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It no longer matters what gay priests - or gay men, for that matter - do. What matters is who they are.

Friday, December 02, 2005

There has been some discussion in the blogosphere about the recent Vatican document and accompanying glosses about gays in the priesthood. Among the more lucid are those from

Eve Tushnet


Ross Douthat

. I think it would be helpful to point out a couple of things. The first is that this is demonstrably a ban on all gay priests and seminarians, regardless of their commitment to celibacy, and is expected to be

rigorously enforced


. The only exception is for those "with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence." Translation: if you're straight and had some fleeting same-sex desires in adolescence, and have not felt them for at least three years before the diaconate, you're ok. Anyone with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" is not. If you are not clear what "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" means, this statement from

L'Osservatore Romano

should remove all doubt:

"Candidates who have 'deep-seated homosexual tendencies,' that is, an exclusive attraction to persons of the same sex - independently of whether or not they have had erotic experiences - cannot be admitted to the seminary or to holy orders."



In other words, even


gay men - gay men who have adhered to the Church's teachings never to masturbate or have any sexual intimacy for their entire lives - are unfit for the priesthood. It no longer matters what gay priests - or gay men, for that matter -


. What matters is

who they are

. And

who they are

is a threat to the family and destabilizing to society.


There is also no doubt that this is a shift in the Church's teachings about homosexuality. What the Church is now categorically saying is that there is something inherently sick about homosexuality, regardless of how it is expressed, that renders gays unfit for serving God. Again, the Church backs this doctrine up. Where once homosexuality was a "condition" and the Church could speak of "homosexual persons," now there are merely "tendencies" and the phrase "homosexual person" is not used. It says that homosexuality itself is a "problem in the psychic organization," i.e. a psychological disorder - despite the fact that no respectable psychological organization concurs. The spokesperson for the Pontifical Council for the Family goes further:

"One must free oneself from the idea that leads one to believe that, insofar as a homosexual person respects his commitment to continence lived in chastity, there will not be problems and he can therefore be ordained a priest... [A] commitment in holy orders presupposes that the candidate has attained a sufficient affective and sexual maturity coherent with his masculine sexual identity."
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