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James Martin, S.J.May 31, 2010

Today’s front-page story in The New York Times, "Prospective Catholic Priests Face Sexuality Hurdles," by Paul Vitello, about the exclusion and weeding out of gay men from seminaries and religious formation houses, made for depressing reading. Why depressing?  Several reasons.

First, the article laid bare the cognitive dissonance that theatens a church that relies on celibate gay priests to carry out much of its ministerial work, and yet sets into place policies which would bar those same kinds of men from future ministry.  One of Vitello’s sources, Mark D. Jordan, the R. R. Niebuhr professor at Harvard Divinity School, “who has studied homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood,” and has also written extensively on it, called it an “irony” that “these new regulations are being enforced in many cases by seminary directors who are themselves gay.”  Yes, irony. 

Second is the notion that the sexual abuse crisis was primarily a question of gays in the priesthood.  For one thing, the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia has been disproven by almost every psychiatrist and psychologist.  The studies are too numerous to mention.  It was rebutted even by the U.S. bishops own study.  ("At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now," said Margaret Smith of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.)  For another, the increasing number of gay priests entering ministry in the past few years, which critics point to as a stain on the priesthood, coincides with a diminution of sexual abuse cases in recent years.  For another, the reason that you don’t see any public models of healthy, mature, celibate gay priests to counteract the stereotype of the pedophile gay priest, is that they are forbidden to speak out publicly.  Or they are simply afraid. 

And why wouldn’t they be?  Vitello provides some context:

“It is impossible for them to come forward in this atmosphere,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of Dignity USA, an advocacy group for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Catholics. “The bishops have scapegoated gay priests because gays are still an acceptable scapegoat in this society, particularly among weekly churchgoers.” 

Of course it is impossible—or close to impossible--for them to come forward, particularly in dioceses where bishops have spoken out against them, and have said that they will no longer their kind as priests.  What priest in Brooklyn (the focus of Vitello’s story) who is celibate and gay, is going to want to be honest about himself now?  Particularly after this quote:

“We have no gay men in our seminary at this time,” said Dr. Robert Palumbo, a psychologist who has screened seminary candidates at the diocese’s Cathedral Seminary Residence in Douglaston, Queens, for 10 years. “I’m pretty sure of it.” Whether that reflects rigorous vetting or the reluctance of gay men to apply, he could not say. “I’m just reporting what is,” he said.

That brings us to a third depressing point, about “what is.”  Psychologist in particular know how arduously that closeted gay men work at “passing” as straight men, often out of a deep-seated shame.  Some spend their whole lives doing it.   The goal of a zero-homosexual policy in seminaries, and the weeding out of gay seminarians, is bound to lead not to a climate of transparency and honesty, but to a culture of secrecy, dishonesty and hiddenness--which is one of the main things that led to the coverup of sexual abuse.   It is one of the very things that everyone--conservative and liberal--agrees needed to be changed.

In other words, an inquisitorial approach will make it far less likely that a man might feel comfortable talking about his sexuality (straight or gay) to his superiors or formators.  Several seminarians, and prospective seminarians, have written to me over the past few months describing their relucatance in mentioning any aspect of their sexuality to superiors for that reason.  All sexuality, psychologists say, is on a spectrum: no one is “purely” straight or gay.  So what happens when a straight seminarian discovers that he has some homosexual feelings?  Will he bring his questions to a superior in a seminary where gays are excluded?  Will he be encouraged to speak honestly, perhaps to a psychologist or counselor, so as to move towards greater integration and freedom?  This is the kind of psychologically unhealthy, terror-driven, pressure-cooker environment that I thought everyone was against.

Fourth, the collision of the Catechism of the Catholic Churchand current thinking.   Here's what the Catechism says:

Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Apparently, some seminary directors believe that gay men cannot be chaste, or that they are more likely to be pedophiles.  But that goes against the Catechism, which recommends chastity for gays and lesbians.  So either you think that the Catechism is correct, and gays can be chaste.  Or you think the Catechism is wrong; and they cannot be.  The Catechism also states that gays and lesbians can “approach Christian perfection” through chastity.  “Christian perfection” would obviously exclude sexual abuse.  If that is the case, then not allow them into enter seminaries and religious orders? 

In contrast to those who believe gays are completely unfit for the priesthood and religious life, Msgr. Stephen Rossetti (pictured above), a respected priest, psychologist and author, provides a measured and sensible approach to the question, which is, in my experience, somewhat more along the lines of what most dioceses and religious orders are doing these days:

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist at Catholic University who has screened seminarians and once headed a treatment center for abusive priests, said the screening could be “very intrusive.” But he added, “We are looking for two basic qualities: the absence of pathology and the presence of health.”

Msgr. Rossetti is not alone in his sensible approach.  Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York told Catholic News Service in 2005 that he felt that a man who was homosexual and could fulfill all the Vatican requirements for a healthy emotional life "shouldn't be discouraged" from entering a seminary.  Other bishops and religious superiors feel the same.  As Rossetti suggested, they are looking for emotionally mature Catholic men who can live chastely and celibately, straight or gay.  I wish Vitello, who is a fine religion-beat reporter and wrote a generally well-reported piece, had spent more time scouting around in other dioceses, even the New York archdiocese, for a fuller picture of how that seminaries and religious orders are handling this issue.  On the other hand, as Vitello seemed to imply in his piece, it was hard to get anyone to talk. 

And how depressing that is.  In this time where “transparency” is seen as an essential value for a healthy church, we still cannot talk about this issue. 

Fourth, the admission—in 2010—that some people are still confused by these issues of sexual orientation.  “Some seminary directors were baffled by the word “orientation,” said Thomas G. Plante, a psychologist and the director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University, who screens seminary candidates for several dioceses in California and nationwide.”  Baffled by the word “orientation”?  We are in trouble if “some seminary directors” don’t know what "orientation" means.   Perhaps Plante simply meant that they were baffled by what the Vatican meant.  Either way, we are in trouble.

But perhaps the most depressing thing about this article was the final quote, the “outro” as journalists say, from the vocation director of the Brooklyn diocese, in which he, on the one hand, admits that homosexuals have been good priests, but, on the other hand, say that they cannot be.

The Rev. Kevin J. Sweeney, whose incoming classes of three to five seminarians each year make him one of the more successful vocation directors in the country. Half of the nation’s seminaries have one or two new arrivals each a year, and one-quarter get none, according to a recent church study. Father Sweeney said the new rules were not the order of battle for a witch hunt. “We do not say that homosexuals are bad people,” he said. “And sure, homosexuals have been good priests.” “But it has to do with our view of marriage,” he said. “A priest can only give his life to the church in the sense that a man gives his life to a female spouse. A homosexual man cannot have the same relationship. It’s not about condemning anybody. It’s about our world view.”

Using the metaphor of marriage to the church to bar gays from orders is unhelpful.  Is the only way to look a priestly vocation by comparing it to marriage?  There are many other metaphors that one can use.  You could suggest that the priest is the "servant leader," which doesn't imply any sort of marriage image.  Or the "minister of the Word," which also doesn't imply a marital image.  Or you could simply turn to the traditional image of the priest as the one who tries to be the alter Christus, the "other Christ."  And, by the way, he wasn't married either. 

A homosexual cannot, according to church teaching, have the same relationship that a straight man can.  That is true.  But the gay priest gives his life as fully to the church as a straight priest does.  What's more, he gives up something that a straight priest does not: he gives up his dignity.  He willingly makes that sacrifice, which a straight priest does not make.  For unlike the straight priest, the gay priest serves a church that will not admit his existence, is trying to weed out future men like him serving, and, in general, increasingly treats his kind like a pariah.

James Martin, SJ 


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Stanley Kopacz
13 years 10 months ago
If a married priesthood were permitted, more heterosexuals would become priests and the ratio of gay priests to the entire population of priests would lower, and become more representative of the general population.  If the high ratio of gay priests is due to Catholic liberalism, it is only because the idea that refraining from sexual union made you holier than other people went away.  I'm glad it went away.  Good luck getting priests now that they're filtering out gays, as well.  May as well reject anyone who breathes and finish the job.
13 years 10 months ago
We commonly associate a temptation of the devil with being seduced to indulge in unlawful pleasures. But the devil is also, and principally, a deceiver. He tries to make us believe that what is, in fact, a lie, is actually the truth.
Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 10 months ago
The NYT article was depressing, but read another way, it's also humorous, even campy.  The idea that seminaries are going to ''weed out'' a culture of people who've spent generations figuring out how not to out themselves?  The policy will be enforced by men who are often gay themselves?  Please.
When you juxtapose what's going on in many seminaries with the acceptance of gays and lesbians found among young people in many universities,  the reasons for the continuing gap in understanding between the clerical leaders of the church and the assembly become clearer.  A lot of the people who make it through the seminary dragnet will have character flaws and underdeveloped personalities, either from the closet or from the need to knuckle under to these policies without protest.  Then they're going to have weird priorities and make weird decisions when they become pastors and bishops. Without any ability to influence these priorities and decisions, the majority of the assembly will continue to vote with their  feet, leaving behind those in the pews who fear change and want to be part of Benedict's remnant church.  Not a pretty picture.
So better to laugh than to cry.  The article brings to mind one of my favorite epigrams from the 19th century Polish novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz: ''the monastery will long outlive the abbot.''
Mary Kennedy
13 years 10 months ago
Sad to see the church spend so much time weeding out individuals who have so much to offer.  And it's particularly sad, when for so many of the faithful, it's pretty much a matter of "don't ask, don't care."
Would the church have been richer not to have had a Cardinal Newman*, or a Father Mike Judge?  Would the Creator have preferred it that way? As to the first, I think not. As to the second, only God knows, but I'm inclined to think not there, as well.
*pulling that from memory. If Cardinal Newman was not buried with another man, I regret the error.
Ronald Grace
13 years 10 months ago
Listen to Cardinal Schönborn ... he speaks good words on this...
13 years 10 months ago
It is no surprise that the church uses the metaphor of marriage to bar homosexuals from the ordained ministry.  That’s why the Catechism states that a homosexual inclination is “morally disordered,” since it is not ordered to procreation.  Too many of our hierarchs have nothing better to do than focus on sex.  By blaming homosexuals for the sexual abuse scandal, the church doesn’t have to focus on the clerical culture which allowed the abuse to fester. 
All of a sudden marriage becomes the ''litmus test'' for admission to priesthood.  What ever happend to God's call?  Our Lord said,''Come and follow me.''  He didn't say, ''You can only follow me if you have the desire to give your life to a female spouse.''  No wonder we have a shortage of priests!  Too many of the boys in Rome are obsessed with sex, and unfortunatley, the vocation directors of too many dioceses are accepting such a ridiculous argument. 
Stephen O'Brien
13 years 10 months ago
With great respect, I suggest to Father James Martin and other Catholics that they ask themselves whether it is better to avoid the word “gay” in the context of the topics of the above blog post.  Though now idiomatic in our culture, this term is confusing and misleading from a Catholic perspective.
Catholics should obey all the Church’s present laws and directives out of respect for the Church’s authority, which comes from Christ.  Yet, as an individual Catholic relying on *CCC* 907, I believe that the Church should eventually change her current policy so as not to exclude seminarians who experience same-sex temptations, provided that those prospective priests are rock-solid in the Faith and in the practice of chastity.  That proviso is critical.
As for revealing one’s temptations in any area of morality, I think that our age needs a better understanding of the imprudence of such disclosures, and of the concomitant injustice of forcing people to violate their right to privacy by making them.  It seems to me that not even confessors have the right to ask penitents about sins which they *might* commit in the future; still less do seminary officials or psychologists possess such a right.  In addition, it appears to me inadvisable to encourage one’s brothers and sisters to open themselves to the injustices and cruelties that might ensue were they publicly to announce the nature of their temptations against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments.
13 years 10 months ago
Good post, Fr. Martin.  It reminds me of a 2005  article by Timothy Radcliffe in The Tablet on the same subject - "Can gays be priests?"
To quote ...
"[...]  a vocation is a call from God. It is true that, as the [Vatican] document says, it is “received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church”, but it is God who calls. Having worked with bishops and priests, diocesan and religious, all over the world, I have no doubt that God does call homosexuals to the priesthood, and they are among the most dedicated and impressive priests I have met."
BTW, your last paragraph could work as well if you substituted "women" for "gays".  I'm just saying ...  :)
13 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin is using faulty biological science to promote faulty social science within the church. And, per usual, is focusing on the modern "individual rights" over the responsiblities and virtues of candidates.
While homosexuality may not be responsible for the abuse, the liberal culture of the seminary that cultivated priests during this time (1960s-80s) - and allowed for a good number of homosexuals to join the priesthood - certainly is responsible.  The time for a change in this admissions process is necessary for anyone serious about addressing the issue of abuse.
Homosexuality is not a biological trait; it is not determined by genetics and I challange anyone who considers differently to produce the science to back up their claims.  There is none...
Also, he is confusing the status of men who are less masculine with the acts of homosexuality.  There is nothing to say that men less masculine traits and features are homosexual by default - and any admissions director for a seminary would agree with this fact.  Effeminate men are NOT banned from the priesthood and effeminate traits DO NOT equal homosexual proclicity.  I have a coworker who is very effeminate and often jokes that people assume he is gay because of it - however, he is a straight male who is married.
There is a difference between those who associate themselves with the culture of homosexuality and see them selves as a homosexual first and foremost.  These men are not suited for the Catholic Church.  On the other hand, there are men who are effiminate - but see themselves as children of God first and look to become responsible members in the church.
It is time for Fr. Martin to stop using the liberal mantra of "individual rights" to advance the homosexual agenda within the church - and instead focus on the responsibility of these men as future leaders within the Body of Christ. 
13 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin: "The goal of a zero-homosexual policy in seminaries, and the weeding out of gay seminarians, is bound to lead not to a climate of transparency and honesty, but to a culture of secrecy, dishonesty and hiddenness-which is one of the main things that led to the coverup of sexual abuse.   It is one of the very things that everyone-conservative and liberal-agrees needed to be changed."
What a perfect example of an anachronism... 
It was not the current zero-homosexual policy that lead to the abuse in the 60s, 70s and 80s.....it was a free-wheeling liberal policy following the sexual revolution and the reforms of 1962. 
The seminaries that admitted and produced the vast majority of abusers were not conservative, they were liberal...
Eric Stoltz
13 years 10 months ago
Brett said ''Homosexuality is not a biological trait; it is not determined by genetics and I challange anyone who considers differently to produce the science to back up their claims.  There is none...''
Let's set aside for a moment the fact that Brett's statement is patently untrue. There are myriad studies that prove people are born gay or lesbian, and not one that proves the opposite.
But even if there were no studies, the lived witness of gays and lesbians states that they do not choose their orientation (a point also noted in the Catechism). So given the preponderance of anecdotal evidence, the burden of proof would seem to fall on those who claim that same-sex attraction is a personal choice. There being no such valid studies, those who cling to the fiction that people choose to be gay or lesbian must rely on Aristotelian and Thomistic constructs and various other abstract arguments, completely divorced from reality, to support their contention. Or they can just make up the science and submit their papers to NARTH-the option chosen by folks like George Rekers.
cris vicquery
13 years 10 months ago
The seminaries that admitted and produced the vast majority of abusers were not conservative, they were liberal..

Really? Ireland, where abuses was widespread, is the most conservative catholic country in Europe and the Irish clergy wasn’t and isn't liberal…

And Card Law isn’t a liberal, but he covered up the abuses in his diocese.
Mary Kennedy
13 years 10 months ago
Assuming, arguendo, that "a free-wheeling liberal policy following the sexual revolution and the reforms of 1962" was the cause of the abuse cases in the 60s, 70s and 80s, what, pray tell, was the cause of the cases in the 30s, 40s and 50s and for untold decades before that?
13 years 10 months ago
Right, Eric - let us forget about the philosophy and theology of Aristotle and Aquinas and rely on the American Psychological Association for guidence! (The APA only changed their handbook - which previously listed homosexuality as a disorder - to satisfy the gay-rights lobby)
This is the modern mindset: forget logic and theology and tradition (they are evil as they "discriminate") - let us rely on the liberal, individualistic relativism.
The Irish are their own sad story (including the Irish in Boston); however, the majority of seminaries in the US during the time of the cultural revolutions were liberal in their admission and screening policy.
The number of homosexuals allowed into the priesthood during this period can attest to that fact.
13 years 10 months ago
Mary, take at look at this chart to see the differences made by ideologies of the time:
Of course, abuse occured before the 60s - as it did in ALL areas of society; however, it was nothing like that period of liberal revolution and disorder.
William Lindsey
13 years 10 months ago
Brett, you say, "Right, Eric - let us forget about the philosophy and theology of Aristotle and Aquinas and rely on the American Psychological Association for guidence!"
No, let's not.  Let's not forget about the philosophy and theology of Aristotle and Aquinas.  Let's examine it in detail, as we lambast what you call "the modern mindset."
To be specific: let's look at the conclusions Aristotle drew on the basis of a biology we now know to be wildly faulty.  Precisely because the "modern mindset" has given us the scientific tools to understand what happens in human reproduction, in a way Aristotle couldn't understand in the pre-modern world.
Aristotle thought that male sperm contain all that's necessary to produce a human being.  The uterus of a female is merely an incubator for the hominid the man implants in her.
Furthermore, Aristotle believed, every hominid implanted in the incubator would become a male, like the one doing the implanting, unless something went wrong.  Producing misbegotten males . . . which is to say, females.
On the basis of that faulty biology, Aquinas developed some conclusions about sexual morality that we now find embarrassing, in the modern world, given what we know about human reproduction with our modern tools of biological analysis.
He thought, for one thing, that the waste of the human seed - of the little man who lives in the sperm - through masturbation (the possibility of female masturbation seems to have been off his radar screen) was far more sinful than was the rape of a man by a woman, since the latter has, at least, the potential to result in new life.
I don't hear any great hue and cry these days for a return to the Aristotelian biology that led Aquinas to such distorted notions about sexual morality.  Nor do I hear any hue and cry these days for a return to the pre-modern Aristotelian biology that caused both Aristotle and Aquinas to think women are misbegotten males.
The modern world was far from perfect.  As with any other era, it had the possibility to put what it learned to evil uses - the atomic bomb demonstrates that possibility.
Nonetheless, what we learned from the tools provided to us by modernity, and what we've inherited as postmoderns, has been extremely valuable in helping us reframe issues about which we were plainly wrong, as believers, because our premodern scientific knowledge was defective.
It strikes me as just plain silly - if not evil - to imply that we ought to revert to a premodern worldview in areas like our understanding of human sexuality.  It's also a huge abdication of the church's responsbility to be in creative dialogue with contemporary culture, so that the values held by the church have an effect in the public arena.
We will rightly be laughed out of that arena as we seek to turn the clock back to the premodern period in these areas.
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
13 years 10 months ago
The endless and pedantic conflating of sexual abuse and gay men continues to rear its ugly and incorrect head.
Just seeing the Times article depressed me; seeing some of the comments here and at Deacon Greg Kandra's depresses me more.
So much for the dignity of the human person!
Mary Kennedy
13 years 10 months ago
Brett, seen it.  I think Sullivan has found the flaws in Douthat's work.http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/how-long-has-this-been-going-on-ctd.html and finds the problem to be an old one indeed http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/how-long-has-this-been-going-on-ctd-2.html.  Of course the perps were probably just sitting around waiting for the Vatican Council . . .
13 years 10 months ago
I always enjoy hearing your responses on here; I like your style but, I think the substance of your statement is off the mark.  I only have a minute to reply...
It is true that Aquinas was wrong in regards to a number of facts of the modern natural sciences; however, these are mere incidentals to the nature of his work on theodicy, epistemology and theology. 
Science provides means for human advancement but it does not provide meaning for our existence.  There is more to us and our actions than the stuff of our genetic composition.  Your comment reminded my of the mid-wife in Dostoevsky's "Demons" when she brings a baby into the world she admonishes the emotional father: "A nice lot of drivel!  It's simply the further development of the organism, there's nothing to it, no mystery."
Deny the mystery and you deny humanity in the name of utilitarianism (or indvidualism).  Forget the atomic bomb for one second and look at the hundreds of millions killed by their own governments in the name of the perfection of man and society by science.
Science of reproduction tells us nothing inregards to the nature of human society and law and theology.  You cannot separate facts from values.
As I have said before, I am not in this fight for the issues of homosexuality - it is just one of many.  I am in it for the battle of ideas regarding human nature - to fight against modern (post modern) deconstructionism and radical individualism that is so prevalent in liberal culture and ideology.
charles jordan
13 years 10 months ago
If homosexuals can not be validly ordained does that mean a great many bishops are not in apostolic succession and thus any episcopal act by these men, particularly sacramental acts, is neither licit nor valid?
Perhaps Brooklyn, and other like dioceses, is singing with one note thus losing the hymn!
Mary Kennedy
13 years 10 months ago
I'm perfectly aware of who Andrew Sullivan is.  I suspect that you view any gay who is out as a "propagandist."  But you should know that the ad hominem is one of the oldest forms of fallacious argument in the world, and ought to be beneath anyone engaged in a serious discussion, rather than mere mudslinging.
13 years 10 months ago
Andrew Sullivan engages in plenty of mud-slinging against his ideological enemies and slanders Pope Benedict at every chance he gets. 
I should be above his level; thanks for the reminder, Mary.
Jim McCrea
13 years 10 months ago
The idea that a man (or woman) is married and therefore straight is laughable to anyone who has met many people who give lie to that bit of fantasy.
Eric Stoltz
13 years 10 months ago
Brett said "Science of reproduction tells us nothing inregards to the nature of human society and law and theology"
Exactly. That is not the role of science. Science sets forth facts and faith elaborates and extrapolates from on those facts, not vice-versa.
13 years 10 months ago
Unfortunately, (depending on your point of view ;) this is my final comment here.
Not quite true, Eric.  There are limits to human understanding and, even within our scientific knowledge base, there are things that are unacceptable for human society.  The science of eugenics would be a prime example. 
That said, faith is as much about mystery as it is about facts.
I think this is a quote from B16:  "According to St. Thomas Aquinas, prophetic vision is not a matter of seeing clearly, but of seeing what is distant, hidden.  The Church's vision is prophetic vision; it is always widening the view...The Church stands for and preserves always what is larger than human understanding."
Modern scientific materialism limits our view; faith expands it. 
Adrienne Krock
13 years 10 months ago
While the article may be depressing, I am uplifted knowing that there are others out there - Fr. James and other commenters here - with whom I agree! We must continue to rally against these ignorances. I will continue to pray for this issue - and I continue to keep you in my prayers from here in California, Fr. Jim - thank you for continuing to report on these issues that must be fought!
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin,
With all respect, the link you provide to back-up your statement that "the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia has been disproven by almost every psychiatrist and psychologist" is unhelpful, at best, and disingenuous, at worst.  Your link is to a man who is clearly an advocate of the homosexual lifestyle.  Furthermore, it is has been shown again and again that only a tiny percentage of the cases of sexual abuse by priests were cases of pedophilia.  The great majority, 80 percent, were cases of adult men sexually abusing adolescent boys.  So, why do you even bother to link to an article with a focus on pedophilia?  As well, the conclusions of the article smack of political correctness more than objective research.  How is it that it can be seriously claimed that a sexual act between two males in not a homosexual act?  Please!  Just because the bishops threw common sense out the window in their addressing the abuse scandal doesn't mean we have to do the same in addressing the origins of it.  An adult man having sex with a minor adolescent male, by definition, is homosexual statutory rape.  The Church regards homosexual orientation, while not sinful, inherently disordered.  The Church is simply being consistent, then, to regard homosexual identification and sexual health as mutually exclusive.   
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin,
I would respectfully ask two questions: First, you mention the increase in the number of gay men being ordained priests in recent years, but offer no link to substantiate that claim.  What is the basis of this claim?
Second, while the NYT article, and your response to it, focuses on the claim that the Church is wanting to weed out gays from the seminary, is it not more correct to say that the Church is wanting to weed out men who are sexually immature or unhealthy?  Certainly, as I said in my above post, if the Church regards homosexual orientation as disordered, then she is being consistent in regarding homosexual identity and sexual health as mutually exclusive.  But, if an applicant were to admit to a heavy, regular habit of heterosexual pornography, or of satisfying his sexual desires over the last year with multiple female partners, is it reasonable to assume that he, too, would be rejected as an appropriate applicant for seminary?
I appreciate your consideration of these questions. 
13 years 10 months ago
Interesting that the argument used by Fr. Sweeney to explain why a gay man is not equipped to be a model priest is the same argument proposed to bar women from the priesthood: that because we are female we can never represent Christ as the Bridegroom of his Church.  Since not all men are priests, some are lay members of our Church,  anyone proposing such an argument ends up flustered when I ask, does the Catholic Church really want to enshrine a model that upholds same- sex marriage? Literalizing a scriptural image that is meant to be allegorical is not only bad exegesis (seriously,would we think of doing that to the image of a mother hen, a branch or a lamb?) but then confuses by emphasizing a sexual image not pointed to by Jesus the celibate's metaphorical reference to why he and his followers celebrate when John the Baptist and his men do not.
Better to look at what Jesus literally calls himself as did his Mother before his birth, a humble Servant of the Lord, and what he then calls his disciples, both present and future  to be.  This is an image that transcends gender and sexual-orientation and is all-embracing. The repeated call to service is most prominently made by Jesus on his knees, washing the feet of his disciples on the night recognized by the Church as the beginning of our Christian priesthood.
Someone has already asked here, whatever happened to the idea of GOD choosing to call someone to the vocation of priesthood. And Crystal Watson has already expressed the parallels readily noticed betwreen why a homosexual male is now seen to be unsuitable for priestly service and the long-established reasons justifying the exclusion of women as well. My wonder, a point Fr. Martin considers. Aren't we all called to be servants, ministers of the word and alter-Christs? Yes, but what about fictitious bridegrooms ??? Not a choice in its exclusivity Christ's own humanity made the choice to be.
13 years 10 months ago
Further thought. Wouldn't it be more enlightened to consider the image of Christ as Bridegroom, an image of Him not so much personally married to us, his Church, as wedding us to Heaven, a more expansive and spiritually meaningful image of what his love and self-sacrifice accomplish. Just some late-night thoughts before I put my head to bed.
James Lindsay
13 years 10 months ago
What gives the conservatives nightmares is the fact that the vast majority of younger people, including Catholics, find the current stance on homosexuality, the all male priesthood and celibacy to be anachronistic. When most of the major donors are of this age cohort, there will undoubtedly be a change in the Church.

This is not a should happen (although it should), but a will happen. The question is not "if" Catholic teaching on sexuality will change, but "when". I suspect that people's attitudes on this issue come from their parents. When the majority of Bishops have parents who came of age after 1959 (which many are now recognizing as the transition point in the culture), I suspect the shift will occur. I suspect it is about 10 years away.
13 years 10 months ago
"The question is not "if" Catholic teaching on sexuality will change, but 'when'.... When the majority of Bishops have parents who came of age after 1959 (which many are now recognizing as the transition point in the culture), I suspect the shift will occur...."

I wouldn't count on it. While I agree that Bishops who grew up during/after the sexual revolution will look at Cathoilc teaching on sexuality with new eyes, part of that view will include what the sexual revolution has brought to society, e.g., the killing of children in the womb, destruction of the traditional family, widespread pornography (and its own offspring), a 40% out-of-wedlock childbirth rate, the spread of HIV in the homosexual community, no-fault divorce, etc....

To change its teaching, the Church must find some good that came from the sexual revolution; it cannot change merely because the world has changed in a bad direction. As a former liberal born in the mid-60s, I need not tell you that the pendulum swing in the other direction can be severe.

Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Fr. Martin,  Thank you for answering my questions.  So, the basis for your claim that more gay men are being ordained is anecdotal.  That's fine, as far as it goes.  But, it hardly justifies the strong statement you make in your article, as if such a thing is an unquestioned fact.  Rather, it comes off as if you're trying to force this conclusion on your readers.  I wonder if your experience is more a function of your views and of the priests you know, than an objective assessment of the situation. In any case, your claim offers no basis for a claim on the conscience of the Church.  Also, we can disagree on whether or not homosexuality equals unhealthy sexuality.  What we cannot disagree on are the facts.  The facts are, the vast majority of cases of sexual abuse by priests are cases of homosexual statutory rape; while child abusers are no more likely to be homosexual than heterosexual, the percentage of homosexual men who have engaged in sexual behavior with minors is far larger than the percentage of heterosexual men who have done the same.  Finally, if the argument that male priests abused boys because boys were the minors to which they had access were true, we should have seen an increase in the abuse of girls by priests, as priests have been granted more access to young girls in recent years.  I'm not aware of such an increase.  Are you?  The conclusion that there is no connection between homosexual orientation and sexual activity with minors strikes me as a widely accepted political conclusion in search of objective, scientific evidence.  Until you can offer something far stronger than what you've provided so far, the Church policy of weeding out gay men for seminary strikes me as nothing more offensive than prudence.
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Mr. Binder, your confidence may be unwarranted.  To offer some historic perspective, be aware that St. Jerome complained about how few Catholics in his day and age followed the Church's teaching on birth control.
13 years 10 months ago
I regret a synod is not calling all bishops to study the current medical data on homosexuality such as the APA paper on Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality (http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/sexual-orientation.aspx).
Our poor hierarchy has so much to update, I feel sorry for them. On the other hand it is time to end homophobia, imho one's own fear of being a homosexual projected on the other, and ensuing injustice against homosexuals.
The same should be done for contraception, divorcees' access to the Eucharist, women priests, etc. etc.
But we have to start somewhere - well after the pedophile scandals... which have nothing to do with homosexuality, by the way. Pedophilia is like regular rape, it's a question of power on weaker human beings...
In any case, thank you Fr. Martin for addressing this topic in such a human and sensitive manner.
13 years 10 months ago
I think it's funny that Claire believes that Bishops would/should be swayed by a group of researchers whose decision to re-categorize homosexuality as a non-patholigical was based, in part at least, on pressure from politically active gay groups as well as gay psychiatrists' opinions in the American Psychiatric Association (but there was no bias involved, wink-wink).

How many scientific studies in objective fields (as opposed to esoteric fields such as psychiatry) have proven one thing only to be disproven in later studies? Remember when Kinsey's studies said that 10% of the population was gay, and it was later discovered that he was drawing from a population pool weighted heavily with homosexuals.

Maybe Claire should consider the fact that homosexuals have organs designed for reproduction but do not have the mental inclination to use them for their obvious intended purpose. Funny that in our society, the esteemed sceintists have decided that if an individual lacks a sex drive, that is a disorder that should be treated; however, if a person has a sex drive that is unrelated to reproducing, that is not even considered a problem.
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
Since bishops by definition subscribe to false ideas about homosexuality - those propagated by the ineffable Vatican bureaucrats - and since society in general subscribes to a monocular and paranoid view of sexual relations with minors (as a reading of Kincaid's "Child-Loving" and Carpenter's "Benjamin Britten" has persuaded me), the forthcoming visitation of Irish archbishops by other Irish archbishops will be a ridiculous farce. No one will deal with psychological realities. Equally farcical was the questionnaire to seminarians reported in the New York Times, as well as being a crude and invasive abuse of privacy and dignity. It confirms my suspicion that the "experts" who conduct psychological testing are mad scientists on the loose. The premise that the ideal subject for priestly ministry should be 100% Heterosexual and 100% Sexually Continent is itself a formula for lunacy. I think we will look back on this period with the same embarrassment we now feel about Prohibition, Witch Hunts, and the Inquisition!
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
Bob Hunt's statistics should be considered carefully. If gays, as he says, are statistically more likely to have had sex with minors, then the Jay Report is misleading when it says homosexuality is not an indicator of potential abuse.
Claire is wrong to equate pedophilia with rape and a power relation. 'If we stop to ask what in fact pedophiles *do*, we discover that their activities are confined pretty much to cuddling, kissing, touching, looking, and exhibiting; Gebhard, dealing with a  sampling made up entirely of the imprisoned and reporting the highest incidence I have seen, says that 6% of his adults attempted sexual intercourse." (Kincaid, 208)
"Pedophiles do care about the child... The caring is involved with sexual desire in such complex ways as to make either a cynical or an idealist argument insufficient... In the few cases where researchers have listened to the children, the results, however incomplete, have usually been unsettling. Perhaps that is why such studies are rarely conducted and never listened to" (209).
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Britten%27s_Children
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
There are innumerable articles in respected scientific journals discussing the prevalence of sexual activity with minors among homosexual men.  This is not often reported or, when it is, it's reported in a way to refute or ridicule the findings. Richard Berke is a homosexual journalist and, at the time, a National Political Correspondent for the New York Times.  On April 12, 2000, Berke, speaking at the "View from the Top" reception sponsored by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, said, "there are times when you look at the front-page meeting and literally three-quarters of the people deciding what's on the front page [of the NYT] are not-so-closeted homosexuals."  Whether or not this is true of the NYT today, or whether Berke's remarks were a fair estimate then, it's clear that there is a concerted effort on the part of many who control what is and what is not reported as news favor a line of political thinking that is supportive of the homosexual lifestyle and political/social agenda.  This spills over into how research on the sexual abuse of children is reported.  There has been a concerted effort to redefine male on male sexual abuse as having nothing to do with homosexual orientation, despite common sense and a plethora of evidence to the contrary.  This is achieved simply by redefining homosexuality as exclusive (so any man who has ever had even one sexual encounter with a female is not considered homosexual) or redefining sexual relations between adults and minors as natural and, therefore, non-abusive.  Again, unless Fr. Martin has something to offer from an unbiased source that shows otherwise, the decision to weed out gays from the seminary is prudent.  
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
One might also think of weeding out heterosexual men as well - since they pose risk factors too. Perhaps we should hire angels as ministers, in accord with biblical precedent (Hebrews 1:7)? Or women?
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
In the general population 90% of sexual abuse of minors is heterosexual (or so I have heard). This suggests that a totally heterosexual presbyterate would not necessarily be immune to risk of abuse.
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Certainly a totally heterosexual presbyterate would not be immune from risk of abuse.  Which is why, as was discussed above (though not a focus of the NYT article), I'm sure the goal is to weed out all men for whom immature or unhealthy sexual and/or emotional concerns are identified.  Sadly, the risk would not be eliminated with the ordination of women, as I'm sure the incidence of child abuse by female teachers, which is far more prevalent than abuse by priests, demonstrates.  Also, journals such as Archives of Sexual Behavior and Child Abuse and Neglect, among a number of others, have published research on the topic which consistently identifies the percentage of homosexual child sexual abuse as representing between 30% and 42% of the total cases of child sexual abuse.  That is far more than the 10% implied by a figure of 90% being heterosexual abuse and far more than what one might expect given the percent of the general population that is homosexual, which is given as 2% to 4% by those same journals.  Again, prudence.
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
"Immature and unhealthy sexual and/or emotional concerns" - but who can define or identify these clearly? To take the case of the string of pedophile attractions that fueled Britten's creativity (and contributed so immensely to the education of his young charges, who are still singing his praises today), can one confidently call it "immature and unhealthy"? Was it not just his make-up? And did not many priests with the same make-up do good work in the sphere of education in the past - people like Don Bosco? As to same-sex attraction, Kinsey found it present in 50% of the men he studied, with same-sex activity in 37% of them. The percentage of the general male population that are exclusively homosexual he placed at 4% I think, and another 6% or so would be predominantly homosexual - which seems not implausible. Hard to say that such a normal variant of sexual orientation has to be seen as "immature and unhealthy".
The sex research journals you cite may be tainted with the same sort of materialistic positivism that taints Kinsey. A phenomenologically sensitive survey of gay experience etc., both in the clergy and in the general population would be valuable, but it does not seem to have been done yet. The deepest studies of sexual affectivity are those of writers like Proust, Joyce, Lawrence, Woolf etc., and what I notice about them is that the deeper they go the more questionable and partial is the vision they generate. If even a single perspective on sexuality generates such complexity and multiplicity, why should we imagine that the men in white coats can get it all into a tidily packaged overview?
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
To suggest that Britten and Bosco had the same "make-up" strikes me as trying to stretch a rubber band to fit on a bow.  It snaps well before the halfway point.  Kinsey's research has long been discredited, at least by those who value objective research.  There were few bounds on what Kinsey himself was willing to experience sexually.  It's no surprise then, and certainly no secret, that the populations he studied included a preponderance of those who shared his sexual proclivities.  The fact that there is difficulty in identifying sexual health and maturity would favor prudence in the process of accepting men into seminary.  I think your points strengthen my own and the Church's policy. 
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
Bosco warned against the temptation to get into sensual relations with the boys, and Britten was always anxious "not to cross the line" - I don't think it unlikely that both are referring to the same thing.
I don't know who has discredited Kinsey's estimates (his character is another matter; he was a bad man), or where there can be found an authoritative estimate for the percentage of the population that are exclusively homosexual and for the percentage that are predominantly homosexual. Can you give a reference?
Your source above for proving that the NYT is some kind of gay outfit is not really very scholarly - it is a sentence quoted out of context by people with a culture wars agenda.
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
Shortly before his death, Bosco commented "I will reveal to you now a fear... I fear that one of ours may come to misinterpret the affection that Don Bosco had for the young, and from the way that I received their confession - really, really close - and may let himself get carried away with too much sensuality towards them, and then pretend to justify himself by saying that Don Bosco did the same, be it when he spoke to them in secret, be it when he received their confession. I know that one can be conquered by way of the heart, and I fear dangers, and spiritual harm."
Robert Hunt
13 years 10 months ago
Mr. O'Leary,  I'll apologize up front for the extended post, but you've made three points for which I gather you're expecting a response, or at least I feel they merit one.  First of all, Mr. Berke's statement was made in a public forum.  While there may be those who contest the validity of his statement, I'm not aware of anyone who contests that he said it.  If you are, please provide the reference and I'll be happy to consider it, so long as it's not provided by people with a culture wars agenda. ;)  Oh, and the context was simply that he was comparing favorably the acceptance of homosexuals at the NYT in 2000 to what he regarded as the lack of acceptance they suffered ten years prior when he first arrived at the paper.  In any case, my point was only that many of those who are in a position to determine what is and is not worthy of being reported as news "favor a line of political thinking that is supportive of the homosexual lifestyle and political/social agenda."  I suppose you don't see it that way, to which I might recommend that a successful career awaits you as a first base umpire in the major leagues (my apologies to Jim Joyce).
Second, while I'm not sure where you're going with the Britten/Bosco comparison, let me say this: Benjamin Britten was a known homosexual with known sexual attraction to young boys who was known to often put himself in compromising situations with young boys and was, at least once, accused of sexual assault by a young boy.  His goal for his boys was to make them his pets, and he pampered them as such until they grew older and he lost interest.  St. John Bosco was an educator who took the poorest of the poor boys and gave them an education in hopes of lifting them out of poverty, both spiritual and temporal.  His goal for his boys was to make them saints, and on at least one occasion, and I suspect many more, he succeeded.  Britten is not worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Bosco.  Your rubber band has snapped on this one, and I hope for the sake of decency and intelligent conversation you will now drop any attempt to compare the two, if that's your intention, which still isn't clear to me.
Third, you ask for references for discrediting Kinsey's estimates on the prevelance of homosexuality.  Really, Mr. O'Leary, do I have to do all of the work?  Kinsey's work was criticized almost from the beginning for poor methodology because he based his results on a convenience sample, rather than a random sample.  In other words, he chose who he was going to interview.  It's no secret now that Kinsey chose a preponderance of inmates, homosexuals and pedophiles, with little representation of the married or of church members.  His results are, therefore, biased.  It's interesting that, in 1979, the Kinsey Institute published a report that did not deny Kinsey's bias, but simply insisted that such did not significantly affect his results.  As Amy and Seth might say on SNL, "Really, Kinsey Institute?  Really?"  As for an authoritative estimate of the prevalence of homosexuality in the general population, I suppose it depends on what you mean by authoritative.  After all, if the results don't jive with one's sense of the situation, one can simply dismiss the source as lacking authority.  
But, we must start somewhere, so why not with the Kinsey Institute itself?  If you go to their website and look under the FAQ section, prevalence of homosexuality, the study the Kinsey Institute references is from 2005 by Mosher, Chandra, & Jones.  The results are that 2.3% of adult men identify as homosexual, 1.8% as bisexual and 3.9% as "something else."  For adult women, the numbers are 1.3%, 2.8% and 3.8%.  Let's go to next to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm for Planned Parenthood.  Their 1993 study showed that of sexually active men aged 20-39, 2.3% had experienced same sex activity in the last ten years, while 1.1% reported exclusive homosexual activity during those ten years.  I will understand if those two neo-conservative, anti-gay culture warriors might not convince you.  So, let's go the to Center for Disease Control's 2002 study, "Sexual Behavior and Selected Health Measures."  The CDC reports that, of men 15-44 yrs old, 2.9% reported having had a male sex partner in the last 12 mos., while 1.6% reported having had only male sex partners in the last 12 mos.  For women, the numbers are 4.4% and 1.3%. 
There is more, but is it really necessary?  Enough said about that.  The prevalence of homosexuality was not the original topic of this thread.  As for that original topic, I stand by what I said in earlier posts.  It is my intention to take a summer hiatus from blogs of all types.  This will be my last post.
Joseph O'Leary
13 years 10 months ago
To make the rubber band snap you have to downplay the massive educational work of Britten with thousands of children as well as with his "pets" and you also have to downplay the risks involved in the closely affectionate methods recommended by Bosco, which indeed brought many accusations against his order down through the years. The cult of St Dominic Savio should be looked at critically - was it such as good idea to train boys to be saints? Was the extreme stress on chastity not a panic reaction against pederastic temptations and activities in schools? In the Ryan Report we find teachers who adopted this piety going on and on about "uncleanliness" even as they practice it with the boys (in a moral framework that seems to put bad thoughts, masturbation, sexual activity among the boys, and molestation by the teachers all on the same moral level).

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