November 04, 2005

The Vatican and gays

The Tidings

Father Richard P. McBrien

It is always a risk for a once-a-week columnist, writing two or three weeks in advance of publication, to comment on a still-developing story. In this case, the story concerns the apostolic visitation of U.S. seminaries, which is already underway.

Grave concerns were being expressed a few weeks ago about the goals of this visitation, and specifically whether there would be a papal mandate to identify and expel gay seminarians and to prohibit their admission to seminaries, whether sexually active or not.

In a column prepared for publication three weeks ago, I cited an interview published in theAbuse Tracker Catholic Register in which Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, coordinator of the apostolic visitation, seemed to imply that gays are not welcome in seminaries, even those who have been chaste for ten years or more.

Andrew Sullivan, a columnist for Time magazine and an openly gay Catholic layman, mounted one of the sharpest criticisms of this initiative, pointing out that gays would not be excluded from seminaries and the priesthood because of their behavior but because of their very identity as homosexuals.

Sullivan cited a 1986 ruling by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed at the time by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, repudiating such thinking as "unfounded and demeaning."

If the pope were to approve a policy prohibiting gays from entering seminaries and being ordained to the priesthood, regardless of their moral behavior, it would be, Sullivan argued, the worst form of discrimination.

I also warned in my earlier column that any full-scale campaign against gays in seminaries and the priesthood could very well provoke a backlash among gay clergy, leading to the "outing" of closeted gay priests and bishops who were perceived as aiding and abetting the anti-gay campaign. The resulting embarrassment to the Church, its priesthood, and the hierarchy itself would be incalculable.

Posted by kshaw at November 4, 2005 01:42 AM