The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has taught that men who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or men who support “gay culture” should not be admitted to seminary.
Personally, I don’t have a problem with this (though that’s easy for me to say). It isn’t a ban on all gay men, only those gay men exhibiting deviant or immoral behavior. All men who exhibit or promote abusive, deviant, or unchaste behavior should not be admitted to seminary or ordained.
However, those guidelines from the CDF don’t go far enough for some. Earlier today someone messaged me to discuss this topic and said that he knows a priest who said that someone who identifies as gay is not able to provide valid matter for the sacrifice of celibacy because they are not actually renouncing marriage and family to become a priest.
Here I pulled the “gay friend” card and responded saying that a good friend of mine, who is gay, desperately desires a family. But every day he renounces that desire because he chooses to follow the Church and her teaching. So don’t tell me that gay men can’t really renounce a family.
The belief that those guidelines from the CDF don’t go far enough is also shared by Daniel Mattson, who himself identifies as having same-sex attraction, in an article titled, “Why Men like me should not be Priests.” But if someone is unfit for priesthood simply because he is gay, then what is he fit for? Does being gay make someone automatically a predator? If so, should people like Mattson, although claiming to live a chaste life in accord with the Church’s teaching, be allowed to work with kids in any capacity whatsoever?
Let’s be clear here that this kind of rhetoric is unjust discrimination against individuals, regardless of their behavior, simply because they are gay. It directly contradicts the Catechism which condemns “Every sign of unjust discrimination” towards homosexual persons (CCC 2358). Blaming this abuse and cover up on homosexuality just creates another group of victims, another group of people denied basic dignity. I asked my friend how all this blame towards homosexuality made him feel and he said:
“Personally, and to be totally honest, I’m hurt, I’m shocked, I’m offended, and I’m angry. My sexuality is not a one way trip to child abuse. I’m a normal human who hates to see children harmed in any capacity. All I want to do is shake people and make them realize that being gay does not automatically make you a pedophile. It doesn’t automatically make you freak. It certainly does not make you a sinner.”
People who had no choice over their sexual orientation and who are struggling desperately to live chaste lives in the Catholic Church are being talked about as if they are part of the problem, as if they are to blame for this evil in the Church.
Further, blaming gay men for this abuse crisis is simply scapegoating. The problem isn’t gay men, or celibacy, or bad liturgy, or whatever other excuse people have conjured up. The problem is that the hierarchy chose to protect their power and institutions rather than protect children from this kind of unimaginable evil. The problem, as Pope Francis rightly stated, is “the abuse of power” and “clericalism” which “leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.”
Blaming gay men is a distraction, a way to shift blame and responsibility. As unimaginably evil as the abuse was, the cover up was equally demonic. Whatever structures were in place that allowed bishops to cover their own asses and shuffle these priests around for decades needs to be taken down. That’s the discussion that needs to be had.
Paul Fahey lives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.