October 16, 2005

Michael Sean Winters: Are gay priests the problem?

The Dallas Morning News

05:57 AM CDT on Sunday, October 16, 2005

Last year, I stumbled upon the Web site of a Catholic parish church, the pastor of which has been a friend of mine since we were in seminary together in the 1980s. Among the sermons on the site was one dealing with the sexual abuse scandal roiling the church. In this sermon, the priest repeated the conservative line that the scandal was largely the result of gay men breaking their vows. This did not surprise me because I knew my friend was conservative.

But I also knew he was gay. I was undisturbed because I have long believed that the accident of being gay should not prevent someone from holding whatever ideological inclinations they find compatible with the complex yearnings of their minds and hearts. I considered my friend's analysis facile and wrong, but not offensive per se until he used the pronoun "they" to describe gay men. It was with genuine concern and in a spirit of fraternal correction that I wrote my friend a note calling his attention to the fact that in English, when referring to a group of which one is a part, "we" is the proper pronoun.

I've been thinking of this exchange amid news reports that the Vatican is about to ban gay priests. According to The New York Times, the Holy See is poised to declare that gay men are unfit for orders and should not be permitted to enter seminary. Church conservatives assert that the ban would represent no real shift because they claim barring gays from seminaries has long been church policy. In practice, the American church has been receptive to chaste, gay seminarians.

Pope Benedict's allies have been pushing such a ban for years. Some claimed that the document was in the final stages when John Paul II's health went into steep decline last spring. But John Paul II never permitted anti-gay witch hunts. The Communists had used such tactics to smear clerics it did not like, and John Paul never permitted similar whispering campaigns to prosper. Since the election of Benedict, the right-wingers in the church have been clamoring for this document. In addition to restricting the priesthood to their own, they want to use it to help lay the entire blame for the sexual abuse crisis on homosexual priests.

Posted by kshaw at October 16, 2005 09:58 AM