The myth of the celibate gay priest

The myth of the celibate gay priest

Diogenes has provided a devastating critique of the idea that there are thousands of celibate, gay priests serving the Church, as claimed by Jesuit Father James Martin in an address to the LA Religious Education Congress.

First, he notes that celibate is “a weasel-word in the gay lexicon,” which can simply mean unmarried, but doesn’t necessarily mean chaste. He also questions how anyone can know that there are hundreds or thousands of these celibate gay priests. Presumably, he doesn’t know the private lives of thousands of priests, gay or straight. He can cite no evidence of his claim.

Yes, there’s no doubt there are gay priests. As Diogenes says, more than 400 US priests have died of AIDS and they didn’t get it from drinking fountains. Almost 80 percent of sex abuse is homosexual in nature. There are a lot of gay priests. But celibate?

  • I think one can hold that homosexual behavior is gravely is sinful, that the very inclination is objectively disordered, without assuming that *all* homosexuallly inclined men who become priests are uniformly playing for the other team or are dissenters by definition. 

    Quite the contrary.  Haven’t we all known good priests from time to time (however rare) who were very dedicated, orthodox to the core, and who radiated a genuine love for the Church in all her teachings…who were also, when you look back, kinda light in the loafers?  One priest friend of the family with whom I became quiet close came out to me.  And I never got a single weird vibe from him, nor was his priesthood marked by anything doctrinally flakey.  Unless, as Diogenes might presume, he was a highly skilled liar living a diabolic double-life….

    There surely are dissenting “gay” priests who make a pose of conservativism when it suits them.  Duh.  I don’t buy half of what Father Martin, SJ, sells to the LA Congress, but in wanting to cover all doctrinal bases and fight the gay agenda (which is real and should be fought) methinks Diogenes’ mighty brush becomes, in this case, too broad.  Father Benedict Groeschel has even said that some holy souls who struggled with same-sex attractions have very likely been raised to the altar.

  • It’s not an orthodox/heterodox thing. But homosexuality is a disorder. Just as there are probably solid, dedicated, orthodox alcoholics, the fact is that they shouldn’t be made priests.

    No one has a right to the priesthood and someone who has an unnatural attachment to a disordered lifestyle.  The real question is, DO WE ACT ON THESE ATTACHMENTS?

  • “…alcoholics . . . shouldn’t be made priests”?

    I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, Dom, and presume that you meant PRACTICING alcoholics, not those with the disorder who are in recovery (which would include me!)  I entered the seminary after experiencing a call to the priesthood while in recovery, in fact.

    I think this is the crux of the issue.  The fact is, all of us experience disordered attachments, to one degree or another, to a variety of people and things.  The real question is, DO WE ACT ON THESE ATTACHMENTS?

    The use of the word “gay” is the key for me.  When someone says, “I’m gay,” I presume (rightly?) that they also embrace all the baggage that goes with that term.  That includes, sorry to say, the “gay agenda” fundamental principle which follows:  A person is designed to follow his/her impulses, especially sexual impulses,” and its two major corollaries:  “Anyone who represses his/her sexual instincts is living a lie, which will eventually catch up with them and make them physically, emotionally and psychically unwell,” and “Anyone who gainsays what we preach is a sick person—probably a closet gay—and is not to be regarded.”

    When Diogenes refers to the “myth of the celibate gay priest,” he’s using their own terminology and ideology to convict them.  If one is “gay” one is, by definition, actively pursuing the “GOOD” of homosexual sexual relationships, since to do otherwise is “unhealthy.”

    This is definitely contrary to Catholic teaching.  It is impossible for one to live contrary to Christ’s teaching and, at the same time, to teach it convincingly.  Therefore, someone who says he is “gay” is not a candidate for the priesthood of Jesus Christ.

    You do the math.

  • I totally agree that anyone who embraces being “gay” (even if celebate) is not a fit candidate for the priesthood.

    On the other hand, I reject the idea that a person of homosexual orientation who is striving to live a life of holiness and who is striving to overcome his sinful attachments is de facto unfit for the priesthood. 

    After all, who among us does not have disordered, sinful attachments of one kind or another, albeit not necessarily sexual?  The most holy of priests have to struggle with sinful inclinations daily. 

    I really think it depends upon the individual case, which must be carefully discerned.  Unfortunately, in the 1970’s and ‘80&88217;s, there was no discernment going on, it seems.  Apparently anyone who was gay was welcomed with open arms in many seminaries.  But to outright exclude everyone who suffers from homosexual attachments goes too far, in my view. 

    Like the recovering alcoholic, there are people of homosexual orientation who are struggling to overcome that disorder.  And even if—like the recovering alcoholic—they never reach the point where they are 100 percent free from all traces of the orientation, they may indeed become saints in their struggle for holiness.

    By the way, I agree with you, Dom, that God did not make homosexuals.  All evidence points toward environmental factors, usually very early in life.  I am convinced the “genetic” claim is false and part of an agenda.

  • I also meant to put in my post above that I would not trust Jesuit Fr. James Martin any further than I could throw him with regard to his opinions and proclamations about “gay” clergy. 

  • One difference between an alcoholic and a homosexual is that the alcoholic doesn’t have people within the Church and outside it telling him to celebrate his alcoholism as normal and as a wonderful gift. There isn’t the same confusion and mixed messages surrounding alcoholism as there is around homosexuality.

  • One difference between an alcoholic and a homosexual is that the alcoholic doesnealing to a normal heterosexual sexuality, then they are refusing the truth.

    What then about homosexual lay people?  Does the same reasoning apply to them?  Should they not be considered worthy of the sacraments even though they are following the teachings of the Church? 

  • Come on, no one is seriously saying that alcoholism is just fine. The only mixed message is from people who try to deny that alcoholism exists. If alcoholism is genetic, then that just proves my point even further.

    Should they not be considered worthy of the sacraments even though they are following the teachings of the Church?

    Not all of the sacraments. Just one: ordination. Diogenes and I are in agreement: celibate homosexuality is not enough. Overcoming the disorder and becoming normally heterosexual should be their goal.

    This is not spoken from ignorance. I know several fine men who were healed of homosexuality. Such men would make fine priests.

    In the same way, I don’t want celibate pedophiles in the priesthood either. If they aren’t cured of the condition (and some people say there’s no way to tell if they are) then they shouldn’t be in the priesthood.

  • Dom, you do admit that “overcoming the disorder and becoming normally heterosexual should be their goal.”  I think that gets it right.  Maybe we’re not in such deep disagreement.  I just don’t think the issue can be neatly categorized as either fully “gay” or fully heterosexual.  “Gay” is a deceptive and political term of self-identification.  No orthodox Catholic accepts this tripe. 

      But there *are* degrees of homosexual inclination.  The slide into the gay lifestyle occurs in stages, with set-backs, reversals, and plunges, just as healing is seldom a magical instant.  “Hey, praise the Lord, now I’m 100% heterosexual.”  I’ve had enough friends whom I love dearly come out to me over the years that I’ve read as much as I could on the topic, and listened as closely as I could to their trials and struggles, sometimes over many hellish years, with same-sex attraction.  As a happily married man, I can only guess at the level of torment suffered by those who struggle to be faithful to our Lord and the Church’s teaching.  They have my prayers, encouragement, and repect.
    As I much as I reject the gay advocacy peddled by the NCR crowd, I also don’t think “healing” from the homosexual inclination is something that can be measured like mood ring that turns from pink to blue—forever blue.  The caution is understandable, but I don’t think it wise, charitable or prudent to automatically kick out every good man who deals with Same Sex Attraction Disorder (SSAD) out of the seminary.  The openly “gay” ones?  Of course.  The secretly “gay” seminarian but who dons a mask of conservatism?  Absolutely.  But beyond these slam dunk cases, there are degrees of sin involved, and degrees of repentance, and degrees of healing.  How cured is cured enough for Diogenes?  Sounds like an inhumanly high bar.  Not to mention, some of these fine men might just attain that full healing *after* their ordination day.
      Is anyone else disturbed that the Church does not focus terribly much on the Lord’s ability to heal the homosexual inclination?  As a Church we seem satisfied with only two little rigid camps:  Boot Them Out Of The Seminary, and The Lord Is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay.  St. Paul asked the Lord to take the thorn from his flesh, but He didn’t.  No, I doubt he was referring to homosexuality, but the principle has some application.

    Is Father Groeschel was off base (or worse) in stating that the Church has canonized men who very likely dealt with some level of homosexual attraction?

  • Just out of curiousity, are you proposing that we hold the same standard for heterosexual priests?

    If my priest says “Hey I’m straight!” Am I automatically to infer that he is probably acting on his impulses because he didn’t simply refer to himself as heterosexual? 

    And if my heterosexual priest happens to have his celibacy tested and fails?  He becomes romantically involved with woman but ends it and repents.  Since he acted upon his impulses, is he no longer fit for priesthood?

  • Patrick Coffin:

    Amen.  You said beautifully what I was strugging to say in my earlier post.  Your view is balanced and charitable.  The extremes on both ends of the spectrum simply don’t make sense, in my view.  Thanks for your input.

  • William in Texas:  Thanks for your kind words.  I just think the ol’ pendulum has swung to the other side.  It helps if you know and love someone who is homosexually inclined—esp if they are otherwise deeply conservative.  So much for the aggressive pink palace stereotype.

    Holding the via media means being criticized by both Left and Right.  And I’m fine with that.

    Jaime:  Good question(s).

  • Folks, as someone who was in seminary during times of turmoil, I think I may have something to contribute here.

    The question for me has never been, “Is someone who is struggling with SSAD automatically unfit for priesthood,” but rather, “Is the hierarchy—particularly seminary officials—doing enough to proclaim the Truth about SSAD as taught by the Church?”

    In my time, the inmates ran the asylum.  The reason that there are so many SSAD priests out there today is that they, themselves, were the ones who were controlling admission to the sem, they were the ones who were teaching, they were the ones who were living in close proximity to seminarians (and modelling behavior to them).

    It was no surprise at all to me to find out that there is a surprisingly disproportionate number of SSAD men in the priesthood here in Boston, especially so in classes ordained from about 1968 until 1999 or so.  Not only did the bishops and rectors at that time do nothing—NOTHING!!!—to stem the tide of overtly effeminate and SSAD men coming into the seminary, they did nothing to reprimand or correct the many faculty members who openly espoused (what an ironic term!) the gay agenda.

    It was not until very recently that a new bishop, and a new rector at St. John’s, began to deal with the issue, first by ridding the place of overtly homosexual faculty members.  Now that they’re (mostly) gone, the place is recruiting and training fine upstanding examples of male priestly qualities—and that will beget more such vocations (pun intended).

    Again, the main problem is turning out men who will teach the TRUTH that is Divinely revealed, and who will show forth that TRUTH in their lives.  No, I am not saying that SSAD men cannot do so, but one must admit that, for them, it is a tremendous struggle.  For such men, their minds must daily declare war on their attractions, and they must admit their misdirected attractions continually.  They must live constantly with the incongruity that comes from publicly proclaiming one thing while feeling another.

    Unless, as with alcoholics, they can come to grips with their disorder, they have very little chance at becoming an effective priest.  Those priests who are most effective are those who have been completely subsumed into the person of Christ, and who shoulder His burden willingly—and joyfully!  Men who are self-conflicted express it in their manner of living, and they give conflicted messages to the faithful about the person of Christ Himself.

    I know that there are some fine men who, for a variety of reasons (many of which are purely matters of early childhood development issues) experience SSAD, and who have come to the realization that they must deal with their disorder.  Some of these are even priests, and my respect and admiration is unbounded for the cross they carry daily.  But had they not been forced to confront the reality of their disorder/disease/illness, they would not have dealt with it and would not be the good priests (and laymen) that they are today.  If you’ll pardon the comparison, it’s like taking Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous—“admitted we were powerless over alcohol [or SSAD] ut after the horrors of the past four years and seeing the mess that remains, I don’t think we can afford to be indulgent. It’s time to be a hard ass, at least until we clean up the priesthood.

    Unless, as with alcoholics, they can come to grips with their disorder, they have very little chance at becoming an effective priest.

    2005-03-21 21:09:22
    2005-03-22 01:09:22
    Priests are called to be both celibate and CHASTE.  No sex whatsoever.  None. Zip.

    Priests are also called to be counselors and bullwarks in time of trouble.  They have to be morally, mentally and physically strong.

    People who identify themselves primarily by their sexual preference, therefore, are OBVIOUSLY not called to the priesthood. 

    Nor are those with a serious psychological disorder of this type, which would get in the way of doing the job.