An addendum

An addendum

Another thought on the Instruction on gay seminarians: Following on our long discussions about men with same-sex attraction but not outright homosexuals, the document in my reading seems to say that even SSA might be a disqualifier. Others may interpret it differently. Will that be determined seminary by seminary, diocese by diocese?

  • Happily, the document operates on completely different assumptions about human sexuality from the rest of our culture. It doesn’t speak of “having SSA” as an absolute condition, equivalent to what the culture calls “being gay.” Rather, homosexual tendencies can be transitory—a symptom of an adolescent immaturity that does not persist as the person matures—or deep-seated. Think of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited: Charles Ryder outgrows his youthful tendencies; Sebastian Flyte apparently does not (and Anthony Blanche definitely does not.)

    The way I read the document, men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies ought not to be ordained no matter how long they have been chaste. By contrast, a man for whom these tendancies were an adolescent phase can be ordained provided they have been chaste for an appropriate period of time.

  • By speaking of tendencies rather than personal history, the Church sets out the very high standard of requiring, essentially, that the candidate has been cured of his affliction before considering him for the ordained state. 

    We might be reminded that Jesus’s first vocation for Mary Magdalene was to “go and sin no more”.  She may have failed at this initially, for later we learn that our Lord cast seven demons out of her, and seven is the precise number of demons that our Lord said would afflict the penitent who relapses into sin, whose house (soul) has been swept clean but is found empty (not filled with Jesus).  When a person falls and commits (Heaven forbid) a mortal sin, he or she should rush to Confession as soon as possible (i.e. within 24 hours).  Those who might be tempted to despair over frequent falls could make their own the plea, “Jesus, Son of David, turn and take pity on me!”

    We might also remember that mortal sin includes the “mental” sins of lust, like dwelling on impure thoughts, the mere desire to commit lust, and “I would if I could” syndrome, the “I could” even meaning “if God were to allow it”.  The late Pope John Paul II said that it was even possible to sin by thinking lustful thoughts about one’s spouse!

    So the Magdalene had a long way to go, not merely eschewing the paramour for cavorting with whom she was being stoned, and returning to our Lord’s most chaste embrace after (perhaps) falling away, but also ridding herself of all the sinful desires and thoughts that would come to her by the force of habit. 

    Yet her perseverance in this her first vocation was rewarded; she spent years with the Blessed Mother and the other Holy Women.  She was faithful in “small things” and so she was allowed to witness the Passion at the foot of the Cross, and to accompany our Lord’s Body to the Holy Sepulchre as night fell on Good Friday.  On Easter morning, she was no doubt thankful to have been given the vocation to annoint our Lord’s Body, but after dismaying to find the tomb empty, rejoicing in the ecstasy of His Resurrection, and then being ordered by Him to “let go”, she received her greatest vocation yet, to be the Apostola Apostolorum, the Apostle to the Apostles, to preach the Gospel to those who would later become the human authors of the Gospels, to reignite Faith, Hope and Charity in the hearts of the first Hierarchy with the words, “He is risen!”  Tradition says she later preached the the Gospel to the French, and became the prototype of the woman contemplative religious life. 

    So those whose sins have been like scarlet need not despair from this document that life in Christ will now by necessity be a lonely slog toward death.  The Lord likes nothing more than a repentant sinner, and will pour out His graces abundantly upon them, often when they least expect it.  Whenever the Lord closes one door He opens another, and the second is always better than the first.

  • What about men like my priest?  He has some flamboyantly “gay” moments when he gets excited about something.  But he preaches powerfully against the sins of homosexuality, abortion, etc.  I would trust him without question with my young son, although I would try to avoid putting either of them in that situation because my trust and my opinion are not infallible.  He is a wonderful priest with exactly the right attitudes and beliefs for my conservative taste.  I would throw him to the lions immediately if I had any reason to suspect he was anything else, and I will do that if that ever happens, but I respect him and value him. From some interactions I’ve seen I feel that he is bitterly ashamed of a thorn in his side that he is not able to change.  Oh, I guess the right answer is that he shouldn’t be a priest.  But I hurt for him, because he is a good man, and doesn’t deserve to be tainted by others’ sins, and we need good priests.  I’m glad it’s not my decision, and I pray for those whose decision it is.  That’s a lot to have on their souls.  Remember Dante’s vision of hell paved with the skulls of bishops (or was that Dante?).

  • Kathy,

    I think we need to make a distinction between appearances and being gay. I’ve known several men who a way of speaking that some would characterize as effeminate, but that doesn’t make them gay.

    It sounds like your priest doesn’t identify himself as gay or espouse the gay culture or make excuses for it. You seem to be assuming he might be homosexual. Are you sure that’s the case?

    That’s why this sort of thing needs to be dealt with early on by candidates, spiritual directors, confessors, and rectors.

  • Actually, it was St. John Chrysostom who said that hell was paved with the skulls of bishops.  If it was true in the late 4th century, it most certainly can be true today. 

  • Kathy,

    You’re wise in keeping your son from being alone with this man.  Conservatism is not a surefire indicator of the lack of this particular problem.  It can be used to derail suspicions. 

    In general, it’s never a good idea to leave your children with a priest for more than a moment.  Seriously.  There is no need to do this sort of thing and the dangers are real and huge.

  • May I remind all those who would object to my last comment that priests have all they can do to teach adults, who can then teach children with more skill because they have more training.  Priest are NOT, and never have they been, primarily grade school teachers.  They are first priests and their job is not babysitting or amusing your children.  They have too much to do—and most of it more important.