Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Homosexual Compromise

We all know there is a problem with rampant homosexuality in many of our seminaries. This much is beyond dispute and does not need to be reiterated here; it is documented thoroughly in Donald Cozzens' book The Changing Face of the Priesthood and more famously in Michael Rose's Goodbye, Good Men, which I recently read through for the first time, though I had heard about it for many years.

Besides the problem with open, flamboyant homosexuality in the seminaries, which I am obviously alarmed at, I am equally put off by what I consider to be a compromise with homosexuality. I am referring to the position that, while a dissenting, openly practicing homosexual is an unsuitable candidate for the priesthood, an orthodox man who has homosexual tendencies but keeps them to himself and does not try to act on them is suitable; i.e., a homosexual "living chastely."

I seriously disagree with the idea that the only difference between a suitable homosexual candidate and an unsuitable one is whether they are living chastely or not. Homosexuals should not be ordained at all. Period. Chaste or not. If you are a man who is sexually aroused by other men, you should simply not be ordained. I find it astounding that some orthodox Catholics believe that ordination of homosexuals would be fine so long as they weren't engaging in homosexual activities. Why is this?

In my opinion, it is due to the distinction the Catechism makes between homosexual acts and homosexual tendencies. If we are looking at the problem from a standpoint of sin, the CCC rightly points out that while it is always sinful to engage in homosexual acts, it is not necessarily sinful to be afflicted with homosexual tendencies, and that persons with homosexual inclinations can approach "Christian perfection" if they stive after chastity and practice self-mastery (CCC 2359).

Some, I think, see this as a tacit acceptance of homosexual orientation as a neutral trait, or even a positive one, so long as it is not acted upon. Perhaps this is seen by some as a via media between the liberal total acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle and what is often perceived as a "homophobic" rejection of homosexuals as persons. It constitutes a compromise whereby one is able to justify supporting a certain presence of "good" homosexuals in the priesthood while condemning the more flamboyant ones.

This compromise is problematic. It must be remembered, that not only homosexual acts, but the inclination itself is "objectively disordered" (CCC 2358), and this applies whether or not it is acted upon. Homosexuality is a moral disorder; it may be that one is afflicted with it unwillingly, but that does not make it any less disordered. Even if they are not acting out upon it, do we want persons with "objectively disordered" characters as priests?

If this sounds harsh, it is actually pretty much what the Church has always taught on this issue. Religiosorum Institutio, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Religious in 1961, stated that, "Advantage to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers" (RI, 4). Not only active homosexuals, but even persons "afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality" are barred.

More recently, the Vatican's 2005 directive on this matter, cumbersomely titled 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, says that Bishops "cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture" (2).

The same directive goes on to say that anyone who has been afflicted with homosexual tendencies in the past needs to "clearly overcome" them at least three years prior to even entering seminary. This is not referring to homosexual acts, but homosexual tendencies, even those that, as the document says, are "only the expression of a transitory problem" (2). Interestingly enough, the document's first section on spiritual fatherhood and maturity suggests that those who struggle with homosexual tendencies cannot be said to have attained "affective maturity" and cannot thus become proper father figures (1). Therefore, the problem with homosexual candidates, even chaste ones, is one of immaturity, not necessarily of sin.

Pope Pius XI made an interesting observation in his encyclical on the priesthood, Ad Catholici Sacerdotii (1935) on the connection between chaste celibacy and God's nature as a Spirit. He wrote:

"A certain connection between this virtue and the sacerdotal ministry can be seen even by the light of reason alone: since "God is a Spirit," it is only fitting that he who dedicates and consecrates himself to God's service should in some way "divest himself of the body." The ancient Romans perceived this fitness; one of their laws which ran Ad divos adeunto caste, "approach the gods chastely," is quoted by one of their greatest orators with the following comment: "The law orders us to present ourselves to the gods in chastity -- of spirit, that is, in which are all things, or does this exclude chastity of the body, which is to be understood, since the spirit is so far superior to the body; for it should be remembered that bodily chastity cannot be preserved, unless spiritual chastity be maintained."

In the Old Law, Moses in the name of God commanded Aaron and his sons to remain within the Tabernacle, and so to keep continent, during the seven days in which they were exercising their sacred functions. But the Christian priesthood, being much superior to that of the Old Law, demanded a still greater purity..."
(Ad Catholic Sacerdotii, 42-43).

Bodily chastity, inside and out, is required because we are approaching a Being Who is pure spirit. But more so, the bodily chastity is dependent upon and presupposes a spiritual chastity. Can one be said to maintain spiritual chastity while afflicted with homosexual tendencies that are themselves "objectively disordered?" Obviously not. This would apply to heterosexual persons as well if they were unable to "divest themselves of the body" and overcome their sexual inclinations. It is true regardless of sexual orientation, but it needs to be emphasized with regards to homosexuals, because too often homosexuals are given a pass and praised as suitable priestly candidates so long as they maintain bodily chastity.

In 2008, Cardinal Bertone, at the behest of Benedict XVI, issued a clarification of the 2005 directive, stating that it was to be applied universally to all seminaries and houses of religious formation in the Catholic world. No homosexuals are to be admitted to the priesthood or religious life. Period. Whether they act out or not. Homosexual tendencies constitute a real obstacle to priestly ministry because they skewer proper relations between persons. The 2005 directive states, "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" (1).

We also should not fail to take into account that the admission of homosexuals to the priesthood, even orthodox, chaste homosexuals, will tend to reinforce the idea of the priesthood as a "gay vocation." Chaste homosexuals often have a difficult time integrating their faith life with their personal struggles; to the degree that the priesthood is seen as an appropriate avenue for them, it will encourage more homosexuals to pursue ordination and, consequently, drive away heterosexual candidates who will increasingly view the priesthood as something for homosexuals.

In light of the statements and insights provided to us by the current and previous Magisteriums, I can't see any justification for any sort of compromise with homosexuality that allows homosexuals into the priesthood so long as they are orthodox and "don't act on it." Whether it is acted upon or not, it is a sign of affective immaturity, is objectively disordered, and can result in serious "negative consequences." No homosexuals should be admitted to the priesthood or religious life at all. "Gay Catholics," orthodox or not, are not suitable candidates for the Roman Catholic priesthood.


Andy said...


spraffmeister said...

I completely agree with this. I am very grateful to the church for this complete bar on homosexuals to the priesthood as it stopped me from wasting my time entertaining the idea. I would not be a good priest AT ALL. Full stop (or as you say, period).

Estase said...

This is nothing new. My childhood parish priest was closeted, and had negative attitudes towards sex in general that were entirely the result of his orientation.

Josephvs said...

Homosexuality is a beahivor, an act, thus there is no such a thing as homosexual! A priest is to be chaste (no sex! hetero, homo or bestial). For catholics there is no third sex......

Boniface said...


Homosexuality itself is an attraction to members of the same sex, whether or not it is acted upon. Yes, one is either homosexual or heterosexual, but you are still homosexual if you are are sexually attracted to members of the same sex even if you never act on it. The Catechism and many other Church documents make the distinction between the act and the tendency. You are still homosexual even if you only experience the tendency.

Anonymous said...

Boniface--I'm curious about what you think of this article mainly because even though I generally agree with your argument on theological grounds, it still does seem to me that the church lacks an affectively persuasive & intellectually satisfying public response to homosexuals. I don't mean that one should try to disguise the fact that sin is sin, but perhaps it would help to argue against the perception that the church irrationally singles out homosexuals for explicit and further condemnation if we consistently tied together, or framed with similar language, the moral disorder of homosexual inclination/conduct with a similarly disordered aspect of heterosexual inclination/conduct. I mean, insofar as we're speaking about a person's character as manifested in their actions as a key criterion for ordination, it seems to me that one could easily make a persuasive case for the idea that heterosexual men with a history of active interest in pornography would be far less suitable for the priesthood than a man with homosexual tendencies who nonetheless has consistently exhibited continence. And I think that the ease of this kind of argumentation is what leads many people to completely ignore more rigorous attempts like yours and/or get the impression that it's mere hypocritical sophistry born of prejudice, esp. in light of recent scandals.

I realize that this discussion moves the argument from "what the church teaches" to "how it should be presented", so perhaps I'm not addressing exactly what you wrote. But once we figure out what the church teaches, it's important to be able to communicate that effectively and with sensitivity, lest we as messengers become an obstacle to the message.

Josephvs said...

No, you are wrong!
What is tendency hehehe. Atraction??? hehehe what is it? Man you are simply wrong and you are misleading ppl into believing that it is natural to be homosexual. Could you then explain bestiality

A virgin could he or she be "atracted to" hehehe ... HOMOSEXUALITY IS A BEHAVIOR

Saint Therese of Lisieux pray for Boniface ....

Josephvs said...

Boniface said...


How on earth do you get the impression that I am saying that homosexual behavior is natural or that it is not sinful? How, after reading this article, can you possibly think I am saying that?

It must be remembered, that not only homosexual acts, but the inclination itself is "objectively disordered" (CCC 2358), and this applies whether or not it is acted upon.

That's a quote from the post. Homosexual acts are wrong, and homosexual attraction is disordered. How can anything disordered be natural?

I can't even answer you because you don't even seem to understand what I am saying. Homosexual acts are sinful and unnatural, as is homosexual attraction. What is so offensive about that?

Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with you... however, is it not true that a sin is only a sin if it is committed (except in the case of adultery)?
If you think about stealing a cookie, but you don't it's not a sin, it's a temptation avoided.
Therefore, if someone has homosexual tendencies, but never acts upon them, in my mind I do not see that as being a sin unless if they dwell on impure thoughts.

Also, you said yourself that homosexuality is a disorder... and disorders are not permanent fixations of one's being. That is sort of like saying someone with OCD can't enter the seminary because they have a tendency to like things in order.

Not that I am condoning or accepting homosexuality, because it is wrong and that is what the Catholic Church teaches, and it is what I personally believe. But part of being Catholic is accepting and loving others, whilst "instructing the ignorant" and there is a rather fine line between helping someone become holier and condemning them for a sinful action.

Anonymous said...

While I believe you meant well (and I agree with you largely) in this post I can't help but wonder why you so broadly condemn all who struggle with SSA to the priesthood or religious life. I know of some perfectly orthodox priests, friars, and monks who have or still do struggle with same-sex attraction - but they like their heterosexual counterparts have learnt to resist these temptations and not dwell on lustful thoughts.
Are you saying we should dump these sort of people from their vocations simply because it might make people think it's the "gay vocation"? I know these men don't identify as 'gay'.
Or maybe these people don't constitute having "deep seated SSA"? I'm just a little confused.
Thanks for your blog -it's been very informative.

Boniface said...


I don't believe I said anything about existing priests already in their ministries and operating successfully.

And it is not me "condemning" them; read the post - it is the popes and the Vatican itself which says people who experience SSA should not be admitted to the priesthood.

Unknown said...

I agree.

If an affliction can be rid of by a pill, then being cured by taking them proves it was an affliction. Now, if the affliction has a side effect such as providing a sexual delight, then many don't want to take the pill, or take it in an unsubscribed way.

And so it is. Leviticus shows us what God thinks of this sin. That's our start and we proceed from it. From the start, we progress to the point where we finally have the pill, and many cures have resulted.

The pill is devotion to Mary through the Rosary. Many cures have resulted. These people went on to have no inclination or desire
whatsoever of this deviant practice. They have have married and now become model parents of upright biological children, and their sex life is healthy.

What I found astounding is the lack of Faith among our clergy. How can they spearhead programs like Courage, when they keep the secret of the cure to themselves. How can it be pastoral to tell someone to live with it? This stance is not in our Doctrine at all.