Friday, September 30, 2005

Standing By Their Men

The New York Times reports today that leaders of men's religious orders in the U.S. are planning a trip to Rome to ask the Vatican not to issue a ban on gay men in the priesthood.

The article notes that about a third of U.S. priests belong to religious orders such as the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits, and that at least two Jesuit superiors have written to their priests and seminarians assuring them that as long as they are chaste and celibate that they will not be dismissed due to sexual orientation.

I'm of two minds on this issue. On the one hand, a gay priest who remains celibate and faithful to the Magisterium is a terrific example of heroic virtue that all of us can emulate. On the other, I've come across some flaming Jesuits, one of whom confessed to me that he doesn't follow everything Rome says. There's also the oft-cited problem of the so-called Lavender Mafia controlling entry into the seminaries, forming cliques, and turning off heterosexual seminarians -- that is when they are not turning them away from the priesthood. Not to mention the clergy abuse in the U.S., the majority of them being adolescent boys in their teens, not children, per se, and therefore more readily classified as homosexuality, not pedophilia.

I suspect the Vatican is not concerned with the holy priest who just happens to have a same-sex attraction so much as it is worried about fidelity. That would explain the other 55 questions on the seminary visitation questionnaire that the media have ignored in favor of the 1 mandatory question about homosexuality. These questions speak to spiritual, moral, and intellectual formation and fidelity for both the seminarians and formators.

For all the talk in the media of a "witch hunt", Pope Benedict XVI knows what he is doing, due in no small part to the "Friday penances" he performed during his years as Cardinal Ratzinger. As head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Ratzinger was the person to whom weekly clergy abuse reports were sent. There's probably nobody in the Church more informed than this pope and I have faith in his decisions.