LA Times on Gay Priests

Here’s an editorial from the LA Times on the Vatican’s new directive on psychological screening of gay candidates for the priesthood.  And before you object to the idea of a secular paper editorializing on church affairs, remember that were it not for The Boston Globe, the church would not have been forced to confront the sexual abuse crisis.  And also that the church these days often feels free to opine on things secular, especially in the last few months. 

More to the point, here’s the piece.


And a snip: 

To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States -- including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles -- operates under its own guidelines for the screening of prospective priests, which can include consultations with psychologists. Although the U.S. policy professes to adhere to Vatican pronouncements (and was approved by the pope), it seems to adopt a narrower definition of "deep-seated" homosexual inclination, one that allows gays to be ordained as long as their sexual orientation doesn’t interfere with their ministry.

Yet even if the U.S. church is following a more compassionate policy than Vatican pronouncements would seem to authorize, the role of psychologists in screening applicants raises troubling ethical questions, as even psychologists who approve of such cooperation admit. Aiding the church in weeding out homosexuals is hard to reconcile with these guidelines of the American Psychological Assn.:

"Psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual and role differences, including those based on age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability, language and socioeconomic status, and consider these factors when working with members of such groups. Psychologists try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices."

If the church -- or a diocese within the church -- takes the Vatican decree literally, it’s hard to see how a psychologist could lend his or her expertise to the thwarting of a young man’s aspiration to serve God simply because he happens to be gay. In our view, that’s not just cruel; it’s unprofessional. --LA Times

James Martin, SJ

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 4 months ago
No doubt those who look to the LA Times for moral guidance and instruction on Church affairs will find the editorial persuasive, even though it fails to deal with the fact that 80% of the sexual abuse involved male-on-male sexual contact. I however am relieved that the Church is taking corrective action unconstrained by political correctness.
9 years 4 months ago
I think some Catholics want homosexuals to disappear. That is not going to happen. I am a 63-year-old gay man. Over the years I have had friends who were Catholic priests and gay. The ones I have known have wonderful been priests. I have lunch regularly with a priest who has been a personal friend for about 30 years. My friend has been a great priest for all the years I have known him.
9 years 4 months ago
It is amazing how much mis-information Fr. James Martin can pack into a story with a quote from the LA Times and its misunderstandings! The Catholic Church (as society in general) has continually dealt with the problem of sexual abuse, albeit not successfully then nor now. Any aware person could read stories of priestly abuse and how it was then handled by looking in the NCR (National Catholic Reporter) from 1980 up until The Boston Globe repeated a story based on an accusation in a sister paper that proved untrue, which story they never retracted or repented of. There is a plot behind the plan in all this which can tweezed out by looking at the the Boston Globe in it's many aspects. As they say, 'Follow the money.' Also interesting is that Fr. Martin feels the Church opines on things 'secular' and of course he is refering to the abortion issue and gay issues and contraception issues. To him these are merely 'secular' issues not to be opined by the 'church'? What, then, in his mind might be a 'church' issue?
9 years 4 months ago
Perhaps the fact that most of the sexual abuse cases involved male-to-male contact tells us more about what percentage of Catholic priests are gay than it does anything else.
9 years 4 months ago
To Mr. Stangle: The Boston Globe unintentionally did the Catholic church a service in pointing out the substantiated instances of sexual abuse in the archdiocese, which led to the hierarchy beginning to act against that scourge--albeit imperfectly. Otherwise, we would not have had some of the measures that have helped to start the church on the path to preventing abuse. Also, the church is right to pronounce on secular issues, since, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out, one of the key models of the church is the 'Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.' 'Nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo' in the hearts of believers, as the Council fathers wrote in that document, also known as 'Gaudium et Spes.' And so the church enters into the secular world to speak about things like abortion, homosexuality, birth control, as well as war, peace, the environment, and the economy. As it should. My point is that when the church speaks about the secular world, it should not be surprised when the secular world speaks about the church. To Dan: It is true that the abuse was almost entirely male-to-male abuse. But we should not conflate homosexuality with pedophilia. They are two entirely different things.
9 years 4 months ago
Psychological screening of candidates was around in many dioceses long before the sexual abuse crisis and is an obviously necessary tool to assist in evaluating suitability of candidates. Abuse comes from misuse of the instrument in using it for the wrong ends, not in the screening itself which has a good purpose regarding healthy sexuality and maturity. I agree that attempting to rid seminaries and the priesthood of men with homosexual inclinations by ruling out both those who have a gift and commitment to celibacy and those who do not is wrong on every count -- and really impossible. The Vatican's homophobia -- even by men who themselves may be extremely self-negating and repressed in acknowledging same-sex attractions -- is a part of its general fear of the body and human sexuality and is another sign of coming splits that will envelop Christendom in this century.
9 years 4 months ago
It would seem to me that the LA Times is asking an important question, not trying to dictate to the Roman Catholic church how to run itself. By the standards of the American Psychological Association, homosexuality is not a disease or a defect to be cured, and (as quoted in the snip above) the APA does not want its members to lend their expertise as psychologists to help others discriminate against gays based on their sexual orientation. Here's the question: Will the Roman Catholic Church seek out non-APA psychologists to aid in their candidate screening, or will the church ask APA-member psychologists to set aside their professional obligations and thereby place at risk their professional credentials?
9 years 4 months ago
Can we at least conflate homosexuality with the fact that more than 85% of the sexual abuse cases involved boys who were sexually mature (had reached late puberty), which even psychologists give a different name: ephebophilia. That gay men like their sexual conquests young is not surprising. Even a cursory look into the culture will demonstrate a huge preponderance of this tendency. Still, the problem is not that gay men will abuse young men. This is not the Vatican's reasoning for disallowing the ordination of those with deep seated homosexual inclinations. The reasons are well layed out in the instruction which you can read here: It seems that this matter is more closely related to the following question: '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.' I don't think it is such a controversial thing to say that a man with deep-seated homosexual tendencies does not relate correctly to men and women. But maybe I'm a crazy Gen-Y'er who just doesn't get it.
9 years 4 months ago
'My point is that when the church speaks about the secular world, it should not be surprised when the secular world speaks about the church.' So you're saying that the church has no more business offering moral guidance to the world at large than a newspaper has offering theological guidance to the church? Or, if the church presumes to offer moral guidance to a secular world it's giving the secular world authority to offer theological guidance to the church? I'm confused.
9 years 4 months ago
Dear Fr. Martin - Read about the Servants of the Paraclete and about Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, a future saint, perhaps. Perhaps we could promote his cause. Here: Fr. Gerald, from the Boston area and attending seminary in Brighton founded a treatment program for troubled priests in 1947. His Congregation treated and tried to help thousands of troubled priests. That you believe the Boston Globe did a service is understandable. I, myself, believe they promoted a hysteria.
9 years 4 months ago
Stephen, From one 'Gen-Y'er to another, I actually don't think you 'get it.' I know many homosexuals who serve the Church as active priests, ministers, and faithful lay persons, and their sexual orientation does not 'hinder' their ability to relate to me or other members of the Church community at all. On the contrary, the unfortunate trials many of them face in the Church because of their sexuality have made these friends some of the strongest, most compassionate, inspiring members of the Church that I know. I am appalled at the charge that homosexuality hinders a priest's ability to relate to others, Stephen, even if the Vatican says so. And I am appalled by your suggestion that gay man have an inclination toward post-pubescent minors. Such as statement only highlights your ignorance about this issue.
9 years 4 months ago
All homosexuals have deep-seated homosexual tendencies. The Catholic Church is not going to find homosexuals who don't have deep-seated homosexual tendencies. They don't exist. I am homosexual and I have deep seated homosexual tendencies. I have known many people with deep-seated homosexual tendencies who relate to men and women just fine.
9 years 4 months ago
Dear Fr. Martin: The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church involved sexual activity that was predominantely between adult men and male adolescents--that is NOT pedophilia, it is homosexuality. Pedophilia involves attraction to prepubescent children. From the DSM IV: "This disorder (pedophilia) is characterized by either intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child (typically age 13 or younger)." AFT, M.D.
9 years 3 months ago
If the Church is serious in teaching that homosexually inclined men ought never to be priests, let it put its money where its mouth is. Offer to "buy out" with a golden parachute every gay priest who leaves active priesthood. We were ordained in good faith. But years after our ordinations the Church now tells us that no one like us should ever be ordained. We are in the position of a man whose wife, after years of marriage, tells her husband: "I shouldn't have married you. No one should have married you or anyone like you. I wouldn't marry you if I had to do it over. But don't worry, I won't divorce you!"


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Long before Pope Francis earned the nickname, St. John Paul II was known as “the people’s pope.” St. John Paul II recognized the value of modern travel and mass media in spreading the Gospel and a global message of good will.
The EditorsMarch 22, 2018
Retired New York Auxiliary Bishop Gerald T. Walsh distributes Communion during a Mass on the March 17 feast of St. Patrick, patron of the Archdiocese of New York, at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
“It is clear that what matters to Pope Francis is the transformation of individuals and communities through their attentive and communal participation in the sacramental mysteries."
Surveys suggest that younger Americans are turning away from religion, but they may not have been properly introduced to the church in the first place.
Robert David SullivanMarch 22, 2018
Photo: R2W FILMS
A feel-good film that actually reaffirms one’s faith in humanity
John AndersonMarch 22, 2018