Should gay men be Catholic priests? Recently, editor Bill McGarvey of spoke with a celibate, gay priest who--using an assumed name for fear of reprisal--spoke frankly about the issue of gay men in the priesthood and seminaries. This interview first appeared on, a website for spiritual seekers based in the Catholic tradition.

There has been a flurry of articles in the press recently about the Vatican potentially declaring that homosexual are unfit to be ordained priests. Could you talk about what instigated the recent interest in this issue?

What instigated it were the comments by Archbishop Edwin O'Brien who is coordinator of the ongoing review of seminaries in the United States that was instituted in response to the sexual abuse crisis. Archbishop O'Brien said that even a gay man who had been celibate for 10 years should not be admitted into the seminary. He further went on to say that a document from the Holy See would be coming out to that effect. More recently, the New York Times and the Associated Press got word that a document like this would be coming out in a number of weeks. Needless to say many gay, celibate priests were horrified by this news that the church would no longer be accepting people like them. There are also a lot of gay, celibate seminarians that are very angry, frustrated, and sad about the fact that they will not be able to be ordained.There has been a lot of talk in the media about it being too difficult for gay seminarians to be in an all-male environment.
Could you give us some background on how seminaries have changed over the last 30 years?
I think, first of all, that notion that gay men can't live in close proximity with other men is absurd. Gay men learn through their whole life how to live with other men just like straight men learn to live and work with women. Ironically it goes against the [Catholic] catechism that says that all gays are called to be chaste. Either they are capable of being chaste and should be allowed to be priests or they're incapable of being chaste and the catechism is faulty, which I don't think anyone is suggesting. It has its roots in the stereotype of the gay man who is incapable of controlling himself. Ironically, there's a quote from Cardinal Ratzinger in a 1986 document, The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, that says, "What is at all costs to be avoided is the unfounded and demeaning assumption that the sexual behavior of homosexuals is always and totally compulsive." So, this notion that gay men can't keep celibate is a stereotype, it goes against the catechism, and against what Cardinal Ratzinger--now Pope Benedict XVI--says. Now I think the big complaint is regarding the gay subculture in seminaries. It's not surprising that gay men would gravitate to each other like any other social minority. You have different ethnic groups that would also gravitate to one another. The only reason people are concerned is that they fear that within this subculture seminarians are encouraging each other to break their vow of chastity.
This is ridiculous. Again, it's founded on a stereotype. There's nothing wrong with this gay subculture as long as these men are open and healthy people, which the vast majority are.It has to repeated over and over that the vast majority of gay priests, like their heterosexual counterparts, are celibate. I don't know of any in my circle of friends that are sexually active. If they are, they leave.There's been some talk in the media about the openness among seminaries with regard to sexual orientation. Did you find that in your own training and how did that affect your formation? I think in the training in general, there is more openness compared to the 1940s and 1950s in talking about sexual orientation--and thank God for that. And when I say openness, I don't mean people are sexually active, I mean that people are encouraged to talk about their sexuality and how they integrate it into a life of chastity. I think that any person who is trying to live a life of chastity in a healthy way needs to understand their sexuality. These days a person in seminary and religious orders are encouraged--or at least should be--to talk more openly about their sexuality with directors, rectors, and bishops. It's all part of helping a person integrate their sexuality into their life of celibacy. It has been suggested by some that by removing gay men from the seminary more straight men will be inclined to join. Did you find in your formation or in your religious life today that heterosexual priests are put off by the presence of homosexual men?No, not all.
I would say that any straight priest who can't work with a gay priest is as bad as a white priest that won't work with a black priest. We all need to be able to work together. This needs to be stressed again and again. In a New York Times article, Sr. Katerina Schuth--who is an expert on seminary training--rejected that line of reason that leaving gays out would somehow make more straight people enter. She said, "That is reasoning and speculation by people who have not spent any or much time in seminaries." If they deny gay men entrance to the seminary, I would question what kind of straight men we're getting. What kind of person would want to enter an organization that has that kind of prejudicial view of some of their fellow Christians?