Back to (even more basic) basics
My good colleague A. Carlton Sallet almost wrapped up our discussion on the desirability of screening out gay seminarians. Almost. I can't speak for him but "on the rails" is precisely where I'm trying to stay. He quotes from the Catechism on the morality of homosexuality. As a Catholic, I agree. He then says:
Now, thus far I have heard two - and only two - arguments that could, should they be supported by facts, lend themselves towards supporting a ban on gay clergy...The arguments are as follows (my wording):
The proliferation of an increasing number of homosexual clergy has created a hostile climate in seminaries that dissuades heterosexual, masculine men from answering a call to vocations (the "lavenderization" argument); and
The presence of homosexual clergy (and the efforts of those who oppose a ban on same) play into the hands of those fifth column Catholics who seek to oppose and undo church teachings on a variety of issues, including same-sex marriage, abortion, the ordination of women, etc. (the "conspiracy" argument).
I would ask that we debate the above points in a manner that seeks an honest position, consistent with the magisterium.
Yes, and yes. I agree in full. But there is another reason, which you have now -- twice -- avoided mentioning: Homosexuality is a disorder -- even in people who try their best to remain chaste; and has been found to be strongly related both to pedophilia and the recruiting/seduction of teen boys.
So with no rancor, I ask, Why do you not want to address this, Carlton?
It would also be helpful if you could put yourself in the shoes of this neophyte, and try to understand how wonderful it is to be welcomed into an organization concerned only with the salvation of my soul and caring not a bit about this poor sinner's wretched past.
Obviously (I hope it should be obvious) every Catholic rejoices that you entered the Church. You bring gifts and self-evident talents we'd otherwise lack. Praise God. But we're not talking now merely of being welcomed into an organization, etc. The same Church is far more than a soul-saving device. It's a whole universe. We're talking specifically about her Christ-mandated right to ensure the moral and spiritual integrity of the training and formation of her priests. The salvation of your soul and mine (while supremely important to us) is a separate issue.
I don't go along with some conservatives who would single out homosexual behavior for special censure, as if there is no worse perversion on earth. But the fact is, the condition is objectively immoral, disordered (there is no sufficiently pastoral adjective for dissenters). And the road to healing for people who struggle with same-sex attractions is notoriously difficult to make manageable, and it's usually a very long, uphill one. Some people like to argue, "Hey, we're all sinners, so if we ordain a guy who slept with 10 women, we're being hypocritical homophobes if we ban the guy who slept with 10 men." The key distinction is that fornication is the immoral desire for a moral -- potentially sacramental -- act. Its immorality stems from desiring it apart from its God-designed context of marriage. But sodomy is always and everywhere an unnatural perversion. And desiring a perversion is itself intrinsically disordered.
Yes, the Holy Spirit, frequent Confession, the resolution to be chaste -- and even good psychotherapy - can do wonders, but do we really want priests who are distracted from their duties by a great internal struggle, especially during seminary studies when they're surrounded close-up for five years by objects of desire?
Perhaps, as a cradle Catholic, you lack this perspective and have difficulty understanding why I am reticent to advocate for the exclusion of others from active ministry in the church that saved even me.
You may be onto something, but I have to say I seriously doubt that being cradle Catholic has much to do with my assessment. (I'm actually a raised-rebelled-returned Catholic). And I know some very zealous converts from other communions who are more hardline than I on this issue. Besides, good sir, you're conflating two separate issues: while the Catholic Church is the earthly and sacramental presence of the mercy of Christ -- a hospital for poor sinners like myself -- the Church has at the same time not just the right but the DUTY to ensure that her priests are formed and trained properly in accordance with all the precepts of the gospel. We're also talking about priestly ministry, not personal commitment to living and spreading the gospel. In the marketplace, that's more our job than the priest's anyway.
Carlton, let me repeat what I wrote earlier, and this time I'm requesting your reaction: married Catholic men are excluded from active priestly ministry, as are all Catholic women (even holy, personable and gifted women); men who belong to other Christian faiths, men who are alcoholics, men who are divorced with no decree of nullity. Canon law expressly excludes them all from "active priestly ministry."
Is this unjust?
Last week, I spend a few hours with a former Vocations Director. This whole issue came up and his observation was that many seminary rectors and diocesan-hired psychologist now admit that, in the past, they have treated the homosexual condition in a far too clinical-neutral way, owing to a view of pastoral compassion that ended up backfiring. Big time.
One last time: I think the best way to "manage risk" is to do it at the source, at the seminary formation stage. Not downriver after momentum has gained. This approach, in my opinion, doesn't contradict the Church's general mission to be the mercy of Christ and to offer authentic compassion and welcome to sinners.
In this issue, as with most others facing the bishops, I believe we need to place clarity above agreement.
I look forward to your thoughts.