November 30, 2005


The New Republic

by Michael Sean Winters

Only at TNR Online | Post date 11.30.05

he unfortunately named (and unfortunately issued) Vatican document "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" is the first major document of Pope Benedict XVI's reign, but it has occasioned a very old Catholic pastime: finding ways to misinterpret, twist, or just plain ignore a Vatican ruling.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, adopted the most straightforward approach: pretending that the Vatican didn't mean to say what it just said. The English cardinal issued a statement that said, "The Instruction is not saying that men of homosexual orientation are not welcome in the priesthood." In fact, the entire point of the document is to say that homosexuals are not welcome in the priesthood.

The Swiss Bishops' Conference tried a slightly different maneuver: focusing on the dicta. The Vatican document contains much high falutin' language about the priest conforming himself to Christ, alongside its bigoted and arcane notions about human sexuality; and the Swiss bishops chose to emphasize the former while downplaying the latter. "At the heart of our reflections on becoming a priest," they wrote (translation mine), "there is no question of sexual orientation but instead the responsibility to follow Christ in a coherent manner." Okay, I can live with that.

Posted by kshaw at November 30, 2005 01:42 PM