The Congregation For Catholic Education (CCE) is set to release an Instruction containing wise rules aimed at excluding homosexuals from seminaries and from Ordination. It is entitled: “Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies In View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders.” This instruction is not a departure from Tradition and Scripture, nor from the past teachings of the Magisterium. It reaffirms the ancient teaching of the Church, and it decrees wise rules to put that teaching into practice.
There are many reasons why homosexuals should be excluded from seminaries and from ordination. See my articles: Lambs without Blemish (http://www.catholicplanet.com/articles/article119.htm), 10 Reasons Why Homosexuals Should Not Be Priests (http://www.catholicplanet.com/articles/article122.htm), and Homosexuality is Evil (http://www.catholicplanet.com/articles/instruction004.htm). This article will comment on the recent document by the CCE, and examine the practical effects of this reaffirmation of Church discipline against admitting homosexuals to ordination.
Commentary on the Instruction
The first point is that the CCE has the responsibility and the authority to issue guidelines and precise norms for priestly formation. “In continuity with the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and, in particular, with the decree 'Optatam Totius' on priestly formation, the Congregation for Catholic Education has published various documents to promote an adequate integral formation of future priests, offering guidelines and precise norms concerning its different aspects.” This document's norms are a continuation of past teaching and practice.
Second, the Church has always established rules and limits on who can be validly ordained. “According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only baptized males validly receive sacred Ordination.” Certainly, other rules and norms can be authoritatively established by the Holy See, in accord with Tradition and Scripture.
Third, the priest represents Christ. Every priest should cooperate with the Holy Spirit so that he is transfigured to become ever more like Christ. “Through the sacrament of Orders the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, with a new and specific designation, to Jesus Christ: the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, Head, Shepherd, and Spouse of the Church. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his entire person to the Church and by authentic pastoral charity.” The Church must choose men for the priesthood, from among the faithful, who most closely resemble Christ.
Fourth, homosexual tendencies are objectively disordered, and homosexual acts are always gravely immoral. “Regarding acts, it teaches that, in Sacred Scripture, these are presented grave sins. Tradition has always considered them as intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law. As a consequence, they can never be approved under any circumstance. As regards to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are present in a certain number of men and women, these also are objectively disordered and are often a trial for such people.” This teaching is not controversial; it has been a clear teaching of the Church from ancient times, found in both the Old and New Testaments.
Fifth, the Church cannot admit homosexuals to the Sacrament of Holy Orders: “the Church ... cannot admit to Seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.” This statement clearly excludes, from the seminary and from ordination, anyone who has a homosexual orientation, or who considers himself to be gay. It is not ambiguous, as some have claimed. Any and all men that are correctly referred to as homosexual or gay are to be excluded from the seminary and from ordination based on this norm.
This statement also excludes any heterosexual (straight) men who support gay culture. Three criteria are listed, any one of which excludes that man from the seminary and from ordination. The first two refer to homosexuals: those who are sexually active as homosexuals and those who merely have a clear homosexual orientation. The third criteria is a third category: those who support gay culture, regardless of whether or not they are homosexuals. To be excluded, any man might fit one, two, or all three of these criteria. But some men who are not gay, men who are clearly heterosexual in orientation, might support the gay culture found in society and as an unwelcome subculture in the seminary. Those men who support gay culture are to be excluded from the seminary and from ordination.
Sixth, this norm does not exclude those men that do not fit any of the above three criteria, even if such men, at some point in their past development toward maturity, struggled with homosexual tendencies. However, this struggle must be at least three years in the past, and the outcome of the struggle must be that the man understands himself to be heterosexual. “When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination.” Again, this norm is not obscure or difficult to interpret. It does not, as some have claimed, permit some homosexuals to be ordained. It permits heterosexuals to be ordained, despite past sinful tendencies, provided that the battle against such tendencies has been won and is definitively in the past.
Furthermore, the Church is not required even to admit such men with past failings to ordination. The Church can set high standards for the priesthood, because the priest represents Christ. The Church has the ability and the authority to require candidates to the priesthood to be virgins who have been chaste throughout their entire lives. Nor would such a requirement, if the Church saw fit to enact it, be at all unreasonable or contrary to the faith. For Christ Himself was always a chaste and pure virgin, and every priest should represent Christ as fully as possible.
Seventh, those responsible for overseeing the formation of candidates to ordination, particularly the Bishop or Superior General in charge of that seminary, are required by the Holy See to be morally certain and free from serious doubt about the suitability of those candidates, according to the Tradition and teaching of the Church, the Code of Canon Law, and the norms of this Instruction. “The call to Orders is the personal responsibility of the Bishop or the General Superior. Keeping in mind the view of those to whom they entrusted the responsibility of formation, the Bishop or General Superior, before admitting the candidate to Ordination, must arrive at a morally certain judgment regarding his qualities. In the case of a serious doubt, he must not admit him to Ordination.” This responsibility is called a personal responsibility because it cannot be delegated to such an extent that the Bishop or Superior General is no longer the final arbitror of such a decision.
It is an obvious implication of this norm that all other persons involved in the education, formation, and guidance of candidates to the priesthood also have a responsibility to act, according to their proper role, toward the sincere implementation of these norms. And the Bishop or Superior General in charge of the seminary has a responsibility to remove from their positions any person whatsoever who does not support the norms, laws, and teachings of the Church. Some persons have already publicly stated that they will openly disregard and contradict these norms, permitting and even encouraging unrepentant homosexuals to seek ordination. These persons are committing the sin of schism. And if they believe or teach that homosexuality is not intrinsically disordered, or that homosexual acts are not always objective mortal sin, then they are also committing the sin of heresy.
Heresy and Schism
The Catechism teaches the following:
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.If any candidate for ordination does not believe this teaching about homosexuality, even if he is a chaste heterosexual, he is not fit for ordination. For Canon Law forbids heretics and schismatics from being ordained.
Canon 1041 The following are irregular for receiving orders:Any man who seeks ordination cannot be licitly ordained, without dispensation directly from the Apostolic See, if he commits the offense of apostasy or heresy or schism. A candidate for ordination who obstinately doubts or rejects Church teaching on the topic of homosexuality (or any other article of faith or morals) commits the sin of heresy and cannot be licitly ordained, even if the Bishop or Superior General would want to permit it. Therefore, any heterosexual man who sins by heresy or schism, by rejecting these norms and the teachings upon which they are based, is also unfit for ordination and cannot be licitly ordained. Heretics and schismatics are also obviously unfit to be involved in the education, formation, and guidance of candidates for ordination, or to be involved in the Catholic education of laypersons, including both children and adults.
Can Any Gay Men Be Ordained?
No. Absolutely not. Many media outlets are reporting that homosexuals will be allowed to be Catholic priests, if they have been celibate for at least three years. But that claim is false. The three year period applies to those who, in the past, struggled with mere tendencies toward homosexuality while advancing in spiritual and psychological maturity. Persons who experienced such problems must have overcome these tendencies for at least three years. In other words, they must be heterosexual, have been heterosexual without any homosexual tendencies for at least three years, and they must never have been clearly homosexual. Only a mere struggle with such tendencies, which is clearly in the past, is minimally acceptable. The Instruction absolutely does not permit the ordination of men who are homosexual, even if they have been celebate for three or more years.
Homosexual priests cannot teach or lead in seminaries
The Instruction was accompanied by a cover letter, which added a comment about those homosexuals who are already ordained:
"Because of the particular responsibility of those charged with the formation of future priests, they [homosexual priests] are not to be appointed as rectors or educators in seminaries."Therefore, all homosexuals involved in teaching or leading within any seminary must be dismissed from their positions.
Reply To Objections
Objection 1: Many good holy priests are also homosexual. These will leave the priesthood or never enter it.
Reply 1: The error of this objection is found in the assumption that homosexuality has no bearing on holiness. In fact, the homosexual orientation is inherently disordered against the will of God concerning sexual morality. To use a fitting metaphor: homosexuality is darkness, but holiness is light. Light and darkness are incompatible. Where light shines, darkness cannot exist. Consequently, holiness is incompatible with homosexuality. A priest who thinks of himself as gay and who accepts this sinful orientation, as if it were good, or as if it were the will of God, or as if it were the same as a heterosexual orientation, such a priest cannot be holy.
In a letter to his diocese on the topic of homosexuality, Seán P. O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston wrote:
“If we tell people that sex outside of marriage is not a sin, we are deceiving people. If they believe this untruth, a life of virtue becomes all but impossible.”
(Letter of Nov. 23, 2005; http://www.rcab.org/News/releases/statement051123.html).
The same can be said of any teaching of the Church regarding any acts that are always gravely immoral. A life of virtue becomes all but impossible for anyone, even a priest, who believes that homosexuality and its consequent behavior is normal or good or morally acceptable.
There are thousands of canonized and beatified Saints and Blesseds in the Church. Many were priests and religious. None were homosexuals. The homosexual orientation does not exist in persons who are holy, for holiness casts out all sin and all that tends toward sin.
There are a number of priests who call themselves gay and who have spoken out, often anonymously, against this instruction from the Holy See. But no gay priests have spoken out in support of this instruction. The reason is that having a homosexual orientation predisposes a priest to doubt, deny, or openly reject Catholic belief and practice on topics related to sexuality. If a priest considers himself to be a homosexual, he is very unlikely to believe and teach the definitive moral teachings of the Magisterium on any sexual topic. This facts becomes very clear when, as in this case, the Church reasserts its teaching and those priests who speak out and who call themselves gay are, each and every one of them, against the teaching and the norms that follow from the teaching.
Objection 2: Jesus would never exclude anyone.
Reply 2: Jesus Christ clearly taught the condemnation of evil and of anyone who does evil and refuses to repent. The Gospels are not without repeated and clear teachings and warnings of the eternal fires of Hell and of Divine condemnation of all that is sinful, and of the unrepentant. Jesus ate and drank with sinners to correct them, not to accept their sins without correction, and not to appoint the most sinful to the highest positions of leadership.
Seán P. O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston wrote:
Sometimes we are told: “If you do not accept my behavior, you do not love me.” In reality we must communicate the exact opposite: “Because we love you, we cannot accept your behavior.”
(Letter of Nov. 23, 2005; http://www.rcab.org/News/releases/statement051123.html).
Objection 3: If the priesthood is without women, without married men, and without homosexuals, there will be very few priests.
Reply 3: Christ Himself said: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Lk 10:2). We obtain holy priests by prayer and self-denial, not by accommodating the sins of secular culture and society. God will provide plenty of priests.
Also, many good men have been turned away from the priesthood. Some were turned away because certain seminary programs are hostile to devout chaste heterosexual men. Others were turned away by an atmosphere of licentiousness and homosexuality. Conservative dioceses, which choose devout and chaste straight men to enter their seminaries, have plenty of priests. (See “Good-bye, Good Men,” by Michael S. Rose).
God will provide. Only those without faith in God think that we have to admit homosexuals and women to the priesthood in order to avoid a shortage of priests. In many other countries, where the faith is practiced more conservatively and is less influenced by modern culture, the seminaries are full and over-flowing.
Objection 4: These norms are unenforceable. Those involved in running the seminaries will continue to admit and even encourage homosexual candidates. This rebellion includes some Bishops and priests.
Reply 4: It is already clear, from the recent history of the Church, that such seminaries produce an inordinate number of priests who are sexually active, many of whom abuse children, many of whom produce various kinds of scandals for their diocese. Such sinfulness harms souls greatly. It also causes the diocese to be sued and to lose tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. These same diocese have difficulty finding enough candidates for the priesthood. Those who rebel and continue this approach will continue to fail.
Those who openly reject Church norms concerning the Sacrament of Ordination, and the teachings on which those norms are based, commit the sins of heresy and schism. The Church has the authority and the ability to enforce both correct belief and correct practice. The Holy See has the authority to excommunicate Bishops and priests who openly defy Catholic belief and discipline. The Holy See has the ability to remove Bishops, priests, and others, from their positions in various seminaries and dioceses and religious orders.
The norms are certainly also enforceable at the level of the individual candidate for the priesthood. Some seminaries have had a high percentage of homosexual candidates, mainly because those in charge screened in homosexuals and screened out devout heterosexuals. Many seminaries are already successful at attracting devout chaste heterosexual men, and at screening out gay candidates. The seminaries which have had problems with large numbers of homosexual candidates have had those problems because they deliberately screened in those candidates that they knew to be gay. It is therefore also entirely possible for a seminary to screen out the same candidates.
Objection 5: Candidate for the priesthood will simply hide their homosexual orientation.
Reply 5: Such profound dishonesty is a betrayal of Christ, who is Truth. There is a saying in the field of psychology: “You can only hold your breath for so long.” This refers to persons who try to hide their true psychological profile from the persons around them. One might fool others for a few days, but candidates for the priesthood continue through years of education and formation. People will realize which candidates are attempting to hide a homosexual orientation.
Any candidate who obtains ordination by hiding a homosexual orientation, or any other factors that would disqualify him, commits a serious sin. Such persons do not become so-called holy gay priests. They become heretics and schismatics, who do much harm to the Church.
Objection 6: Spiritual directors and confessors will now be put in the position of discouraging some candidates from continuing to ordination. They will not be enforcers of Church documents, rather than spiritual guides.
Reply 6: Every spiritual director and confessor has always had a moral obligation to discourage unfit candidates from continuing to ordination. Any spiritual guide who believes that his guidance should ignore or be beyond the reach of Church documents is not fit to be a spiritual guide. Many of the faithful find spiritual guidance through various Church documents, from the documents of Vatican II, to various Papal Encyclicals and other documents of the Holy See.
Objection 7: We don't really know what these norms mean. We cannot follow norms that are vague and that could be interpreted in many different ways, so we should just continue with our current practices.
Reply 7: Such profound dishonesty is a betrayal of Christ, who is Truth. Those who make such disingenuous claims are wolves in sheep's clothing.
Objection 8: Those men who want to be Catholic priests, and who are gay, will simply lie about their orientation and their lives.
Reply 8: Such profound dishonesty is a betrayal of Christ, who is Truth. The Church teaches that lying is always a sin. Deliberately and knowingly lying in a serious matter is a mortal sin. Any man who lies about his sexual orientation in order to obtain ordination commits a serious sin. See how this objection is itself a refutation of another objection, that which claims that gay priests are good and holy. A man who commits a mortal sin to obtain ordination cannot be called a good and holy priest.
Objection 9: There is no proof of any direct connection between the presence of gay clergy in the church and child abuse scandals. There is no direct link between homosexuality and pedophilia.
Reply 9: Only a small percentage of priests have committed the grave offense of child sexual abuse. Some pedophiles are mainly attracted to males; others mainly to females. Most of the abuse by priests has been of males. However, anyone with a pedophile orientation should not be admitted to the priesthood.
Most heterosexuals, and most homosexuals, are not pedophiles. However, there is an indirect link between permitting homosexual priests and the grave offense of child sexual abuse. Permitting homosexual priests sets up an atmosphere in the seminary and in the priesthood which is permissive of sexual desires that are contrary to the moral law and Church teaching. A pedophile would be more likely to seek the priesthood, if he sees that men who have inordinate and gravely immoral tendencies are welcome there.
Furthermore, the reason for excluding homosexuals from the priesthood is not mainly a response to recent disclosures of child sexual abuse committed by priests. Rather, it is an attempt to purify the priesthood, so that the men who serve God and Church are the best that the faithful have to offer: the most chaste, the most pure, the most holy, the most faithful, the most Christ-like.
Objection 10: Any attempt to suppress the gay sub-culture in some Catholic seminaries could simply drive the issue underground and fail to resolve the crisis.
Reply 10: There should be zero tolerance for a “gay sub-culture” in seminaries, the priesthood, and at Catholic schools at every level. Does anyone think that a pedophile sub-culture should be tolerated? Homosexual sins are also gravely immoral. Any support for, or tendency towards, such serious sins should not be tolerated.
Any candidate for the priesthood must be carefully evaluated before being given ordination. His teachers, spiritual director, and fellow seminaries should know him well enough to know if he has a homosexual orientation. His fellow seminarians in particular will likely know. Anyone who knows that a candidate is clearly unfit for the priesthood for any reason is morally obligated to inform the Bishop and priests in charge of that Seminary. It should be the case that few, if any, homosexuals would be able to hide their orientation from all involved.
Objection 11: This document may instigate a witch hunt of already ordained gay priests, or may offend them so much that they leave their ministry.
Reply 11: Priests who are sexually active should leave the ministry: they are unfit. Priests who consider themselves to be homosexuals should leave the ministry: they are unfit. If any faithful Catholic knows of any priest or seminarian who is a homosexual, he is morally obligated to report this to those in authority in the Church. The faithful should shun any priest or seminarian who is openly gay, or who is known to be gay, or who supports the ordination of homosexuals in contradiction to Church teaching and discipline.
Objection 12: There are two types of homosexual candidates to the priesthood: those who can and will accept celibacy and those who cannot or will not. The document unfairly excludes those who can remain celibate.
Reply 12: When we ordain men to the service of God and the Church, we must offer the best our flocks have to offer. Only those men who are lambs without blemish should be admitted to ordination. Such men are called to represent Christ to the faithful.
Homosexuals, pedophiles, and other unchaste persons have a grave moral disorder within themselves, which by itself is sufficient to disqualify them from ordination, even if they have never been sexually active or are currently committed to celibacy. These persons are not lambs without blemish; they are not the best men that the faithful have to offer. Their orientation tends toward a grave moral disorder and so it makes them unfit to be offered to God as a living sacrifice taken from the flock of the faithful.
Objection 13: A ban on homosexual candidates to the priesthood is unenforceable.
Reply 13: Firstly, any man who attempts to become a priest by means of deception and by defying Church law is committing a serious sin against God. A homosexual candidate to the priesthood cannot in good conscience seek ordination. Many homosexual candidates will screen themselves out because they are not willing to deceive and to defy Church teaching, or simply because they are offended.
Secondly, if most seminarians are conservative faithful chaste heterosexual Catholics, the homosexual candidates will not feel welcome. They will be rebuked by their fellow candidates for the priesthood; they will be driven away.
Thirdly, a seminarian's orientation should be clear to the persons in charge of instructing and guiding seminarians, if they spend enough time and effort getting to know each candidate. Those persons in charge of the seminary are capable of taking care to screen out homosexuals.
However, in many cases, those who are the gate-keepers to ordination deliberately choose men who are homosexual because these gate-keepers desire a more liberal Church. By screening out devout heterosexual men, and by deliberately screening in homosexual men, they hope to liberalize the Church.
Any reform of seminaries must also reform or remove those who are in positions of teaching, leadership, and authority over seminarians who favor or support or allow homosexual candidates to be admitted. Some of these persons are so opposed to Church teaching that they would defy a ban on homosexual candidates. Such a ban is enforceable, but only if the persons in charge of seminaries are screened as carefully as the candidates themselves.
Objection 14: Estimates of the number of gay seminarians and priests are high. The number of lost priests and seminarians will be high. Many bishops and cardinals are gay.
Reply 14: Some seminaries actively screen in homosexual candidates and actively screen out the more devout and pious among the heterosexual candidates. Those particular seminaries that do so may have a high percentage of homosexual candidates. However, the priesthood in the United States in general does not contain a high percentage of homosexuals. The vast majority of priests show no homosexual orientation, nor do they deny Church teaching that homosexuality is a grave moral disorder. Furthermore, the claim that many bishops and cardinals are gay is just not true.
Objection 15: Keeping homosexuals out of the priesthood means that women will also be kept out of the priesthood. Admitting homosexuals to the priesthood will liberalize the priesthood and eventually make women welcome as well.
Reply 15: Women cannot be validly ordained to the priesthood or the episcopate. Therefore, admitting homosexuals will not result in women being ordained as priests.
Women who think that the Church should not be led by male-only priests and male-only bishops tend to favor homosexual candidates to the priesthood because these candidates are very liberal in their views toward who should be ordained. If they were conservative concerning who should be ordained, they would disqualify themselves.
Most of the women involved in working with seminarians have a liberal bias. These women tend to have a liberal bias because the liberal view is that women should have positions of authority, leadership, and teaching in the Church, and these women have such positions (with respect to seminarians). Women who are conservative Catholics would not presume to take a position of authority, leadership, and teaching over candidates to ordination.
Part of the problem in certain seminaries is that liberal Catholics control admission to the seminary and to ordination. These liberals deliberately favor homosexual candidates because they want to undermine the more conservative understanding of Catholicism. They know that homosexual candidates to the priesthood are necessarily liberal in their views. They hope to change the Church and its teachings by admitting as many liberals to the priesthood as possible. But the Church is no mere human institution; it is the Body of Christ led by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, they will fail miserably.
No homosexuals can seek ordination without committing the deliberate mortal sin of open defiance against the teaching and authority of the Holy See. No seminary or religious order can admit and approve of homosexuals as candidates for ordination without committing the same deliberate mortal sin. If even a heterosexual man supports the so-called gay culture, he cannot be admitted to ordination. If any Bishops, Superior Generals, or other persons involved in the education, formation, and guidance deliberately decide to defy or ignore these norms, they commit a serious sin against the teaching and authority of the Holy See.
Many seminaries are currently not in compliance with these norms. In order for these norms to be effectively implemented in every seminary, many persons who currently teach, lead, or have authority over seminaries will have to be replaced, including some openly defiant Bishops and Superior Generals. If the Holy See enforces these norms unevenly, then some seminaries will be like well-tended gardens raising beautiful and helpful plants, but other seminaries will like poorly-tended gardens, where the good plants are uprooted and the weeds are nurtured. These weeds will continue do much harm to the faithful and to the Church, until every garden is well-tended and all the weeds are uprooted.
by Ronald L. Conte Jr.
November 25, 2005