to tears. This is a disordered person? The priest who wrote that letter obviously has a deep understanding of a loving and merciful God. This is a man who is obviously close to God on many levels. I want this man to be my pastor, my spiritual director and yes, my friend! This is a man who is the image of God. If his letter is any indication of who he is as a person and what his relationship with God is like, I want him to help me know his God better. This is a great and wonderful God who he knows and loves. I share his concern about "witch hunts" and I too find it "unbearable that there is so much hate that continues to be fueled by those who claim to speak for our reconciling God." Will we ever learn? The Salem witch hunts happened in the 17th century. Have we really grown and learned much from those in history? It seems we have to have a scapegoat for every problem or issue in society. Shouldn't the church be just a little bit more wise? Shouldn't we act a little bit more like Christ? Now the Vatican is preparing a draft against admitting gays to ordination. Do they really think this is the answer to the crisis in the church? I seriously doubt it! It scares me to think there are men like Fr. Baker who will influence this decision. It worries me to see our church headed in this direction. Who will be the next scapegoat? Who will be the next target of a "witch hunt?"

Francis DeBernardo | 1/29/2007 - 12:43pm
Their respective positions aside, the difference in rhetoric between the essays by the Rev. Andrew R. Baker and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is striking (9/30). While Father Baker argues from law, theory and church documents, Bishop Gumbleton’s evidence comes from the lived experience of people with whom he has met and spoken. I cannot help but see the analogy with the leaders of Jesus’ day, who insisted on abstract interpretations of religious law, and Jesus himself, who saw that the simple law of love needed to be applied to the complexity of people’s lives.

Father Baker’s essay reveals the main problem with much of Curial thinking about homosexuality: an obsession with sexual behavior. He seems locked in a thought pattern that equates orientation with behavior. In church teaching, the distinction between orientation and behavior has been made clear many times (with no sinful stigma attached to orientation); yet when it comes to developing policy about homosexuality, some church leaders cannot seem to break out of the formula that equates a homosexual orientation with not just ordinary sexual activity, but rampant sexual activity. It is no wonder that gay/lesbian people feel that church officials “don’t get it,” when those in such positions as Father Baker’s seem to know nothing about the reality of gay/lesbian lives.

Sexual orientation involves more than desire for physical contact; it also includes the need for affection, intimacy, companionship and love. Father Baker’s insistence on referring to a homosexual orientation as “same-sex attraction” reveals his perspective of seeing the phenomenon only in terms of sexual desire. Moreover, Father Baker’s use of the acronym “S.S.A.” for “same-sex attraction” pathologizes a term that the overwhelming majority of medical and psychological authorities do not. Given Father Baker’s obvious lack of scientific knowledge about homosexuality, I can see that he would use such an acronym to bolster his argument: it offers a scientific-sounding legitimacy to a controversial concept accepted by very few. However, I do not see why America’s editors would let such a dubious term be used without any explanation of its controversial nature, or at least its background and origin.

Father Baker’s concern that gay seminarians would not resist sexual temptation in an all-male environment is ludicrous. Do we worry about heterosexual priests who are serving in convents of religious women, or for that matter, anywhere in our church, so heavily populated and staffed by women as it is? Since he offers no empirical evidence that gay men cannot live celibate lives, I cannot help but think his claims are the result of an overactive imagination about how gay men live.

In the 1997 statement, Always Our Children, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life asserts: “Homosexual persons living chaste lives should have opportunities to lead and serve the community.” Statements made over the past year about gay priests and seminarians lead many to believe that some U.S. bishops have already violated their own recommendation.

Targeting gay priests and seminarians has been a smoke screen used by church leaders to deflect attention away from the real cause of the clergy sex abuse crisis: their own lack of responsibility and accountability in dealing with individual priests who have abused. Why can’t bishops judge gay candidates for priesthood in the same way they judge heterosexual ones: on a case by case basis? The rush to scapegoating indicates that some other, highly homophobic, agenda is present in this type of response to our church’s tragic crisis.

(Rev.) Allan J. McDonald | 1/29/2007 - 12:40pm
The Rev. Andrew R. Baker and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton both offer valid and pious insights from their varied perspectives concerning homosexuality and the priesthood (9/30).

Father Baker emphasizes the sacrificial aspect of celibacy as foregoing heterosexual intercourse and family life in marriage in order to become a spiritual husband and father to Christ’s bride, the church. Bishop Gumbleton chooses to describe celibacy not so much in sacrificial terms but as a valid way of loving chastely. One’s orientation or spousal character matters little without the ability to live and love chastely.

In grinding their axes, however, both men seem to sidestep the most critical aspect of the current crisis facing the church—the ability, desire and moral fortitude necessary for being faithful to the promise or vow of celibacy. Questions that have not been answered squarely have to be raised and answered. What percentage of Catholic priests (heterosexual or homosexual) are actually celibate? Is it more likely that a homosexual will fail in celibacy compared with a heterosexual? Does celibacy contribute to arrested emotional, psychological and sexual development, whether one is homosexual or heterosexual? Does openness about one’s homosexuality in the seminary or priesthood prevent heterosexual young men from considering priesthood, thereby causing heterosexuals to become a minority in the priesthood? What psychological, spiritual, moral and ascetic qualities are necessary to live a successful chaste, celibate life regardless of orientation?

I would like to see well-written and documented articles on these questions rather than reactionary pious dribble that pits two extremes against each another.

Timothy M. Powers | 1/29/2007 - 1:28pm
The articles in your 9/30 issue prompt this reflection. I would like to propose that men with Different-Sex Attraction (D.S.A.) and Functioning Sex Organs (F.S.O.) should not be ordained. If men with D.S.A. have F.S.O., and the purpose of sex is procreation, then men with D.S.A. and F.S.O. should be morally required to procreate in order to make more Catholics.

Really, could we please stop being ridiculous and get back to the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and building up the reign of God?

Alan G. Yost, SJ | 10/17/2002 - 12:17am
Thank you for your pair of articles on the pros and cons of ordaining gay men. It was a fascinating study in contrasts. I especially like the contrasts between the two great motivators of human action: fear and love.

Fr. Baker's article demonstrated the mentality of the culture of fear. "This might happen." "What if these people did this?" "What about these dangers?" "Better not take any chances." There are lots of "what-ifs" in life. Let me ask this author a question: "what if" Jesus had never come and taught us compassion, mercy, and love? I think Fr. Baker shows us pretty clearly what would have happened. We would all be motivated by such fear.

Bishop Gumbleton's article, on the other hand, demonstrates the culture of love and compassion that is supposed to be the trademark of those dedicated to the way of Jesus. His article sees opportunities, graces, and some of the many ongoing ways in which the Holy Spirit creates and redeems our world and draws good out of brokenness. In short, his article reminds us that this whole Christian project is not one merely dreamed up by us humans. It is an initiative of a loving and wise God. We needn't worry what might happen, as long as we trust in the Lord and act with love, compassion, and integrity.

George & Ellen Curran | 9/28/2002 - 12:52pm
Yes,Gay men should be ordained --September 30, 2002 article, by Bishop Thomas Gumbleton was insightful, pastoral, and courageous. It is not often one gets an opportunity to read an article on a subject that exposes prejudice and homophobia. All of us need to hear more about acceptance and less about marginaling a segment of sciety that has much to offer.

Mike McCue | 9/22/2002 - 10:13pm
Bishop Gumbleton writes a wise letter that challenges us to take a wholesome Christian approach to gay people. We are called & commanded to love all people. Fr. Baker's article on the other hand is full of esoteric reasoning. His approach convolutes Christian morality. Christian morality is not about poetic expressions "clinging" or "nuptual meaning of the body." It is about loving neighbor as self---any human can do that. Humans are most fully the image of God when we are loving as Jesus showed us how to love. Fr. Baker and those who share his position would do well to step out of their wordy theory and look at the lives of sucessful, healthy, loving gay people. Look at (and thank God for) the ministry of mature, holy gay men toward them.

William Cleary | 9/22/2002 - 6:41am
Bishop Gumbleton's words point to a new revelation of God's love, how it's even in unexpected places. That's the real world, folks. Thank God for it.

Charles Orloski, Jr. | 9/21/2002 - 4:22pm
How about the other crisis? Major war and economic cataclysm looms. Under such dark circumstance, I'll wager that many people simply want clergy to get on with their work, and deal with how to keep children out of reach from sexual abuse.

Sr. Maureen Sinnott O.S.F. | 9/28/2002 - 2:58pm
Thank you for asking the question: Should Gay Men be Ordained? I read with great sadness Rev. Andrew Baker's homophobic response and with great gratitude Bishop Tom Gumbleton's reasonable, balanced, and compassionate response. Father Baker has come to some profoundly erroneous conclusions regarding homosexuality as evidenced by his remark: "It is fundamentally flawed in its disordered attraction because it can never 'image'God and never contribute to the good of the person or society"

There are no words to describe how I felt when I read that statement and I am heterosexual. I cannot help but wonder how anyone who is homosexual felt.

On the other hand, Bp. Gumbleton described the homosexual priest or bishop as a "gift" to our parishes and church. Bp. Gumbleton shared that he was heterosexual and had learned to integrate his sexuality in a healthy way in all his loving and mutual relationships. I believe it is because he has integrated his own sexuality that he is able to accept the sexuality of gay priests and bishops. Bp. Gumbleton was also able to share some profoundly painful and open letters he had received from gay priests. My guess is that gay priests trust him because they know he understands them and is the only Bishop who seems to have the courage to consistently take the risk and speak out for them.

I wonder how many letters Father Baker has recived from gay priests. Father Baker has been in the presence of homosexual priests and bishops (as all of us have) but perhaps he has never really developed a deep enough relationship with them to have the privilege of hearing their personal stories. Stories which tell the painful process of identifying, working trough and accepting one's sexual identity. Only by integrating our own sexuality through relationshiips with other men and women do we begin to honor the sexuality of others with the compassionate heart of God.

Father Baker said that according to some experts homosexuality can be treated and even prevented with some degree of success. It is only because he regards homosexuality as "disordered" and "tends to a corrupt end" that he would see the need to change it. Homosexuality is not a choice; it is God-given.

From my past experience as novice directress and regional councilor and my current experience as clinical psychologist I have had the privilege of helping heterosexual and homosexual clergy and religious work through their sexuality and other issues. I have also worked with pedophiles, ephebopiles and their victims. What I have learned through all of this experience is in agreement with Bp. Gumbleton's premise that the problem confronting us in the current church scandal is not a problem of homosexual priests but of some underdeveloped priests and bishops.

As I see it we have two choices. We can spend all our energy negatively looking in closets for our gay priests and bishops to that we can futher scapegoat and exclude them. Or we can spend our energy positively trying to reopen the windows of Vatican II and breathing fresh air into all of our priests whether they are fully developed or underdeveloped. Only when our priests are sexually, psychologically, socially, and morally developed will they be mature enough to accept women as equal partners in our Church.

Mary Ann Flatt | 9/25/2002 - 5:06pm
I read with interest the arguments on "Should Gay Men Be Ordained?" However, many Catholics are interested in a broader debate with the title of the article reading: "Should Lay Men and Women Be Ordained".

William Cleary | 9/22/2002 - 6:41am
Bishop Gumbleton's words point to a new revelation of God's love, how it's even in unexpected places. That's the real world, folks. Thank God for it.

Charles Orloski, Jr. | 9/21/2002 - 4:22pm
How about the other crisis? Major war and economic cataclysm looms. Under such dark circumstance, I'll wager that many people simply want clergy to get on with their work, and deal with how to keep children out of reach from sexual abuse.