Open Letter to Benedict XVI from a Gay Priest
Barring gay men from ordination would be a disaster for the church that you love so much.
BY: the Rev. Gerard Thomas
Congratulations on your election. I know that the Holy Spirit will be helping you over the next few years, and you can count on my prayers and those of Catholics worldwide.
But, though hopeful, I am a little apprehensive about your papacy, especially given your time as prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In this position, which you held from 1981 until your election as pope, you were charged with safeguarding Catholic doctrine, an important function of the Vatican. Even the most liberal Catholic understands the need for maintaining clarity when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel.
But what concerns some Catholics is the way that the Congregation often went about that "safeguarding." The Congregation has silenced theologians, removed priests and sisters from various teaching positions, and issued harshly-worded documents that seemed aimed more at punishing the faithful than inviting them to a greater trust in the mercy of God. Among those who have also felt punished have been women, lay ministers and, especially, gays and lesbians.
Early this year, for example, there was widespread speculation that the Vatican would release a document barring the admission into seminaries and religious orders of gay men. This was to accompany this year's upcoming "apostolic visitation," or in-depth study, of American seminaries, part of the Vatican's ongoing response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church. Since almost all of the abuse victims were young boys, it's not hard to see why some would have thought that gay priests should be blamed. In fact, the official Vatican spokesman has said, "People with these inclinations simply cannot be ordained." Yet, as you know, the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse takes place in families, but you don't hear people talking about banning straight men from fathering children.
Certainly an examination of seminary training is an important way to ensure that seminaries produce priests who can lead not only spiritual lives, but ones that are psychologically healthy as well. But that proposed document has many (celibate) gay priests, as well as (celibate) gay seminarians, very worried.
Why are they worried? Well, the worst-case scenario would be a purging of any and all gay men in American seminaries. This would be probably accomplished by expelling any man who had admitted this in his application process or, likewise, later in his training to seminary rectors and novice directors. A ban would also mean the further demoralization of gay men already ordained. Gay priests would feel as if they were being told, "You should never have been ordained." Or, likewise, "We don't think you can ever live celibately." The church would lose many good and holy men at a time when vocations are already perilously low.
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