Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unedited and controversial.

So Cardinal Bertone was right.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do believe Bertone was correct in his assessment that the sexual abuse crises was/is largely a homosexual problem.  But I also made a point to explain that not all men with homosexual attraction are attracted to underage boys.  Fear mongers and journalists such as Ann Coulter seem to suggest that all homosexuals (sodomites as Coulter refers to them*) are natural born pedophiles, ephebophiles, and predators.  Such generalizations are not only absurd, they overlook the fact there are some men who, although they experience sexual temptation toward men (ie - understand themselves to be same-sex attracted), may never have acted out sexually with another male, therefore they cannot be described as predators, much less gay.  Likewise, I seriously doubt the majority of men with homosexual attraction ever felt themselves to be attracted to children, young boys, or even teenagers.  Nevertheless, principals on both sides of the argument seem to be painting same-sex attracted (or tempted) men with a very broad brush.  That is not to deny gay culture (GLBT) embraces a wide range of behaviors, but that is a separate issue.
There are actually men out there who are virgins and wouldn't think about committing a homosexual act, and then there are those who have been made virgins by the blood of Christ, who would never again act out.
Can men with SSA be admitted to monasteries, religious orders, or seminaries?
I went through a period when I thought absolutely not, but as a priest friend cautioned me that attitude discounts the grace of God which can cause a man to renounce such behaviors for the sake of the Gospel, as well as the grace to effect not only forgiveness of sins, but healing and wholeness for the man seeking to conform his life to Christ.  Of course my opinion is just that, a personal opinion - neither is it my call to make.  As I always say, these matters need to be discerned by the appropriate superiors, rectors, and in some cases, the local ordinary.  Imagine if Fr. Corapi's past had been homosexual?  Would his conversion have been accepted by the Church?  If not, where would the Church in this country be without such a powerful witness?  Just so, I'm convinced there are good priests in the Church who have renounced homosexuality and follow the teachings of the Church.
A sub-culture. 
Several years ago, in this archdiocese at least, there existed what one might call a rather permissive attitude regarding homosexuality, even in the seminary.  That has all changed today of course.  I mention it because in that atmosphere, a type of unacknowledged 'gay culture' developed - being gay wasn't a problem as long as the person was willing to live celibately - hence the perception you could still be gay and celibate...  the observance of chastity seemed to be a matter open to interpretation.
For me, and I believe for those charged with discernment in the matter of vocations (The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the bishop or the major superior.), this attitude poses a problem chiefly due to the fact one clings to his identity as a gay man, even though he has chosen to live celibately.  This may sound confusing and seem to make little difference in the long term so long as the man remains chaste.  However, as most people know, gay is a political term and denotes a sort of third way, implying the person accepts the active gay lifestyle - wherein chastity is not a priority.  Whereas same-sex attraction or homosexual inclination/tendency speaks more to the condition or sexual orientation of the person and not behavior.  Thus affirming that "One's fundamental identity is as a creature of God, and through grace, His child and heir to eternal life."  - Fr. Harvey, The Homosexual Person, New Thinking in Patoral Care.
The call to chastity.
Catholics must remember that the Church does not require a person with same-sex attraction to change his/her orientation, but the Church does require the person to live a chaste and celibate life.  The Church asks the same of all persons, no matter their sexual orientation.  What is required for a person with same-sex attraction to enter the priesthood or religious life is another matter however.

Fr. John Harvey notes, "among American bishops and provincials of religious congregations of men there are divergent views...  The existence of the orientation itself is regarded as sufficient reason for excluding such people from the seminary or religious order." - Harvey, Truth About Homosexuality.

Here it would seem most Catholics would agree.  Although Fr. Harvey goes on to say, "So far as I know, there is no document from the Roman congregations that explicitly forbids a man who has led a chaste life despite a homosexual orientation from entering a seminary or religious congregation; nevertheless, ordinaries of dioceses and provincials of religious orders have the authority to set up such a policy, and some do.

However, some bishops of dioceses and religious provincials are willing to accept such candidates after careful screening by professional therapists and vocation directors." - Ibid
What the Church teaches.
Perhaps the latter rule has always been followed, except with this twist:  Some of the therapists and vocation directors were gay and certain requirements were compromised, if not tossed out entirely.  And of course we now know that some of the bishops and religious provincials were gay as well.  See the problem?  To guard against this danger I suspect it would be necessary to conduct reappraisals during formation and before ordination on a case by case basis - assuming everything is in order with the hierarchy.  Fr. Harvey appears to allow for the possibility that a person with same-sex attraction could be ordained - so long as the person thinks in union with the Church on the issue and has led a chaste life, in accord with the criteria set forth by the Congregation for Catholic Education and signed off on by Pope Benedict XVI:
"Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter.7
In the light of such teaching, this dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question,9 cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or who support the so-called ‘gay culture’.
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.
Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate." - Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders
This is probably as good a place as any to insert a statement from a psychiatrist who recently defended Cardinal Bertone's assertion that the sex abuse crises was a homosexual problem:  "Cardinal Bertone's comments are supported completely by the John Jay study report and by clinical experience," Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons told CNA. "In fact, every priest whom I treated who was involved with children sexually had previously been involved in adult homosexual relationships.  [  ]  Because of the link between homosexuality and clerical sexual abuse mentioned by Cardinal Bertone, men with same sex attraction have a solemn responsibility to seek help and to protect the Church from further shame and sorrow, said Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons." - Source 
Answering the other question:  What is wrong with Fr. Regis Scanlon?
I don't know if anything is wrong with him, but his criteria for discernment with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies seems a little strict.  What am I talking about?  An article by Fr. Scanlon that first appeared in Oxford Revue and is now hosted at Pertinacious Papist regarding this whole question of admitting men with homosexual inclination to ordination and religious life, although Fr. Scanlon takes it a step further, asking:
"... what about a celibate man with homosexual tendencies: Should the Church dismiss him from religious life? A religious community accepted him and perhaps even knew of his same-sex attraction. It would therefore seem to be uncharitable to dismiss an elderly religious homosexual who has no problem living chastely. More to the point, then, the Church should ask whether men with homosexual tendencies ought to be permitted to enter male religious life now and in the future."The Validity of Homosexual Vows of Chastity in Religious Life.     
After a lengthy article which takes Church teaching beyond what I have ever been taught, Fr. Scanlon concludes:  "A celibate man with homosexual tendencies should not be permitted to enter religious life because (1) he will be entering a near occasion of sin; (2) his vow of chastity will be meaningless; and (3) his vow of chastity will be scripturally and canonically invalid. The Catechism states, "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" (#2359). One should not, however, confuse this vocation with the call to community religious life." - Ibid
If Fr. Scanlon's view was official Church teaching I know of at least a couple of monasteries of men which would lose many of its members over night, as well as at least ten ordained priests in this geographic region who would be dismissed from the priesthood tomorrow - and that is just off the top of my head.
Living in obedience... "He learned obedience from what he suffered." - Hebrews 5:8
Very often those who have reformed their lives and live according to Church teaching continue to experience rejection by fellow Catholics and Church authorities...  In fact it doesn't always matter if the accusers be progressive or traditional,  it is the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" syndrome at work here.  Hence I've concluded long ago that part of one's penance may be to suffer the rejection and discrimination in union with that experienced by sexually active gay people, sometimes even sharing the shame, the stigma and condemnation that accompanies the lifestyle.  Instead of protesting and rebelling as many gay activists and their sympathizers are inclined to do, one could offer it up as one's penance (in the sense of Hebrews 13: 12-15) - offering a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips which acknowledge his Name, even rejoicing to be found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name.
(My apologies for such a long post - but I raised these questions earlier last week and I wanted to conclude.  It's a big subject that I feel inadequate to address on my own.)
*Context for Ann Coulter reference:  "Despite the growing media consensus that Catholicism causes sodomy, an alternative view -- adopted by the Boy Scouts -- is that sodomites cause sodomy. (Assume all the usual disclaimers here about most gay men not molesting boys, most Muslims being peaceful, and so on.) " - Source
Human Life International defends Cardinal Betrone


  1. Anonymous6:43 PM


    I largely agree with you. Variations of the Scanlon argument is that since a priest is supposed to be a "father" to his people and a spouse, in a way the church, a homosexual cannot do that - it is not a natural role.

    I think Scanlon is wrong and you are right.

    Where I disagree with you is that the gay subculture in the Catholic clerical cericals assumed celibacy. Say what? Well, maybe in your Archdiocese, but nowhere else that I have ever had fairly direct knowledge of. The argument, rather, ran, "Celibacy is about marriage, not sexual activity." And so on.

    To me, the "test" if there is one (and I have no right to impose one) is whether the priest/seminarian in question sincerely believes and teaches all the teachings of the Catholic Church - with sincerity and enthusiasm, including the church's teaching on sexuality.


  2. Maria7:11 PM

    Terry--Great post and wonderful food for thought.

    On "Instruction concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders," signed by Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski---

    With regard to the above, Tony Anatrella SJ, states that the text is aimed at people with "an exclusive attraction to persons of the same sex." Such persons, no matter how chaste, will "have serious difficulties situating themselves institutionally in cooperation with others," and be prone to "manipulation of ideas and people" and to "closing oneself off in a clan of persons of the same type." They will tend to "a mode of vocational discernment that seeks candidates in his own image," "relations with authority based on seduction and rejection," and "an often limited vision of truth and a selective way of presenting the Gospel message." A priest should be a man "suitable for marriage" and "able to exercise fatherhood over his children," if he is to incarnate a "spousal bond" with the Church and "spiritual paternity."

    I find this argument convincing. When I read James Martin, I am struck by how often the subject of his writing is about homosexualtiy. In others words, his focus is off and cannot seemingly be otherwise...

  3. Aceman7:55 PM

    Terry, in my former eparchy, (that's a diocese in Latin speak) in the 10 years I was a member of it, there were several priests who left and went over to Orthodoxy, and low and behold, married before they were vested as priests in the respective Orthodox Church into which they were received. One I can think of even celebrated his silver jubliee as a priest, though he had been an Orthodox priest for less than 10 years at that point. Another was only a priest for 2 years or so before he swam the Bosphorus, complete with a ring on his right hand.
    My point being, why weren't these men better screened for their proclivities? Now I'll grant you, that imposed celibacy on a church that has a married priesthood may be a bit different from the subject matter here. But the ratio of priests this small eparchy lost and that Orthodox Churches gained, because they would be accepted as married priests, should set off some bells somewhere, no? Where is the litmus test here? It's not a "gay" problem.

  4. The whole issue of SSA is rather complex, to say the least.

    I find Fr. Scanlon to have adopted the "Freudian" definition and explanation of homosexual "identity" and "actions"; this is not according to my understanding of Catholic, Thomistic understanding of the definition of the "human person".

    To be more blunt: sodomy is an act; people who commit sodomy and want to continue to commit sodomy are "sodomites". This is not p.c.;
    but our actions do not necessarily define who we are as persons. Our desires and desire to continue to commit actions do. Our past does not.

    Fr. Harvey, from my understanding, is a great pastoral theologian. He makes the point that with the proper therapy, spiritual direction, sacramental life and virtuous living, men/women who have previously lived according to the understanding that giving in to same sex attraction is okay and who have made the effort and been given the proper direction, can, in fact, be healed.

    As for Fr. Scanlon's comments about men/women needing to be completely heterosexual in order to be able to make a valid vow of celibacy/chastity; I disagree, completely.

    We are all wounded; even those who see themselves as 100% heterosexual could also be guilty of masturbatory activity, even with the opposite sex. This is against Catholic moral teaching and is an aberration. And, let's be honest; there is a spectrum (sorry to bring Kinsey in here), but given the right circumstances and the right moment, any heterosexual could, in fact, commit "homosexual acts"...even if they were not predominately homosexual.

    This is no justification for admitting "out" or "predominately same sex attracted" individuals into the seminary or novitiate. No.
    I have refused those who have called themselves "gay"...that is a whole 'nother issue.

    But we have to realize that we live in a highly sexualized, pan-sexual kind of society; all kinds of everything goes on, even in the best of situations.

    Sexual maturity, honesty, and the commitment to chastity are the real issues, here.

    Any formator or novice director with any kind of sense will realize that men/women need to address the issues that face them; they need to commit themselves to chaste celibacy; they need to move on.

    This thing about only being able to renounce marriage (as a heterosexual) in order to make a valid vow of celibacy/chastity makes no sense to me.
    Jesus called men and women to be "eunuchs" for the sake of the Kingdom.
    With that call, the absolute necessity of belonging only to Him, cleaving to Him, being in a spousal relationship to the Church, to Him, is the only real requirement.

    Sorry. I've gone on too long. Thanks for your patience!

  5. Thanks for the essay Terry..

    We have many of the same issues with homosexuals serving in the US military....while I was in the Air Force I knew of several, none of them practicing..but scared to death that someone would find out their "dirty little secret." The homophobic hysteria was rampant...the "Don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy lifted alot of witch hunts and "assumptions."

    I think here is the same issue as with heterosexuals--can you live the chaste celebate lifestyle?? There are as many temptations for hetersexuals as there is for homosexuals.. and as Terry said it does take a special grace from God to resist the temptation. And if becomes too much of a struggle, request a new assignment.

    Peace.. Sara

  6. Father - thanks for your comments - please correct me where I am mistaken.

    Regarding one thing you wrote: "Sexual maturity, honesty, and the commitment to chastity are the real issues, here." I would add "emotional maturity" to that - especially in the light of what Maria wrote:

    "...(persons with an exclusive attraction to persons of the same sex), no matter how chaste, will "have serious difficulties situating themselves institutionally in cooperation with others," and be prone to "manipulation of ideas and people" and to "closing oneself off in a clan of persons of the same type." They will tend to "a mode of vocational discernment that seeks candidates in his own image," "relations with authority based on seduction and rejection," and "an often limited vision of truth and a selective way of presenting the Gospel message."

    That is so very true Maria - or should I say, "that is so gay!" It is absolutely on the mark - I could cite numerous examples - crap - read Weakland's memoirs.

  7. Terry and Maria: I agree!
    Add it onto my post.
    I lived in several "closed situations" apart from our community here...the narcissism of ssa attraction/difficulty can "close one" off and create a very paranoid and exclusive "clique".
    The "bitchiness" and "exclusivity" of those who will not deal with their issues are absolutely intolerable in a same sex community; it is as toxic with a community that has to deal with both sexes..."emotional maturity" on!

  8. Ace - with all due respect, I don't know how to answer you - but from everything I have read and know - it isn't a problem of celibacy.

  9. It would be nice to have a priesthood that is free of this abuse, and also a populace of children that have been catechized thoroughly enough in their faith to recognize a departure from God's will for their lives when such a situation arises. Note that this doesn't necessarily imply an explicit physical instruction, but rather an education in God's plan for humans including the purpose and sanctity of marriage. It needs to be heard in the classroom and the Church.

  10. And a further thought:
    Problems with authority, esp. a male authority, are part and parcel of the whole SSA/thing.
    The issues have to be addressed as to the whole male/authority/aggressor/abuser thing, as well as pandering/submissive reaction that tends to go into passive/aggressive kinds of behavior (forgive me for my psycho-babble, here!).
    I have seen it first hand where someone (usually a male) is either completely rebellious or submissive (not in the right kind of "submission to authority" but a kind of 'puppy roll on your back and pee' kind of submission) that is NOT religious obedience nor the correct kind of standing up for oneself in the face of a correction which may not be just.
    This is a part of the whole psycho-sexual make-up of someone who has not dealt with a proper understanding of authority and of self.
    The undermining, passive-aggressive, "bitchy" persona that can be a part of the whole "gay" personality (and I mean to offend no one here; I'm just speaking from personal experience and an observational aspect)--in other words, someone who identifies themself as being "persecuted, unwanted, a pariah" can be very difficult to deal with in community and in the wider sense of diocesan priestly life.
    So, I am on board with you, Terry and Maria.
    I'm no expert.
    But we need men who are confident in their own identities, who are emotionally and sexually mature enough to embrace a public life of service as priests and/or religious, and who are willing to be purified from any kind of aberrant attitudes and behaviors.

  11. Aceman6:59 AM

    bt said: "It would be nice to have a priesthood that is free of this abuse, and also a populace of children that have been catechized thoroughly enough in their faith to recognize a departure from God's will for their lives when such a situation arises. Note that this doesn't necessarily imply an explicit physical instruction, but rather an education in God's plan for humans including the purpose and sanctity of marriage. It needs to be heard in the classroom and the Church."

    For crying out loud, these are children, no amount of your catechizing would ever make it acceptable to put any of this on them. Ever. Obviously your catechesis was flawed too.

  12. With a few notable exceptions, most people who comment on these issues lack the competence to do so. I largely ignore them. I hope this doesn't offend the armchair theologians in the house.

  13. Aceman10:34 AM

    Sorry Terry and Thom--

    I try to largely ignore these types too, but occasionally i reach my boiling point, something like the "near occasion of sin," and have to say something.

    -Blaming abused children for not knowing better is wrong.
    -Blaming abused children for not being properly catechized is wrong.
    -Blaming abused children for "luring" abusers or "wanting" this abuse is wrong.
    -Blaming abused children for not speaking up for themselves or for not saying "no" is wrong.

    I'm done.

  14. Ace, I wasn't directing that toward you. Nor anyone, specifically. It just seems that the people who talk about it the most- in the media, in the Church, online, etc- are the ones least qualified to do so.

  15. Thom - I agree - and believe me I shouldn't have posted on this at all since I am not qualified to do so. However, I did so because I felt badly for a longtime reader of this blog who had changed his life - I would say heroically - he has been preparing to enter seminary and now with such happenings today finds himself very discouraged and faces possible rejection by the seminary.

    This post was too big for me to handle, I would remove it if not for all the comments.

  16. I wasn't referring to you either, buddy. Though we disagree sometimes, I always like to know your take.

  17. Aceman2:00 PM

    Guys--I was apologizing that I went off, not that I disagreed with you. Terry, you were absolutely within your bounds to post it as it needs little comment. When things like this scandal happen, all kind of "experts" come out of the woods and offer their $.02. That comment (about improperly catechized children) particularly incensed me to my breaking point and I apologize that I got so vicious in my response. Blame it on the media, the bishops, priests, or the pope, but not the children.

  18. michael r.3:36 PM

    We're all armchair theologians, aren't we? Nearly everyone posting on the Catholic blogosphere fits into that category. Please don't remove the post, Terry. It's an important one, and the comments are valuable. I hope everyone will join me in saying a special prayer for your friend, so as not to be discouraged.

  19. Thom: I don't agree with Scanlon in his either/or depiction.

    I think each person must be dealt with as an individual, using the criterion of the Holy See, good common sense, and a practical understanding of human psychology.

    For some, that may seem to be too "LIBERAL", for others, too "CONSERVATIVE"...I get shot at by both...I'm used to it.

    Such is life.


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