How many people were driving their children to preschool this morning, wishing they didn't have to come home and face writing about a Vatican document on homosexuality? Well, here's one.
But write I will.
This issue, as discussed in the media and in cyberspace, is another example of a Tower of Babel - like the ID discussion. People are talking in different languages, and are often not honest about it.
Here's the bottom line for me, and why I wrote, weeks ago, that the "who you are" question in regard to vocation discernment and this issue is secondary to "what you believe and what you will vigorously and enthusiastically teach."
Already, the discussion has taken a sharp turn into Self-Pity and Oppression land. The self-identified "gay priests" have been trotted out, the sensitive have started mourning for their demeaned brothers who might be swept up in the "deep homosexual inclinations" net. And this is a reaction that was thoroughly predictable.
This is why I have never been an enthusiast for the simple view of "don't let homosexuals be ordained" idea. Well, one of the reasons, the other being that in two thousand years of church history there have been men who have homosexual tendencies or SSA, or what ever you would call it, who have been ordained, have not caused any trouble, and have, like anyone else, aspired to holiness. We've had this discussion before.
But the other reason is simply that when it comes to guidelines, as reasonable as it might seem to do the "no homosexuals in the seminary thing," it doesn't get at the problem. The problem is not, in simple terms, the homosexual priest. The problem is priests who don't believe what the Catholic Church teaches on sexuality, who don't preach it, who don't witness to it in the confessional, and who don't live it in their private lives.
Do you see the difference?
Now, even that net will have some holes, as we have seen a few times, as the extravagently "orthodox" priest - usually young - is caught with child porn, or in the park, or in flagrante somehow or other. Which is why the seminaries have to tend to the personal formation, the psychological and emotional makeup of the candidate. When I wrote that NY Times op-ed, the editor questioned the used of the word "formation." I explained that "education" would not get at it, because that's not what seminary is - it's formation of the whole person, since priesthood is not just an intellectual stance, it's the gift of one's whole life to God and His people. So, no, I'm not saying that evaluating candidates just on the level of what they say they believe and will teach is enough. But do you know what? It's necessary, and if vigorously adhered to, would solve a raft of problems, even those beyond the homosexual issue.
I've already heard lots of little snide remarks and questions about the "gay culture" aspect of the document. Well, this is an attempt to get at what I'm talking about, and to me, the whole thing would be far simpler if the document simply emphasized that a candidate for priesthood is indicating his sense that he is being called to minister to God's people as a Catholic priest. Brilliant. Which means that when it comes to this foundational revelation of what the creation of man and woman as man and woman implies, symbolizes and concretizes - they are on board. Completely. And they will embrace what the Church teaches, will teach it themselves, and will commit to helping, with compassion and understanding, Catholics live this out themselves. Again, brilliant.
People can lie. People do lie. People can decieve themselves, even, and pull the wool over others' eyes, as well. I have never understood the appeal of the Catholic priesthood for the actively gay man who doesn't give a flip about Church teaching on this score. If you want to serve others, go into social work or psychology or something. But if you don't believe it, and don't live it...why are you here? Why do you thrive, it seems, on secrecy and subversion? Don't you want to live a life of integrity?
And this is what I would say to anyone who is a position of authority within the Church, takes money from the Church, depends on the Church for his or livelihood and authority, but who doesn't believe what the Church teaches on these fundamentals. Why are you doing this? This is not the same as being a struggling believer on a journey, attending Mass, perhaps refraining from receiving Communion because of your questions, hesitancy and problems with what the Church teaches, but still attached, still drawn, still convinced that this is home. No, my puzzlement is with leaders and teachers, lay and ordained, who have, not just a few private doubts here and there, but who have public contempt for most of the historical and traditional theological enterprise that is the Roman Catholic Church. Why are you doing this?
But that's a bigger question. My point is that I'm pretty uninterested in the whole "deep seated homosexual inclinations" thing, because that's not what I see. What interests and concerns me is what you believe, what you teach, and how you live. They can be and often are related. But it strikes me that if formators, other priests and bishops tended closely to the other three, and exerted a healthy dose of bold fraternal correction, the self-selection out of the system, not just of unsuitable homosexual candidates, but unsuitable candidates period would be more frequent.
Oh, and word to the self-identified "gay priests" who are all over NPR today. To right off the bat self-identify as "gay" is to indicate, pretty clearly, that something else other than Christ is at the center of your life. If your priest got up in the pulpit and proclaimed "I am a heterosexual priest," wouldn't you go, uh...okay. Wouldn't it indicate to you that something besides devotion to Christ and His Church was the lodestar, the guiding and motivating force in that guy's life? This is not about denying and repressing our sexual natures, blah, blah, blah. Here's what celibacy is supposed to be: it's supposed to be a life of eschatological witness, an extreme sign of what, in the end, we are called to be, and will be in the fullness of the Kingdom: for God alone. To make the sex of one's preferred sexual partner, even if one is chaste, an integral part of one's identity as a priest dilutes, to say the least, this witness. It is not a simple line, for indeed, the drive to procreate, to create, to relate does impact one's role as a priest, because it was drives us, period, as human beings. But there is a line, a way to live and distinguish between unhealthy repression or a lack of recognition of the role that the human drive to procreativity (word?) must play even in the life of a celibate, and this centering of one's identity on one's sexual proclivities. It's odd, and, quite frankly, I don't think it's what healthy people do, and further, it's not consistent with the authentic, ideal witness of the celibate.