November 22, 2005

Vatican: No Actively Gay Men May Be Ordained

The Vatican will release documents next Tuesday that outline requirements concerning the orientation and habits of seminarians who seek to be ordained as priests.

The Vatican restricts men from entering the priesthood who a) "practice homosexuality," b) "present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" or c) "support so-called gay culture."

I'm perfectly fine with part a as long as it is meant to understand that you don't engage in homosexual sex acts. Priests are intended to be celibate and that means no sex of any kind. The rules are the same for gay or straight priests in this regard.

Part b? How is that going to be checked? Psychological evaluations? Interviews with everyone the seminarian has ever known? And how does one know that this will be effective in screening anyone? Priests are to be priests for life--people often change dynamically, and I'm sure being a priest will change a person deeply over the course of many years. And what is a tendency? Is it directly related to behavior? Is it just some latent impulse that may be strong, but fought against very effectively? If so, I say that's a pretty ridiculous standard--I would say I have deeply rooted heterosexual tendencies, but I wouldn't go around screwing all my female parishioners if I became a priest.

Part c is the one I really have a problem with because it does not just extend over who can be a priest and who can't be, but also extends over what a priest can do. By this rule, a straight priest who is involved in a gay-straight alliance in college may not be able to be ordained. I support gay culture and I would tell that to a bishop. Would that get me kicked out of the seminary? That's absurd.

A pdf of the Italian news release that has been authorized by a member of the Vatican is here. If you read Italian, have at it. I made some sense of it, but only after I had read the English news reports.

On a lighter note, Andrew Sullivan calls attention to the Pope's haute couture fashion sense. Then again, if you look this sinister, you probably need Prada shoes and Gucci sunglasses.


  1. I browsed it kind of quickly, and what I got out of it is that they make some distinction between homosexuality and homosexual acts versus homosexual tendencies with regards to scripture, and then ultimately conclude that either is against the 'laws of nature' thoroughly unacceptable for someone who will be ordained and expected to uphold, represent, and preach the principles of holy texts. Also, there is something in there (I'll read it more carefully because I honestly am a little bit shocked by it) about how homosexuals are individuals who deserve profound respect, but just aren't fit to be ordained.
    so, yeah, this is the first time 5 years of public school italian class may have been useful.

  2. ha--the Catholic Church making a public school education useful--the irony!

  3. Part c is the one I really have a problem with because it does not just extend over who can be a priest and who can't be, but also extends over what a priest can do.

    I'm a bit confused by this. What is wrong with the Catholic church telling its priests what they're allowed to do? I assume that you don't mean that literally, since you no problem with the celibacy rule.

    I think it's less than clear what it means to "support so-called gay culture." If you have gay friends, or if you vote for laws to prevent people from being fired for being gay, or if you read a bunch of stuff to try to understand "gay social issues," I don't think that makes you a gay culture supporter for catholic purposes. I think they're referring more to the stereotype of gay subculture, where homosexuality is celebrated, promiscuity is encouraged, and there are lots of people roller skating around in leather speedos. If Benedict catches you skating by, you're out of the priesthood.

    Obviously I'm being a bit facetious, but I'm trying to figure out what it means.

  4. sorry--i meant to say that i disagree with the fact that it creates a new, very crude rule over what men who are already priests can do. What is supporting gay culture--giving absolution to a homosexual in the confessional without giving him a lengthy discourse on the Church's position on the subject? I expect that with the Church's regular specificity, these things will be spelled out, at least to priests, if not to the public, but it disturbs me how wide-ranging this particular point is.

  5. Makes sense. I hope the Vatican clarifies, because I don't know whether I agree or disagree with (c).

    I think that the church is trying to take the position that (1)homosexuality is a sin, but (2) homosexuals are people just like everyone else and entitled to a high level of respect and compassion just as all fellow human beings are. I would therefore assume that the "rule" that the Vatican is laying out is an effort to tell priests that #2 is important, but be sure not to undermine #1.

  6. I think that analysis is correct. It's what I've heard from various priests, theologians, and Church declarations.

    My point is that c) potentially extends far beyond this basic theological point and unnecessarily limits the pastoral duties of men who are already priests as opposed to men who are planning on being priests. Inclusion is an important part of Church ministry and it would seem that this rules out any attempts at including openly gay people in the Church community. I think this is an inconsistent policy--such automatic exclusion is practiced against very few other "sinning" groups.