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November 30, 2005


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A set of two particularly disturbing responses was reported in today's Washington Post, which published a lengthy interview with Bishop Skylstad in which he did much to make unclear the instruction in the document.

He erroneously equates a "deep rooted homosexual tendency" with a "deep rooted heterosexual tendency" (whatever that is) and comes to the conclusion that a "stable" "orientation" is no impedement to "ordination", in plain contravention of the document, as Bishop D'Arcy observes, candidly: "Skylstad's comments are the opening salvo in what promises to be a wide-ranging battle within the U.S. church over the document's implementation. Bishop John M. D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said yesterday that Skylstad's interpretation is "simply wrong" -- a rare public clash among bishops, who usually go to great lengths to preserve an image of collegiality, even when they disagree.

"I would say yes, absolutely, it does bar anyone whose sexual orientation is towards one's own sex and it's permanent," D'Arcy said of the document. "I don't think there's any doubt about it. . . . I don't think we can fuss around with this."

Cardinal McCarrick also seems "conflicted" (for lack of a better word) on the subject: "Several prelates, including Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, indicated that they will continue to ordain seminarians regardless of sexual orientation, as long as the candidates are committed to live in celibacy and to uphold church teachings.

"It is important to look at the whole person. One issue of many that are looked at in the overall evaluation process is in the area of human sexuality," McCarrick said in a written statement. "Applicants for the Archdiocese of Washington must have a demonstrated commitment to living a chaste life and must fully embrace, through belief and action, the Church's teachings, including those on human sexuality."

"Asked whether that means the archdiocese will still accept gay seminarians, the cardinal's spokeswoman, Susan Gibbs, said: "We don't anticipate our admissions policy changing based on the document. There can be people whose orientation is homosexual if it's not such a strong part of their makeup that it interferes with their ability to live out church teaching. It's part of the larger picture we have to look at."

Pace the Cardinal, the document doesn't say anything about whether the "orientation" is a "strong part of their make up"--it says that the tendencies themselves cannot be strong.

RP Burke

A man who acts upon or suffers from deeply rooted same-sex attractions or supports the "gay" subculture is simply not in a position to fulfill these requirements, even though he may be able to perform other priestly functions well.

Similarly, though unsaid, ...

A man who acts upon ... opposite-sex attractions ... is simply not in a position to fulfill these requirements, even though he may be able to perform other priestly functions well.

Years ago a visiting priest made a pass at a woman I know, who told me the response to her "WHAT??!!" was, "It's not celibacy that's the problem, it's chastity!"

Chastity within a marriage allows a considerable amount of sexual activity. Chastity outside a marriage means, well, NO sexual activity. All of us, not just priests, are called to be chaste. But a man who can't keep his pants on surely doesn't belong in the priesthood, gay or straight -- unless, of course, he's a convert from a Protestant ministry and can be married and ordained.



Excellent analysis of the comments! This passage is why I read your blog.

Who knows what will come of this document, if anything. At the very least it has made rectors and bishops think about the issue of a homosexual seminary student.




Clarity and charity...this posting is a perfect example of why I've lurked here for a long time.


Tim Ferguson

An important voice in the conversation is Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master of the Dominican Order, and one of the brightest lights in the Church today. Here is his article from the Tablet.


"But this other path completely neglects the complex point that men with homosexual tendencies, same-sex attraction, whatever can be good priests, and have put spiritual orientation before sexual orientation, and have put on Christ, becoming new creatures in Him."
This was not an essay on homosexuality. It wasn't within its purview to assess the performance of individual priests. It was an instruction in the order of importance, in assessing candidates for ordination, of orientation to Christ: it is paramount. Political or sociological orientations (such as to "the gay culture") challenge the primacy of that paramount orientation, particularly in this sex-drenched, personal determination obsessed, anything goes culture.
If these standards are fully re-implemented (as they are not new), we won't have future disgraces like the priest who compared wearing a cassock to wearing a nazi uniform, or the now defrocked priest who was openly involved in Namba, etc.
Simply saying chastity is required of all priests has not been effective. It hasn't made the point that there is no place in the priesthood for supporters or embodiments of a philosophy of value that is contrary to 2,000 years of Christian teaching. Just as there isn't a place for proponents of a bunny club mentality - but that hasn't been an issue.
This instruction is in accord with writings of the earliest Church fathers and, in my view, is entirely unremarkable.

Lynn S


I must say, I continue to appreciate your approach to this issue -- it is consistent, logical and most importantly in my view non-discriminatory amongst the categories of sin.



"And now put the question: Can he who looks upon such things [abominations] be healthy-minded or modest? Men imitate the gods whom they adore, and to such miserable beings their crimes become their religion."
St. Cyprian of Carthage, 253 A.D.

This is also the essence of the instruction: there is only room for one God and it is He who must be adored without reservation or exception. This also applies to those in the laity, of course.

Sandra Miesel

But regardless of what pro and con responses are made, how many readers here really truly think this document will be enforced in the United States?
Of course it won't and Skylstad has given official cover for American bishops to ignore it.


"But in Rome, the head of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, said that the problems of homosexual and heterosexual candidates are not equivalent. Although many people think homosexuality is a "normal condition of the human person," he told Vatican Radio, it "absolutely contradicts human anthropology" and violates "natural law."

For the church, denying ordination to gay men is no more discriminatory than "if a person who suffers from vertigo is not admitted to a school for astronauts," the cardinal said."


"...that big picture in which the relationship between male and female is an anaology for the relationship between God and humanity, and even a template for understanding creation, period. Disconnect from that, and you are slowly, but surely, disconnecting from Catholic Christianity as you depend on your own personal revelation..."

This is fair enough, as far as it relates to the Church's teachings on sexuality. However, there must be other analogies for God's relationship to humanity than the relationships between men and women. I could be misunderstanding your point here, but identifying with, or seeking additional analogies does not, ipso facto, mean disconnecting from Catholic Christianity.

Christopher Fotos

marianne, you and Bishop Skylstad agree on much. From the interview al linked:

Q: Is it still possible for a man who recognizes that he is gay and stably, permanently so, but who is celibate, to enter seminaries or religious orders?

Skylstad: "I think one of the telling sentences in the document is the phrase that the candidate's entire life of sacred ministry must be 'animated by a gift of his whole person to the church and by an authentic pastoral charity.' If that becomes paramount in his ministry, even though he might have a homosexual orientation, then he can minister and he can minister celibately and chastely.

"If he's principally defined, though, by a deep-rooted tendency toward homosexuality, then I think the church is simply saying that that person cannot effectively minister in priesthood."

I almost want to call this the Welborn Protocol. If being gay is at the center of your identity, forget about being a priest. If Christ is at the center, but you have homosexual inclinations, depending on the rest of that whole person you may be able to sail on.

Bishop Skylstad's unremarkable observation that there are good priests with homosexual inclinations gets at the heart of the problem. You can't logically propose that SSA is a ban to the priesthood if you know there are good SSA priests. (Well--I can think of some ways to do that, which haven't been done, like saying we've had good SSA priests in the past but today's sex-drenched culture makes it untenable etc.)

al quotes Cardinal G. about not ordaining "gay men." That directs us back to How Deeply Seated Tendency-Ville. I'm thinking there's a difference between a man who says "I'm gay, and I want to be a priest;" and another who says "I want to be a priest--and I've had homosexual inclinations."


Skylstad is doing a terrific job of maintaining the status quo.

In terms of arguments, however, having "good priests" with SSA no more validates ordaining a gay man than the millions of "good" female Protestant ministers validate ordaining women. Besdies, the sex scandals rather suggest that Bishops are the last people who should be trusted with wide lattitude in judgement calls of who gets ordained in such extentuating orientation circumstances.
On a different note, based on everyday experience and the racked state of the priesthood, how many people truly believe that men who struggle with SSA have anywhere nearly as good a track record with celibacy/chastity as their struggling hetero counterparts?

New Orleanian

Perhaps, the Cardinal should refrain from using scientistic phrases like "human anthropology" when he means a belief system not subject to the observation of the phenomenon it purports to describe. Moreoever, since "natural law" avoids the observation of nature, perhaps it should be given an honest label.


Its just that it was Cardinal G, not Bishop Skylstad who drafted the document, and therefore is a reliable source for what it actually means



COnsider your question worldwide, and matters are not necessarily sanguine. Concubinage is a big problem for priests in major parts of the Third World where the Church is growing by leaps and bounds.

New Orleanian


A Church than can dismiss any and all concerns for social justice for homsexuals/the ssa crowd/gays as "the secular gay agenda" (as you so blithely put it) has bigger problems than whether or not to ordain homosexuals.

It's human nature to want a better life for the next generation, whether one is gay or straight. How is it somehow wrong, or as you put it "narcissistic and narrow" for gay people to be concerned about the kind of world members of the next generation live in-- even those members who are gay?

thomas tucker

New Orleanian- before putting words in your mouth,let me ask how it is that natural law avoids the observation of nature.


new orleanian:
"A Church than can dismiss any and all concerns for social justice for homsexuals"
What are you talking about, specifically? The catechism and the instruction demand "justice", respect and equal treatment.
Or do you mean regarding homosexual activity as disordered and sinful is refusing "social justice"?

Old Zhou

Responses from NorthJersey.com, including Newark Archbishop Myers and Fr. Reese.

"The whole issue of homosexuality in our culture has come forward and [the Vatican] wanted to underscore and clarify the church's position on it," Newark Archbishop John J. Myers said in an interview Tuesday. "I can readily understand how some people would be upset, but we can't change our position because they are upset."

North Jersey critics say the document reflects an increasingly isolated and conservative church.

"I think this is going to cause a lot of demoralization," said the Rev. Robert Hoatson, who performs weekend Masses in parishes in Glen Rock and Midland Park. "We learn we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and now the church comes along to say a certain group of people is disordered and not from God."


"Basically it's saying we made a mistake in ordaining you," the Rev. Thomas Reese, the former editor of the Jesuit magazine America and a visiting scholar at Santa Clara University, said in an interview. "And that's pretty devastating to people who are struggling to live chaste lives and dedicating themselves to the church. That's a real slap in the face."

Myers, one of the nation's more conservative bishops, disagreed with that interpretation but stopped short of expressing unconditional support for those priests who are gay and have served with no problems.

"I don't want to say that it's the ideal, but for those who find themselves in that situation, we are grateful for the fine service they are offering," he said.


"The fact is that we've had a homosexual crisis in the priesthood all along," Catholic League President Bill Donohue said in a statement responding to the Vatican document.

Myers, noting the study, suggested that he too agreed homosexuality was a factor in the crisis.

"Those are just the facts as I know them," he said.

Others say child abuse has little to do with the sexual orientation of the abuser, and said the Vatican is simply looking for a convenient scapegoat.

"To me, this document says to gay people, 'Your sexuality is irresponsible, it can't be controlled and is dangerous to children,'" said Jeff Stone, a Manhattan resident who is active in the gay Catholic group Dignity. "That is appalling."


Myers, whose archdiocese controls Seton Hall, said such questions will have to be decided on a case-by-case basis. But he said he's confident that faculty can make sound judgments over the course of the six years that an average seminarian spends at the school.

"It's amazing what a group of people pick up on one another when you are living in that situation," Myers said.

The rector of Seton Hall's seminary agreed. The Rev. Robert Coleman said the faculty, who oversee about 145 full-time seminarians, would already be wary of a student who "identifies himself by his sexuality."

Coleman added: "This instruction is not going to make us scramble and say, 'Oh my God, we have to remake our program.' I think we fall right in line with what has been presented."

reluctant penitent

In response to:

A man who acts upon or suffers from deeply rooted same-sex attractions or supports the "gay" subculture is simply not in a position to fulfill these requirements, even though he may be able to perform other priestly functions well.

RP Burke says:

'A man who acts upon ... opposite-sex attractions ... is simply not in a position to fulfill these requirements, even though he may be able to perform other priestly functions well.'

There are important differences...

For example:

When he was a teenager, Bob dated X. On several occasions Bob held X's hand and kissed X passionately. Bob often fantasized about having non-contraceptive sex with X after marrying X.

Bob is now a candidate for ordination. Bob tells his Bishop about his relationship with X and tells the Bishop that he believes that this relationship was a good thing and that it did not violate Church teaching on sexuality. Ought it to make no difference to the Bishop whether person X's name is 'John' or 'Jane'? Let me answer my rhetorical question. If it makes no difference to the bishop then His Excellency has not quite imbibed the spirit of Church teaching on sexuality.

Christopher Fotos

In terms of arguments, however, having "good priests" with SSA no more validates ordaining a gay man than the millions of "good" female Protestant ministers validate ordaining women.

There's a difference: We already have decent SSA priests in the Catholic Church, and I imagine we have had them for quite a long time.

I also will make an educated guess that in Deeply Seated Tendencyville, superiors inclined to consider vocations by people with SSA will reject men who self-identify as gay. Men who self-identify as Christians will be considered differently.

al, it's a fair point, as far as it goes, that Carindal G. wrote the instruction (obviously with lots of input, we're not quibbling about that) and Bishop Skylstad did not. But even the cardinal believes SSA priests are not unfit to serve. That is the dilemma, once you start talking about banning as unfit a person who corresponds to similar men fitly fitly serving.

I read the instruction a bit bleary-eyed last night, so pardon the sloppy question--but does it even address that issue?

Christopher Fotos

sorry for the dupe--didn't meant to say super-duper fitly fitly serving...

reluctant penitent

Sandra Miesel says:

'But regardless of what pro and con responses are made, how many readers here really truly think this document will be enforced in the United States?
Of course it won't and Skylstad has given official cover for American bishops to ignore it.'

The document will do very little if the Vatican does nothing to remind US bishops to implement it. But there is hope. Recently Abp. Flynn was told by Cardinal Arinze publicly that he should not give Communion to rainbow sashers--this after the Abp was told this privately by the Cdl and then pretended that he did not quite understand the Cdl's private instruction. More guidance please!

Old Zhou

From a Yahoo!News/USAToday editorial

I was raised Catholic. I never sat in a classroom without a crucifix on the wall. Catholic grammar school, Catholic high school and Catholic college. I sang Kumbaya while playing my guitar at Folk Mass.

I sang at my dad's funeral, too, with his barbershop chorus. The song was Be Not Afraid. For one person in the church that dark day, the song was filled with irony. The priest who said the Mass was under scrutiny for sexual abuse allegations. Not long after the funeral, he was gone.
On Tuesday, the Vatican announced that it intends to bar from the seminary men who "support the so-called gay culture" or have "deeply rooted gay tendencies." While I don't find this entire mess amusing, I did chuckle at that one. Supporting gay culture?

The problem, as I see it, has little to do with homosexuality and a lot to do with how candidates for seminary are interviewed and selected. A book published earlier this year, Educating Leaders for Ministry, unearths a study that estimates only 10% of seminarians are highly qualified for the educational component of their work and nearly 40% are hindered by poor education, learning disabilities or lack of familiarity with American culture.

Instead of gauging public opinion, and spinning language for the announcement, why doesn't the pope analyze the interview process? If the Church insists on clinging to the celibacy vow, make it meaningful. Make sure that applicants have authentic leadership skills. Ensure that this is indeed a calling for every one of them. Make sure they understand that with power comes responsibility.

And then, after the pope fixes that process, he can focus on creating a clear, transparent and uniform set of rules that holds each of them (gay or straight, priest or bishop) accountable.

Now here's a confession. I'm not a practicing Roman Catholic, so maybe I'm a bit jaded. But my 78-year-old mom is a practicing Catholic. She heads off to daily Mass. I thought she might have a different point of view. She didn't.

"We all knew a lot of priests we figured were gay," my mom told me. "If they did a good job, so what?"

She went on: "Decisions like this make the Church look worse and worse. The whole thing gives me the willies."

I hadn't heard that expression in a long time, but it felt just right.

The pope is filling my mom and millions of others with fear about the future of her Church. Not to mention the fear that must be palpable in each of those 229 seminaries as they await the "verdict."

The last line of that beautiful song I sang at my dad's funeral is "and I will give you rest."

With his new document, the pope mistakenly thinks he is putting this issue to rest. He isn't. Rather, he is choosing to foster fear and unrest.

Some gay priests (who would be exempt from the witch hunt) are already discussing moves in that direction - "outing" themselves through pulpit boycotts - to illustrate that gay priests, like gay people, are everywhere. Let's hope they find their voices and preclude the Church from making a choice that doesn't feel very Christian.


Joan Garry is a civil rights advocate, freelance writer and former executive director of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

I don't know where this woman is from, but she could easily be from my parish!

reluctant penitent


The woman says that she is 'not a practicing Roman Catholic.' And, even if she was, why should I care what she thinks?

bruce cole

Old Zhou: That editorial just demonstrates the dangers of "Deep-seated Attraction
to Bad Music Like Kumbya At An Impressionable Age."

Old Zhou

Well, RP, because this topic is "responding" and the woman is responding. And I'm pretty sure that she is a baptized Catholic. She is part of the Church, the Body of Christ. That is why you should care what she thinks.

It is o.k. to disagree, to think this is totally bonkers. But don't write her off as insignificant. She is your sister in Christ.

reluctant penitent


Being unmoved by someone's false opinions is not the same as treating that person as insignificant nor is it the same as failing to treat that person as a brother or sister in Christ.

John L

Amy, your comment that 'the "deep-seated tendencies" thing, contrasted with the fleeting interest or whatever, was a mistake', ignores the fact that deep-seated and exclusive same sex attraction is a serious psychological disorder. It's not just a particular brand of sexual temptation that is different from the one most of us have. As such, it is a compelling reason for excluding candidates for the priesthood, because such cnadidates need robust physical and psychological health. It is comparable to having serious difficulties with depression, which would also be a reason for rejecting a candidate. It's not as if being homosexual poses no problems as such for the priestly life, and seminary rectors and bishops just need to distinguish between the homosexuals who can make good priests and those who can't. It is in itself a serious impediment to the priesthood; that is why, although some homosexuals are good priests, most of them aren't.

Joe E.

"Some gay priests (who would be exempt from the witch hunt) are already discussing moves in that direction - "outing" themselves through pulpit boycotts - to illustrate that gay priests, like gay people, are everywhere"
There you go. No question about what comes first with them. Boycotting the pulpit to make some point about their psychosexuality. Gee, thanks, Father, for thinking I need to know the nature of your fantasy life more than I need to know the Gospel.


Last week there was an article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian re: Gay priests. This section of the article got my attention:


Father Donald Cozzens, author of The Changing Face of the Catholic Priesthood and head of Saint Mary Seminary in Cleveland, Ohio, estimated in his book that as many as 50 percent of American priests are gay.

"If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented ... it would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world," said Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest.

"It would decimate the priesthood," said Most Holy Redeemer parishioner Rob Hopke, who on a recent Sunday morning was saying the rosary outside before mass.


Can these statistics be remotely related to reality? "50 percent of American priests are gay?" A third of the world's bishops too?

For full article go here:


thomas tucker

You know, let's face it, gay activists and their supporters in the Catholic Church, who believe that Church teaching on homosexuality is wrong, are never gooing to be happy until the Catholic Church turns into the Episcopal Church. That's just the way it is. Enough with the pretend shock and horror- gay activists and supporters have known all along what the Church's teaching is. This pretense of being shocked at the teaching is ridiculous.
Christianity has taught the same thing about homosexuality for about 2000 years- up until about 15 years ago or so when some other denominations started changing their teaching. It can't be a surprise to anyone that the Catholic Church still teaches what it always has on this topic.


Well I'll be. It turns out this is not the first document of its kind. Oh, no -- far from it. A very similar statement came out more'n 20 years ago. And we can see how deadly serious that was taken by certain [insert respectful euphemism for "entrenched bureaucratic boneheads"] ...

1985 memo to bishops gave similar advice on homosexuals in priesthood

By John Thavis Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- More than 20 years before the Vatican issued its recent instruction against priestly ordination of men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," the Vatican gave similar advice to bishops in a brief, unpublicized memorandum.

The memorandum told bishops that in considering candidates for the priesthood they should not accept men who were homosexually active, who led a homosexual lifestyle or who showed evidence of "latent or repressed homosexuality."

Dated July 9, 1985, the one-page English-language memorandum was signed by U.S. Cardinal William W. Baum, who was then prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education. It was labeled, "A memorandum to bishops seeking advice in matters concerning homosexuality and candidates for admission to seminary."

The existence of the memorandum was not widely known until the more recent Vatican document referenced it in a footnote. Catholic News Service requested and obtained a copy of the memorandum from the education congregation.

A church source said the memorandum was issued in the middle of the Vatican's visitation of U.S. seminaries in the mid-1980s and was circulated to many but not all U.S. bishops.

After making it clear that the virtue of chastity and commitment to celibacy are required of all candidates to the Latin-rite priesthood -- including heterosexuals -- the document stated:

"A candidate who is homosexually active or who leads a homosexual lifestyle (whether he is homosexual or not) is not acceptable.

"A high standard of chastity and integration of the personality is required before admission to seminary, such that latent or repressed homosexuality is also a counterindication requiring that the candidate not be accepted -- it would not be fair to the individual nor to the seminary community," it said.

The memorandum said that in the discussion of homosexuality distinctions needed to be made among practice, orientation and temptation. The first two -- practice and orientation -- are "counter-indications of acceptability," when orientation is understood as "commitment to or support of homosexual practices or lifestyles."

It said temptations not directly linked to that kind of orientation would not in themselves disqualify a priesthood candidate.

"People have to face many and diverse temptations in life, and the mark of a Christian is bearing them and resisting them, with the grace of God, after the manner of Our Lord in the wilderness," it said.


Loudon is a Fool

Even assuming that the understanding of Fr. Radcliffe, Mr. Fotos and others of a "good priest" corresponds with a good priest, I'm not sure that I understand the objection that the Instruction cannot require a blanket prohibition on gay ordination because there are good priests who are gays. One could imagine a nearly infinite set of counter-examples of persons who struggle with and mostly succeed against disorders. But the fact that some men can effectively overcome affective immaturity says nothing of the wisdom of the ordination of those men. It might be prudent, for example, for the Church to refuse to ordain dry alcoholics, or crazy people whose meds seem currently to be working, or porn addicts even they haven't viewed porn for a few years but still feel inclined to do so, and so on and so forth. I suspect, as has been noted elsewhere, that ultimately the objection to this Instruction is a disagreement with the underlying premise. That homosexuality (including the inclination) is disordered, and that even a chaste homosexual due to his internal (and even nonculpable) preference for sodomy is less fit for the priesthood than a man who sincerely believes there are invisible bugs constantly crawling about his body.

RP Burke

Reluctant, let me take your argument further down the line. It's now three years before diaconate ordination; Bob hasn't dated, held hands with or kissed X or anyone else during that period, believing that he is called to the priesthood. He is living chastely now and intends to live chastely for the rest of his life. Now is there a difference whether X is male or female?


Richard Sipe has an axe to grind, as did Alfred Kinsey.

Question: Just how would you have any idea as to the orientation of a fellow priest? Under what circumstances does this subject get broached?
Seems to me, if you and your fellow priests are leading lives of chastity, you would never have a way of knowing because it wouldn't matter.

Patrick Rothwell

"Can these statistics be remotely related to reality? "50 percent of American priests are gay?" A third of the world's bishops too?"

That estimate has no statistical validity whatsoever.

reluctant penitent

'Reluctant, let me take your argument further down the line. It's now three years before diaconate ordination; Bob hasn't dated, held hands with or kissed X or anyone else during that period, believing that he is called to the priesthood. He is living chastely now and intends to live chastely for the rest of his life. Now is there a difference whether X is male or female?'

Yes there is. Jane's Bob does not have, by virtue of his relationship, a history of disordered action and desire. John's Bob does.


Whether or not it is possible for a gay man to be a good priest is irrelevant here. The fact is that we are in a particular historical situation in which there are many priests who openly deny the Church's teaching on homosexuality. Many of them not only deny it, but refuse to live their personal lives in accord with it.

The Holy Spirit, in His infinite wisdom, has chosen Benedict XVI to be pope, and has given him the authority to rule the Church. He has made a prudential judgement, well within his authority, that certain men will not be ordained during this historical period. This is not a permanent and absolute ban, forever, for the rest of human history, on ordaining men who are homosexual.

When this historical situation has been rectified (and this document is only part of the solution), another pope may, using the authority given him by God, make the prudential judgement that these same men may again be ordained. I would think it foolish, but there is no reason a future pope could not make that decision.

What's so hard to understand about this? No one is making any argument that the ordinations of homosexual men are invalid. The pope is only saying that we're not gonna do it anymore on his watch.

This is his right and responsibility. It is ours to obey his lawful authority with joy and peace. If we disagree, so what? He's the boss, and he gets to make the rules.


Even assuming that the understanding of Fr. Radcliffe, Mr. Fotos and others of a "good priest" corresponds with a good priest, I'm not sure that I understand the objection that the Instruction cannot require a blanket prohibition on gay ordination because there are good priests who are gays.

I believe the argument is this:

1. The Instruction says that men who "present deep-seated homosexual tendencies" "find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women."

2. There are gay men who are not in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.

3. Therefore, "men who present deep-seated homosexual tendencies" is not equivalent to "gay men."


Was curious about Joan Garry. Found an article about compensation for spokespeople for such groups. (She made $208,660 in 2002.) Was interested to see that the ex. director of Dignity USA (isn't that "Catholic"?) was paid $61,602 out of a total organization revenue of $197,250. Which suggests Dignity doesn't have much of a staff.

Old Zhou

Dmitri...the problem is that the Popes have been making rules for a long time, but my bishop decides if and when and how they will be impelmented in my diocese; then my pastor decides if and when and how the bishop's if, when and how will be impelmented in my parish. At the end of the day, the experience of the pew potato is quite likely very different from what the Pope ruled; and pew potatoes that make too much noise about this get mashed.

Loudon is a Fool


Isn't 2 simply a rejection of the premise that the homosexual inclination is disordered even if sinful homosexual acts are not committed? The understanding of the Church regarding human sexuality is that the presence of the inclination would be a grave hindrance. That fact that some overcome the grave hindrance doesn't mean the hindrance doesn't exist. So, again, the pinched reading of the Instruction is only possible if the Church's understandings of sexuality and homosexuality are rejected.

RP Burke

Reluctant, but does he NOW have "disordered action and desire"? Has he had it at any time in the last 3 years? If not, then the instruction appears to permit him to remain in candidacy.

reluctant penitent


The 'deeply rooted' heterosexual orientation of Jane's Bob can continue to be manifested in unproblematic and positive ways even after ordination. E.g., this Bob might, in a speech to a group of teenagers, reminisce with fondness about the ways in which he and his girlfriend acted out on their deeply rooted heterosexual desires-- kissing and holding hands, fantasizing about marriage and having kids. (I heard a priest give such a speech to a group of teenagers, to great effect.) It is praiseworthy for this Bob to be be touched and enthused by young heteresexual love.

In John's Bob, on the other hand, there has to have been a fundamental change in disposition towards his past sexual orientation and relationship, and this has to have occurred well before orientation. And there you have the basic difference--one sort of man has to change in dramatic ways before he can become a priest, and the other sort of man does not.

Old Zhou

Here's a fun response, from the New Republic online: How to Ignore the Vatican's Ruling on Gay Priests.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the archbishop of Westminster, adopted the most straightforward approach: pretending that the Vatican didn't mean to say what it just said. The English cardinal issued a statement that said, "The Instruction is not saying that men of homosexual orientation are not welcome in the priesthood." In fact, the entire point of the document is to say that homosexuals are not welcome in the priesthood.

The Swiss Bishops' Conference tried a slightly different maneuver: focusing on the dicta. The Vatican document contains much high falutin' language about the priest conforming himself to Christ, alongside its bigoted and arcane notions about human sexuality; and the Swiss bishops chose to emphasize the former while downplaying the latter. "At the heart of our reflections on becoming a priest," they wrote (translation mine), "there is no question of sexual orientation but instead the responsibility to follow Christ in a coherent manner." Okay, I can live with that.

Here in America, the president of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop William Skylstad, courageously reminded the Vatican of the power of God's grace and threw up a scriptural quote from Jesus: "For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible." (Matthew 19.23-26). One wonders what the Vatican drafters of the document thought when they encountered this response to their suggestion that homosexuals are simply too "disordered" to be ordained.

Conservatives had a hard time defending the document. They tried to focus the discussion on practical considerations, arguing that gays would be too tempted by the all-male environment of seminaries. Father Richard John Neuhaus, a leading Catholic neoconservative, said, "The all-male environment of a seminary is not only a great risk but also an enormous burden," echoing an opinion voiced both in Rome and in America. This concern for the temptations of seminaries has no basis in fact. In the age of the Internet, you do not need to find a temptation down the hall; and as an ex-seminarian, I can assure the Vatican that none of my former classmates was a candidate for the Chippendales.

Meanwhile some conservatives floated their own willful misrepresentations of the text. Bishop William Lori, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, asserted that the document "is not, as some have concluded, a response to the sexual abuse crisis in the United States," although the text claims its proscriptions are "made more urgent by the current situation." Does the bishop think the "current situation" is a reference to Hurricane Katrina?

There is a reason this kind of document is open to such widely divergent interpretations by Church leaders: It was designed that way. Americans raised in a pragmatic political culture like to have things spelled out; we want terms defined and no loose ends. But Vatican documents are designed to achieve a studied ambiguity. Besides, as a priest explained to me, "Rome always wants to be able to say in 50 years, 'Oh, well we never meant that!'"


The problem with male promiscuity transcends orientation. Men biologically are promiscuious. For hetor males marriage usually tames this instinct.

Gay chasity in my opinion is the exception, and not the rule. I have known gay men all of my life, and rarely do they "settle" with one partner. The incidence of AIDS among gay men is a good indicator of this.

To put a gay man into a seminary, and to expect him to live at very close quaters with other young men to whom he is sexually attracted to is ridiculous. The tempatations are too great. It would be no different then housing seminarians in a coed dorm.

It is also distrubing to see how many people applaud if not celebrate the gay life style within the Church. Many in the Laity could care less if their priest is a practicing homsexual. As long as he loving Pastor all is well. Who cares if Fr X is commiting grave sin. Who cares if Fr X is walking a path straight to Hell.


Loudon is quite right: the instruction DEFINES those who have deep rooted homosexual inclinations as by the fact of having them, incapable of relating properly to men and women.

If there are some men who are properly able to relate to men and women, then by definition, they are not gay.

Empirically, or anecdotally though, the document is difficult to dispute, that is, for those of us who've been exposed to "gay" clergy, or laity for that matter.

Old Zhou

Deeply rooted response from down under. Instruction may be illegal in Australia, and I'll bet a similar tack will take place in Canada and Netherlands.

The Vatican's anti-gay views could lead to persecution of Australian homosexual men and is potentially illegal, say gay support groups.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome said the article went beyond the church's position on gay clergy to denigrate all gay and lesbian people as second-rate human beings.

Mr Croome said the group would consider taking action against any church bodies who distributed it in Australia.

"Hate cloaked by piety is still hate, and we will be looking very seriously at challenging this article under Australia's anti-vilification laws," he said.

Mr Croome said there would be an outcry if the article said Jewish people were "incomplete or immature" or Aboriginal people were "destabilising people and society".

"We believe this is just as immoral and also potentially just as illegal," he said.

"The church shouldn't feel it has an exemption from that."

A spokesman for the Melbourne-based Rainbow Sash Movement - which focuses on the issues of gay sexuality as they relate to Christian religions - said the church's position was a disaster for gay catholics.

David McKenna, who described the article as "homophobic", said the Catholic church's attitude had contributed to the persecution of gay people for hundreds of years.

"And at a time when other parts of the community are developing a realistic, sensible and humane attitude to gay people, it's very distressing to find the church is in fact regressing rather than progressing," he said.

Mr McKenna said the church's "inhumane" position would aggravate the anguish of young homosexual Catholics, who would struggle to adjust their personal identity to the church's teachings, and was designed to keep existing gay clergy in the closet.

He said the church's new position on gay priests appeared to be a misguided and disgraceful attempt to deal with its paedophilia scandals by blaming them on gay men, and removing gay men from the church.


Part of the outrage seems to be connected to the commentary published along with the Instruction in L'Osservatore Romano yesterday.


Last night on PBS Fr. Fessio, S.J., president of Ave Maria U. faced off with another Jesuit, Fr. Martin?? who writes for either America or Commonweal. Fr. Martin said that over the past 40 years or so the Church has come to appreciate the gifts of gay celibate priests. Fr. Fessio at some point said that 400 priests, 1 bishop and 1 head of the Jesuits had died of AIDS and he didn't think they got it drinking the water. Fr. Martin had no comeback to this. Does anyone know where Fr. F. got these stats?

Old Zhou


You might try these sources:
from 2000:

January 31, 2000

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- Roman Catholic priests in the United States are dying from AIDS-related illnesses at a rate four times higher than the general population and the cause is often concealed on their death certificates, The Kansas City Star reported in a series of stories that started Sunday.

In the first of a three-part series, the newspaper said death certificates and interviews with experts indicated several hundred priests have died of AIDS-related illnesses since the mid-1980s and hundreds more are living with HIV, the virus that causes the disease.

"I think this speaks to a failure on the part of the church," said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of the Archdiocese of Detroit. "Gay priests and heterosexual priests didn't know how to handle their sexuality, their sexual drive. And so they would handle it in ways that were not healthy."

The Star received 801 responses to questionnaires that were sent last fall to 3,000 of the 46,000 priests in the United States. The margin of error of the survey was 3.5 percentage points.

Six of 10 priests responding said they knew of at least one priest who had died of an AIDS-related illness, and one-third knew a priest living with AIDS. Three-fourths said the church needed to provide more education to seminarians on sexual issues.

"How to be celibate and to be gay at the same time, and how to be celibate and heterosexual at the same time, that's what we were never really taught how to do. And that was a major failing," Gumbleton said.

Asked about their sexual orientation, 75 percent said they were heterosexual, 15 percent said they were homosexual, and 5 percent said they were bisexual.

The Rev. John Keenan, who runs Trinity House, an outpatient clinic in Chicago for priests, said he believes most priests with AIDS contracted the disease through same-sex relations. He said he treated one priest who had infected eight other priests.

The Star said precise numbers of priests who have died of AIDS or become infected with HIV is unknown, partly because many suffer in solitude. When priests tell their superiors, the cases generally are handled quietly.

The newspaper cited the case of Bishop Emerson Moore, who left the Archdiocese of New York in 1995 and went to Minnesota, where he died in a hospice of an AIDS-related illness. His death certificate attributed the death to "unknown natural causes" and listed his occupation as "laborer" in the manufacturing industry.

After an AIDS activist filed a complaint, officials changed the cause of death to "HIV-related illness," the Star said, but the occupation was not corrected.

The newspaper said the death rate among priests from AIDS appears to be at least four times that of the rate for the general U.S. population.
Some priests and behavioral experts believe the church has scared priests into silence by treating homosexual acts as an abomination and the breaking of celibacy vows as shameful, the Star said.

Catholic cardinals in the United States and high-ranking church officials in the Vatican declined requests to discuss the newspaper's findings, The Star reported. The Vatican referred questions to local bishops.

Bishop Raymond Boland of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph said the AIDS deaths show that priests are human.

"Much as we would regret it, it shows that human nature is human nature," he said. "And all of us are heirs to all of the misfortunes that can be foisted upon the human race."

UPDATE November 2000

New Study Finds Catholic Priests Dying From AIDS at Higher Than Expected Rate

According to a study following a January report on Catholic priests dying of AIDS, the Kansas City Star has found that the AIDS-related death rate among priests "exceeds earlier estimates." The Star reported in a three-part series in January that "hundreds of priests had died of AIDS-related illnesses and that hundreds more were living with the virus that causes the disease."

Follow-up research, based on death certificates and interviews with family members, found an additional 300 AIDS-related priest deaths nationwide. However, researchers were unable to count AIDS-related deaths in the nearly two-thirds of states that do not disclose death records, and experts say that the "exact AIDS death toll among U.S. priests will never be known." In the 14 states that allowed the Star to access death records, the paper found that the AIDS-related death rate among priests was "more than double" the rate among all adult males in those states and more than six times the rate among the general population in those states. The Star reports that these rates "exceeded the estimates and projections reported earlier this year by the newspaper," and the follow-up investigation reveals that "there is no longer any question that hundreds of priests have died of AIDS and that many bishops were aware of their plights."

Mixed Response

The new study has sparked further controversy surrounding the relationship between priests, who are required to be celibate, and AIDS (Thomas, Kansas City Star, 11/4).

An op-ed to the Star by Rev. Patrick Rush, the vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, states that the paper's conclusions "are not consistent with the experience of our local diocese: not the death rate, not the silence and not the denial." He added, "The Star's continued reporting on the subject of priests with AIDS sadly misses the point. Any death from HIV/AIDS is a tragedy. ... It is a problem for us all" (Rush, Kansas City Star, 11/6).

But advocates cite the report as evidence that the Catholic Church needs to further address the issue.

Eugene Kennedy, former priest and biographer of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of Chicago, said, "The fact that you have priests having very active sexual lives, that you have priests contracting HIV and dying of AIDS and that they have refused to come to terms with this and tend to deny it, I don't see how you look at this and not say that these are symptoms of an unresolved sexual problem within the church."

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, spokesperson for the Conference of Bishops, said the church "had been active in dealing with the AIDS issue and that seminary formation programs today are doing a better job of educating priests about sexuality issues."

Examples of recent efforts to address sexual issues and AIDS within the church include:

The National Federation of Priests' Councils is "updating" a 93-page document about AIDS. It now provides direction on how dioceses and religious orders should "deal with" HIV-positive priests and whether priest candidates should be tested for HIV.

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, originally one of the study's "harshest critics," is endorsing a "major study" to look at problems priests face in their first five years after ordination. Dean Hoge, the study's principal investigator, said that the topics of sexuality and celibacy will be addressed.

The Church of England revealed this year that at least 25% of its priests had died of AIDS-related illnesses, and in September mandated that all Anglican bishops in southern Africa undergo HIV testing.

Root of the Problem

Through interviews with priests, AIDS experts, doctors, psychologists and educators, the Star found a general consensus that more education and communication is needed to curb the "tragedy of priests dying of AIDS."

Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine, a national Jesuit publication, cited the biggest issue as the "silence surrounding ... gay priests." Reese said, "The silence highlights a tension in a church that defines homosexuality as 'intrinsically disordered' but relies on many gay men to celebrate the sacraments and carry out the work of the church."

Jon Fuller, a Jesuit priest and Boston physician who specializes in AIDS, lamented the fact that the Vatican discourages open discussions on sexuality, considers homosexual relations a sin and opposes "modern practice" of safe sex.

However, the church has not entirely ignored the AIDS epidemic and has served as a "major provider of AIDS services" in San Francisco, according to the Rev. Jim Mitulski, co-pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco, a "predominantly gay congregation." Mitulski said, "It's compassion that comes with a price tag. ... The irony is, here's this institution that does have a heart for sick people, but at the same time, it's fostering a climate where HIV continues to be spread" (Kansas City Star, 11/4).

Chris Sullivan

But Vatican documents are designed to achieve a studied ambiguity. Besides, as a priest explained to me, "Rome always wants to be able to say in 50 years, 'Oh, well we never meant that!'"

I think there's a great deal of truth in that and I don't think it's any accident that the instruction does not define exactly what "present deep-seated homosexual tendencies" means.

Still, I think it's an excellent instruction because it points out that homosexual men ought not to be automatically excluded from the priesthood, but that there are homosexual men for which their homosexuality is a serious problem and an impediment to the priesthood, and discusses some of the reasons for that and some of the indicators for that.

At the end of the day, bishops will need to take onboard the instruction and act on it using their best prudential judgement.

After all, the only sure-fire way to tell if a tendency is only transient is to wait and see if it diminishes over time. Some will interpet this as excluding all transients until the tendency diminishes but the instruction specifically rules out such a position.

Bishops will just have to judge each candidate on his merits and ask about those with SSA whether their homosexuality excludes them from the priesthood or not. Which is as it should be.

God Bless


The understanding of the Church regarding human sexuality is that the presence of the inclination would be a grave hindrance.

Then where there is no grave hindrance, there is no presence of the inclination. The argument isn't that the understanding of the Church is wrong, but that the understanding of the Church cannot contradict experience, therefore the Church's understanding of the term "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" cannot mean simply persistent SSA.

Two responses to the argument come to mind. First, the Instruction may well err in point of psychological fact; in other words, it's possible that it forbids ordination of men with persistent SSA, even though particular men with persistent SSA do not necessarily face grave hindrance.

Second, which you suggest, is that grave hindrance is faced even if it is unrecognized, or even unwittingly overcome.

Loudon is a Fool

"After all, the only sure-fire way to tell if a tendency is only transient is to wait and see if it diminishes over time. Some will interpet this as excluding all transients until the tendency diminishes but the instruction specifically rules out such a position."

Actually, the Instruction requires such an interpretation. But your ability to read X and claim it says Y suggests you might have a future as a bishop.

Old Zhou

"Everything is transient." - Nirvana Sutra



Your comments are insightful as always--please blog more on the "complementarity" of the sexes, especially what other word or concept (if any) you would suggest.

My biggest frustration with the Instruction (with which again I am generally not displeased) is the illogic of the comparisons. "Deeply rooted tendencies" are not the opposite of "transitory tendencies."

James Kabala

About the John/Jane question posed by reluctant penitent:
Why do so many people seem to assume that all persons with "deep rooted homosexual tendencies" must have once been sexually active? Surely there must be some lifelong gay/SSA virgins out there. I would even go so far as to say that there must be men out there who have gay/SSA inclinations but have never "held hands" or "kissed passionately" with another man. To claim that there are no such men would seem to deny that God's grace extends to all. Should a man who has a "deep-rooted" sexual attraction to other men, but no history of real-life sexual or romantic entanglements with men, be banned from ordination? That seems to be judging a man by the temptations he faces instead of the sins he actually commits.

Et in Arcadia Ego

This is rather cynical, but what if the document is just one big PR exercise, designed to signal to Catholics and non-Catholics that the Church is healthy, that the priesthood is not a club for effeminate and/or flamboyant homosexuals, and that from now on children will be safe? John Allen often writes about the 'bella figura' worldview of the Vatican, and others have commented on the likelihood of a 'Latin', not 'Anglo-Saxon', approach to enforcing this instruction.

The Vatican knew exactly how the secular media would react: they'd whip everyone into a frenzy(particularly gay rights activists, dissident clergy, and their supporters) about a supposed 'purge'. Of course this has already happened. The secular media is notorious for not understanding (or explaining) the Church's teachings on this matter. But they certainly could be counted on to generate enough buzz such that observers in the pews and on the sidelines would think the Church is getting serious about its problems and that henceforth, the priesthood would be considered reputable and worthy of respect.

The Vatican also knew that its own hierarchy would offer more nuanced explanations and interpretations of the instruction. This too has already happened. Read the comments of McCarrick, Skylstad, et al.

So I find some of the comments on this thread and others like it to be rather naive. Loudon and Al, I take your comments to mean you want a total, complete ban on anyone who had even the most transitory attraction to members of the same gender, but I don't see how that squares with this document or Catholic teaching more generally. You (and those in the hierarchy who also advocate a total ban) would be naive to think that many of our faith's great religious men and women - not to mention leaders and saints - never experienced some degree of attraction to the same gender. And if we're talking about masculine, spiritual fatherhood, how do you feel about the fact that the current Pope wears red Prada shoes and Gucci sunglasses, never reached the point of thinking about having a family with a woman, and enjoyed writing poems (according to his book, 'Salt of the Earth')? The point is, good men of the Church have always devoted themselves to the service of Christ, his Church, and his people - instead of the base human desires and temptations we all experience as human beings.

And the notion that seminaries are the worst possible place for men with some degree of these attractions (either past or present) to be - a notion often repeated like a mantra by those who interpret this document to be a total ban - is preposterous. Seminaries today (maybe not in the 60s or 70s) are probably about as far as you could get from the scene in the Castro District or Key West. People there know and willingly accept a life of prayer, service etc. And, lest we conveniently overlook this fact, a priest's time in the seminary usually lasts no more than 5 years. The rest of his life will be spent in a parish environment, where he very well may be the only priest on the premises, and where most of his interaction will be with lay, female volunteers. So JP, this argument seems to be a weak way of defending your support of a total ban.

I also don't think your final paragraph is representative of the Church at large. While I know of many people (and not a few priests) who disagree with the Church's position on homosexuality, I think very few would casually overlook such promiscuous activity by their own priest.

I am just as unhappy with priests who support the gay agenda as you are, but this document distinguishes between candidates who do support such causes and candidates who willingly commit themselves to a life of piety, chastity, and celibacy. And I'd wager there are vastly more priests who fit this latter category than the "out, loud, and proud" fringe.

Chris Sullivan

Loudon is a Fool,

The Instruction says that tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

I read a tendency overcome as one which is mastered ie well controlled. The document doesn't say that the tendency has to no longer exist, just that it must be "overcome".

I read this as the key element of the instruction - whether a candidate can overcome a tendency or not. There are some who can't and therefore ought not to be ordained. But there are also some who can and do and many of these have been and are excellent priests. Even thougth they still have and suffer from SSA.

God Bless

Et in Arcadia Ego

James Kabala and Chris Sullivan:

That's exactly what I've wanted to convey. You put it into words much better than I could have. Thanks.

Sam Schmitt

For some reason no one has answered the post by John L (Nov 30, 2005 12:49:10 PM). It seems to me to be an excellent (even obvious) point, one rooted in the clear teaching of the Catechism, yet no one has addressed it.

There probably are very good priests who have suffered from serious mental illness all their adult lives - and it's not their fault to boot - but is this an argument that it is a good idea to ordain these men? Would it be unjust discrimination to deny them? Yet the (supposedly) unanswerable argument that the Vatican document isn't all right is that there are faithful priests out there who would not have been ordained if this document had been in effect.

What is not being taken into consideration is that there is something fundamentally different about a homosexual inclination. Unless that is admitted in accord with what the Church has taught, I don't see someone understanding what this document says (hint: I think Bishop Skylstad got it "wrong," as Bishop Myers put it).

Chris Sullivan

There probably are very good priests who have suffered from serious mental illness all their adult lives - and it's not their fault to boot - but is this an argument that it is a good idea to ordain these men?


Would it be unjust discrimination to deny them?


By analogy with the Instruction, it would depend on how "deep seated" or "transitory" the mental illness was.

As it is with the illness of SSA.

i.e. has it been overcome ? Is it well controlled? Is it mild ?

God Bless


"Many in the Laity could care less if their priest is a practicing homsexual. As long as he loving Pastor all is well. Who cares if Fr X is commiting grave sin. Who cares if Fr X is walking a path straight to Hell."

And if they like Fr. X -- if Fr. X has charisma and does a great job with teens/seniors/the poor -- who cares if Fr. X has been credibly accused of sexually abusing teenage boys?


Good grief, this SSA issue has gotten very nuanced. The amount of parsing on what degree of SSA is acceptable is absurd. I seriously doubt that many on this thread would accept hiring a funds manager who had a deep seated attraction to other peoples money. What degree of theft is acceptable?

People on this thread treat this entire issue as if it were just another abstraction. For decades there have been scandals concering gay priests. From gay websites run by priests, to a sitting Cardinal paying hush money to his gay lover, the Body of Christ has endured much abuse. We have ignored an entire host of complaints concerning the gay sub-culture within the preisthood. This sub-culture has done great damage to the Church, and it is in conflict with its teachings. We should stop treating this issue as an abstraction.

Sam Schmitt


Thanks for getting back to me. My point was that the argument has sometimes been: "How can this document be correct? After all, there are priests with SSA (which I take to mean deep-seated SSA according to the terms of the document) who are faithful priests!" If their SSA was not deep-seated, how in the world would anyone else know about it, especially (in some cases) many years after they were ordained?

The document does not say (as you seem to be saying) that a persaon with a deep-seated inclination may be ordained IF they have shown that they can control it. (The "three year rule" applies only to those which are transitory in the first place.)

I take deep-seated to mean if a man who asks himself "Am I sexually attracted to men?" If the answer is an unqualified "yes" then that man should not be ordained. He suffers from a tendency that is "disorded" and he cannot possess the "affective maturity" that would "allow him to relate correctly to both men and women" (quoting from the document). This is not simply a matter of the types of temptations one has. If he answers says "No, though I had some vague feelings in that direction 5 years ago when I was a teenager but I definitely do not anymore," then the answer may be yes.

Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. I agree with JP - this issue does not have to be overly compicated.


"I take deep-seated to mean if a man who asks himself "Am I sexually attracted to men?" If the answer is an unqualified "yes" then that man should not be ordained. He suffers from a tendency that is "disorded" and he cannot possess the "affective maturity" that would "allow him to relate correctly to both men and women" (quoting from the document). This is not simply a matter of the types of temptations one has. If he answers says "No, though I had some vague feelings in that direction 5 years ago when I was a teenager but I definitely do not anymore," then the answer may be yes."

Thanks for the straightforward statement...how why don't the bishops all get it? Are they afraid of being picketed or "outed"? I can't believe they sincerely think this document gives them the green light to ordain homosexual priests...it allows a tiny bit of discretion for boys who may have been confused about their sexual orientation..a more likely occurence with all the glamourizing of the gay lifestyle in today's world...


James K: "Surely there must be some lifelong gay/SSA virgins out there"
While it is possible to be basically homosexual and have had no sexual experience, I think it is extremely unlikely that someone who thinks of himself as "gay" is a virgin.
Why? Because to think of yourself as "gay", you have to have bought into the culture's view of what that is and, therefore, have been under pressure to "be proud of it" and that leads to acting out.
Somewhere way up in this thread (I think it was this site) a seminary director or chancery official is quoted as saying no "mature" SSA is going to enter the seminary under what, to him, are these new terms. So to be "mature" is to think of yourself as "gay".


JUDY: What PBS show was that, with Fessio? I'd like to read the transcript. Thanks.


True bishops and cardinals abide by the Bible and Christ's Church. The Lavender Mafia will continue to deny Christ and protect their gay society.


I found it at NCR. I guess Martin isn't a bishop or chancery official (sorry).

“An honest reading of the document shows that the Vatican is simply banning gays,” said Jesuit Fr. James Martin. “The ‘application’ of the document, even the portion of the document that says that rectors are ultimately responsible for their men, will be meaningless: No emotionally mature gay applicant these days will want to enter.”

Chris Sullivan

I take deep-seated to mean if a man who asks himself "Am I sexually attracted to men?" If the answer is an unqualified "yes" then that man should not be ordained.

If that's true then many priests ought not to have been ordained. But it isn't what the Instruction says. It says those who "present deep-seated homosexual tendencies" ought not to be ordained.

So, firstly the tendency must "present". I'm not sure if this means in the medical sense of having a condition or in the objectively obervable sense of presenting that condition to others.

And, the tendency must be "deep seated".

A mild and well controlled SSA which didn't "present" and which wasn't "deep seated" would not, according to the instruction, bar a candidate from the priesthood.

If the Instruction wanted to bar all SSA candiates it would simply say that and only a single sentence would be needed rather than 5 pages.

God Bless

kathleen reilly

Bishop Baker says: "The Catholic Church believes in a complementarity of women and men, both physically and spiritually, that is essential to being truly human. We
believe that the giving of oneself in nuptial love reflects the inner life of the Trinity. This truly human giving of oneself in intimate sexual union is at once free, total, and permanent, excluding gratification as a mere self-centered, sterile, and ultimately depersonalized act."

I read this in the morning, and it has been bugging me all day. Call me a heathen, but that last sentence sounds like the moon-faced ramblings of an adolescent girl. If it's a "teaching" it's not a helpful one. it describes the IDEAL of married sex, not the actual thing as it exists for us flawed human beings every day. Sex is problematic, often, for everyone, even boring old chaste married couples. Don't have a lot of time to articulate this ... haven't read the comments ... but it seems to me the Church's refusal to engage with the REALITY OF SEX (e.g., teaching/implying that when a married couple has perfunctory sex they are violating the sacrament) makes the Church a great place for men who don't want to wrestle with same, whether that reality be their own capacity for SSA or pedophilia or porn addiction or plain vanilla hetero desire.


Is anybody here commenting familiar with JPII's theology of the body?

Old Zhou

Lisa asks: Is anybody here commenting familiar with JPII's theology of the body?.

Yes. Why do you ask?

Old Zhou

Now, an AP article: U.S. Catholic Church Responds to Vatican.

U.S. Roman Catholic leaders praised the contributions of celibate gay priests in response to a new Vatican pronouncement against homosexuals in the priesthood, a move that could imply some dioceses and religious orders want flexibility in applying church policy.

Two key American statements -- one from the president of the U.S. bishops and the other representing religious orders -- quickly followed the Vatican's "instruction" on gay clergy and supported it on several points: Priests should uphold the church's teaching against gay sex, personally maintain a celibate lifestyle and avoid support for "the so-called 'gay culture'."


Skylstad, the bishops' president, said the answer to the question "whether a homosexually-inclined man can be a good priest" lies in the lives of men who "have truly been dedicated priests."

Leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men -- representing heads of 210 religious orders such as the Benedictines, Dominicans and Jesuits -- stated that priests "have become concrete examples of Christ" through their work, no matter what their orientation.

"For religious men, regardless of sexual orientation, the ability to commit to chaste celibate life is a requirement already," the conference said. In the context of those with a homosexual orientation, "it is important to thank those religious who have been examples of celibate chastity."

The conference's executive director, Franciscan priest Paul Lininger, said the policy's application is "best understood and defined by major superiors in dealing with individuals in their communities." He said most questions will involve how to interpret "deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

The Rev. James Martin, a U.S. Jesuit who writes about the issue, thought these two statements indicate some officials "reserve the right to interpret the new document according to their own reading of it on the local level." He said Skylstad and the men's orders are reflecting actual experience with celibate gay priests over recent decades.

Other U.S. bishops' reactions expressed either strictness or subtle toleration -- sometimes both.

Bishop John D'Arcy of Fort Wayne and South Bend, Ind., strongly endorsed barring men of "deep-seated" gay tendencies. He said it is "not fair" to force them to live closely with other males in seminary and throughout their careers. "Where a significant number of seminarians have that tendency" some heterosexuals will quit priestly training, he said.

Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., distinguished between "deep-seated" tendencies and milder orientations in a phone interview Wednesday.

"Do I believe there are some priests who have at least some orientation toward same-sex but who live chastely and are doing good and generous service as priests? Yes I do." He added that instead of "one size fits all, I think decisions would have to be made on an individual basis."

A statement from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said "it is important to look at the whole person" in assessing candidates and specified commitment to celibacy and backing for church teaching but did not address same-sex orientation as such.


Again, the obfuscation, distraction and misrepresentation abound.

The amount of "SSA" allowable in a candidate for the priesthood is specified in the document--Namely, that it be transitory.

So the "argument" that the injunction is unworkable, or vague or whatever, is easily dismissed.

There is an instruction.

It has plenty of precedent to explain it.

It spends a fair amount of time speaking about the very narrow issue it addresses.

That issue is not: fornication, heterosexual peccadiloes. . . .

Old Zhou

The Australian Jesuits respond:

Although the questions raised by the ordination of homosexual men within the Catholic Church are restricted, however, the issue is still sensitive. Catholic teaching about homosexual practice is certainly unequivocal. It regards such practice as morally unjustifiable and inconsistent with Scriptural witness, as this has been consistently interpreted.

But within the Catholic Church, as in other churches, many people publicly question this teaching. Because the lives and attitudes of priests who preach the Gospel are important in sustaining or weakening assent to teaching, the Vatican has an interest in the selection of candidates for ordination. It would be aware that the sexual orientation of many clergy is likely to be homosexual.
The document then turns to the admission of homosexual men to ordained ministry. But its appeal to maturity means that its conclusions would be pertinent also to heterosexual men.

It begins by excluding practising homosexuals. This follows both from the moral judgment about homosexual practice and from the demands of celibacy. Sexually active men, whether homosexuals or heterosexuals, might have difficulty in living celibacy faithfully and happily.

The core of the document has to do with ‘homosexual tendencies’. It distinguishes between a transitory and a more deeply rooted condition. A transitory condition indicate a lack of emotional maturity, and the document prescribes a delay of three years before entry into a seminary, presumably to encourage the development of a secure sexual identity.

The Instruction also excludes those with ‘a more deep-seated tendency’. This phrase is also found in previous documents, but it is nowhere closely defined. Its meaning is significant, for if it implied no more than that people recognise their homosexuality as abiding, it would reflect negatively on the ministry of many priests and bishops in the Catholic Church. But in previous documents, tendency appears to denote not only sexual identity, but an inclination to act out sexual desires. A deep-rooted tendency would indicate a strong need to do so.

If this is so, men with such strong needs would be unlikely to be able to live a celibate life happily and faithfully. Nor, again, would heterosexual men with the same degree of need.

Finally the document excludes those who ‘support the so-called gay culture’. This presumably means living in such a way that one would be publicly identified as homosexual, and would reasonably be taken to support homosexual practice. Such a way of living would stand in conflict with Catholic teaching about homosexuality.
Although the reference to gay culture is vague, it suggests also a sense of identity in which sexuality and sexual preference are given strong weight. An identity sexualised in this way might also be inconsistent with the emotional maturity required to live celibacy happily. But so surely would support for a macho culture.

So, no macho seminarians, please.

Old Zhou

Response from Detroit Free Press Catholics call church statement confusing:

"The worst thing about this document is that it's vague and uses phrases that people just don't use today, so it's hard to understand what they're even talking about," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit based in California who is an expert on the structure of the church. "Who uses a phrase like 'homosexual tendencies' except a document like this? And what does it mean?


In the Archdiocese of Detroit, no immediate changes are expected, said several church officials who briefed reporters on the document at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. For many years, the school has required that potential seminarians, whether heterosexual or homosexual, show their readiness for a chaste life by living that way for several years before admission.

The Rev. Steven Boguslawski, the seminary's rector, said the document is so complex that church officials need time to study it. "An important document always requires careful study," he said.


Tom Nelson of Farmington Hills, a lifelong Catholic and parishioner at St. Fabian, said he finds that "kind of implication particularly offensive. It implies that my gay son and all other gay people are likely child abusers. That's nonsense.

"And they're also saying in this statement that it's somehow harder for homosexuals to be chaste than it is for heterosexuals. And that's just not true, either. It's offensive to hear my church say this, especially when there's no research showing any of this."

However, Jay McNally of Ypsilanti welcomed the tough language against gay priests, though he said it still leaves bishops too much discretion.

"It's encouraging that the Vatican has appeared to become serious about this problem, but it's a little bit disconcerting that there's too much wiggle room, too much discretion for violating the spirit of the effort," said McNally, a onetime Michigan Catholic editor who is active in conservative Catholic organizations.

Reese said the document's biggest flaw is that it doesn't seem to draw on current scholarship regarding sexuality. "They have no data to give us on a number of things they're saying here," he said. "They have no data on whether it's more difficult for a homosexual to be celibate than a heterosexual. As a social scientist myself, I find that aspect of this instruction appalling."

Old Zhou

Response from Chicago, with Cardinal George, et al: Cardinal: Gays shouldn't be priests:

"In other words," George said, "if one's self-identification as a 'gay man' is the most important component of a man's personality, he is not a candidate for Holy Orders."

Priest calls it ludicrous

"The criteria of the Instruction are also entirely consistent with the teaching of the church for the past 2,000 years. To portray the Instruction as 'gay bashing' or 'gay banning' is to misrepresent it," the cardinal said at the conclusion of his statement.

But one priest of the Chicago archdiocese, asking that his name not be used, said, "It's an insult to the gay deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops and cardinals .. . and it creates a caste system in the clergy."


But, said the gay Chicago priest, what about all the homosexuals who have and continue to serve in the priesthood?

"In a nutshell to say, 'It's OK to be homosexual as long as you don't think like a homosexual, talk like a homosexual, act like a homosexual, hang out with homosexuals, or go to places that are known to be hangouts of homosexuals,' well, that's ludicrous on its surface. And I don't say that flippantly. Sometimes the cardinal says, 'Oh, that's flippant.' This isn't flippant. That's what the document says," the priest said, adding that he believed the "right wing" of the Catholic church had decided to make homosexuals "their scapegoats and whipping boys."



"At best, it's a distraction; at worst, it's damaging," said David Clohessy, national director of the advocacy and support group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "It will feed the mistaken notion that [the abuse scandal] is about the behavior of priests and not the behavior of bishops. Gay seminarians didn't hire and transfer and cover for child-molesting priests. It was bishops who did that."

Sister Christine Schenk, executive director of the group FutureChurch, which advocates the inclusion of all faithful people -- including women and married men -- in the priesthood, worried the document would drive gay seminarians underground.

"We risk re-creating some of the same dynamics that led to the sex abuse crisis to begin with," Schenk said. "That's the part that is frightening."

The Rev. Gus Belauskas, vice rector and admissions director for Mundelein Seminary, the major seminary for the Chicago archdiocese where about 200 seminarians are enrolled, said the Vatican's instruction probably wouldn't change how its students are trained.

"We will certainly take this document into close reading and make sure that we're doing everything that is asked of us," Belauskas said.


Also, as further evidence of the degree to which some will go to obscure the unpleasant truth's contained in the document, (which is really where all the struggling against it comes from, because most objecting to it have no desire to be priests anyway) is the descrepancy between the Archdiocese of Indianapolis version, and the USCCB version--the Archdiocesan version omits the following paragraph from from the document:
"SUCH PERSONS [those who "present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so called 'gay culture'"] IN FACT, FIND THEMSELVES IN A SITUATION THAT GRAVELY HINDERS THEM FROM RELATING CORRECTLY TO MEN AND WOMEN"

Old Zhou

Response from Portland, Maine: Catholics Protest Vatican's Stand on Gay Priests:

A group of local Catholics wants Maine's Bishop to protest the Vatican's stand on gay priests.

Several members of the Catholic faith gathered in the pouring rain at the Diocese of Portland this afternoon to sign and deliver a letter to the Bishop. Tbey believe the Pope's recent instructions are homophobic and meant to deflect attention from the priest abuse scandal. A spokesperson for the Diocese says that is simply not so.

William Slavick, author of the protest letter presented to the Bishop, says, "I think this statement represents fear and exclusion, and I think the Bishop should find some way to say that the church does not embrace fear and exclusion, that it embraces all."


That last line makes me think of Rahner...

How do you reconcile "complementarity of male and female" with a theology of non-duality?

Old Zhou

Response from Vermont:

Vermont Catholic Bishop Salvatore Matano will stand by gay priests as long as they stay celibate and teach that "homosexual activity is immoral."


In response, Matano said the statewide Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington would obey the instruction in regard to men in seminaries, but won't question Vermont's 82 current priests.

"For those ordained and who find themselves with a homosexual tendency, it should be noted that this does not affect the validity of Holy Orders," Matano said in a statement. "Priests are expected to be celibate and to teach that homosexual activity is immoral. If a homosexually inclined priest is celibate, faithfully conveying church teaching, this instruction places no added burden upon him."


Matano said all Vermont Catholics must practice chastity, be it married couples remain-ing faithful to each other or singles refraining from extramarital sex. He also called for restraint when considering other people's sexuality.


The Vermont diocese hasn't received any calls for or against the position since then, Gibson said.

"This is dealing specifically with seminarians — this is not going to turn into a witch hunt here," the diocesan spokeswoman said. "Sexual orientation is not the problem. The thing being considered is can you be celibate so you can donate your life to the service of God and his people."

Repeat after the diocesan spokeswoman: sexual orientation is not the problem.


Old Zhou;

Please answer your own question! I'm working on a paper regarding gay marriage for my Christian Anthropology class and am relying in part on the complementarity view.

chris K

An important voice in the conversation is Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, the former Master of the Dominican Order, and one of the brightest lights in the Church today. Here is his article from the Tablet.

I disagree with the hopeful light description.

Fr. Radcliffe:
"Finally, there is the question of “spiritual fatherhood”. This is not a concept with which I am familiar. Can only heterosexuals offer this? This is the view of the Bishop to the American armed forces, who said recently: “We don’t want our people to think, as our culture is now saying, there’s really no difference whether one is gay or straight, is homosexual or heterosexual. We think for our vocation that there is a difference, and our people expect to have a male priesthood that sets a strong role model of maleness.” (skip) If the role of the priest was to be a model of masculinity, then he would be relevant to less than half of the congregation and one could therefore argue that women should also be ordained as role models of femininity. I presume that the “spiritual fatherhood” is above all exercised through the care of the people and the preaching of a life-giving fertile word, but neither has any connection with sexual orientation."

Now that's a real "bright" and clear teaching for the people which can leave open, in the minds of the uninstructed or just undecided, some doors for other questions on the liberal agenda.

Rather, Fr. Fessio's explanation, mentioned above, from the PBS discussion is definite and clear:


Old Zhou

I think the only line of the Instruction that is going to be implemented is this:

The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the bishop or the major superior.
And the bishops and major superiors don't want the peanut gallery telling them how to do their jobs.

If they want to admit someone to a seminary, they will. If they want to ordain someone, they will. What you or I or anyone else might think of the person means nothing once the bishop or major superior has decided and acted.

Old Zhou

<>italic off, please?<>


Old Zhou - Thanks for the references - I just skimmed them because I don't have much time now. I'd found the first on Bettnet earlier today and remember reading it in the past. I still don't understand where Fr. Fessio came up with the figure of 400 priests dying of AIDS. It doesn't sound unreasonable, just would like the source.
Canon - Fr. Fessio and Fr. Martin were on PBS' News Hour with Jim Lehrer, 6PM - 7PM EST last night, the 29th.A woman and not Lehrer was the moderator.

Old Zhou

LifeSite reports the obvious: Bishops Begin Distancing from Vatican Document on Gays in Priesthood. No kidding.

...Now that the document has been officially released and Vatican officials have clarified that indeed the intention is to bar those with serious and persistent homosexual temptations from ordination, reports are coming in of bishops and other Catholic clergy openly or subtly dissenting. The reaction is further revealing the deep rift that has long been observable between much of the US episcopate and the teachings and disciplines of the Catholic Church.


With the Church’s own hierarchy in many countries openly or tacitly in support of the “so-called gay culture” it is difficult to anticipate what Rome’s recourse will be to bishops who defy, ignore or “interpret” the document to mean business as usual.

As I said above, the only line of the Instruction that is going to be implemented is this:

The call to orders is the personal responsibility of the bishop or the major superior.
And the bishops and major superiors don't want the peanut gallery telling them how to do their jobs.

These documents from the Vatican remind me of cotton candy. They look like so much at a distance. But once in the mouth, they shrink to almost nothing, and leave you hungry, if not nauseated.

Chris Sullivan

Old Zhou,

I think that the Instruction is pretty specific and full of good and meaty clarification and not "cotton candy".

If bishops don't implement the Instruction then your beef is with those bishops, not with the Instruction.

Your posts above give the impression that there's something of a revolt in the United States against the Instruction. Reminiscent of the revolt against Humanae Vitae. How much do you think the articles you posted reflect a revolt and how much just news media hype ?

I take your point that many will see the Instruction as unjust, discriminatory and furthur evidence that "the Church hates gays".

God Bless

Sandra Miesel

The Archbishop of Indianapolis today remarked that the document wouldn't change how seminarians were chosen for his see.
As I said above, after all the fuss, the directive will be a dead letter.



This part of the instruction seems to arouse the least interest except from those who assume that celibate gay priests can correctly relate to men and women. I don't know about the men, but I don't think they can correctly relate to women no matter how friendly and kindly they may be. In the end, Eve will always have been the Creator's mistake.

Same sex attraction (SSA) is opposite sex aversion (OSA). I can accept a gay priest's sexual aversion to me as a woman. But if my soul as well as my body is gendered and will be gendered for all eternity, as I am told, then a priest with Opposite Sex Aversion can not correctly relate to me as a woman. At some level of my being, the level at which I most need him as priest, he rejects my being because of my gender.

Old Zhou

Dear Chris Sullivan,

I do not think "revolt" is the right word; it is too harsh.

But, since you brought up Humanae Vitae, I think it is just a continuation of business as usual in the Catholic Church in the US since the late 1960's.

We have sexually active gay priests confecting the Blessed Sacrament in front of pews filled with contracepting and pro-choice Catholics who process to communion without having been to confession in decades.

Who needs a revolt?

(And, yes, I have had lunch in my home with a gay priest who proclaimed his "true love" to his parish community during a homily. It happens where I live in the San Francisco area. And my parish RCIA director did tell everyone that "Confession is just for old-fashioned, superstitious Catholics.")

If you want to chew on the Instruction, God bless you. May you be richly nourished.

Which reminds me of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Having been back with Catholics since 1998, I have never once seen a living deacon, priest or bishop carrying or reading from (silently or aloud) that book; the same holds for catechists and diocesan directors of catechesis. I have seen the book on the shelf, but that is all.

There are many weighty, meaty, wonderful spiritual documents that come from the Vatican. I'm glad they have a Website and online bookstore, because otherwise this Catholic would never see or hear of them, except maybe as an object of harsh criticism by my local clergy.

May God bless His Church!

Chris Sullivan

According to Father John Harvey, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, and director of Courage International :-

Only psychiatrists will be able to determine if seminarians have deeply rooted homosexual tendencies; we will have to listen to them on this issue.

If these are the same psychiatrists who assured bishops that sex abusers were now "cured" and could safely be dispatched to new parishes, then somehow this statement doesn't inspire me with a great deal of confidence.

Something doesn't seem right if the Church is to hand the decision over to psychiatrists.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan


While I think there are some men with SSA which translates into opposite sex aversion (OSA), I think it a gross exageration and sterotyping to say this of all men who suffer from the illness of SSA.

I think at some level your point about the soul being gendered and will be gendered for all eternity is rather fundamental to the Instruction in terms of a candidate's ability to properly relate to men and women.

God Bless

Chris Sullivan

Old Zhou,

We have sexually active gay priests confecting the Blessed Sacrament in front of pews filled with contracepting and pro-choice Catholics who process to communion without having been to confession in decades.

So, what else is new ?

The Church has always been full of priests and laity who are active sinners.

If taking a historical view is any comfort, just ask Sandra Miesel for a reminder of what the Church was like in medieval Europe.

Don't be discouraged - there's a reason he put you in San Francisco !

BTW are you the same Zhou who used to post here? If so, why the change to Old Zhou? Do you feel older now?

God Bless

Courage Man

Wow ... the things you learn from reading Open Book. SSA is opposite-sex aversion, and so Eve will always have been the Creator's mistake and cannot, by absolute definition, relate to women's souls because they reject their being.

This is just psychobabble that one would think Catholics would know better than to credit.

How do straight priests relate to men then? Is there any unsexed attributes of a "person" then? Does the term "fag hag" mean anything to anyone? If I had a nickel for every time I've heard women say they preferred the company of gay men because they weren't threatening ... I'd have ... $236.15.

reluctant penitent

Responding to James Kabala's:

'About the John/Jane question posed by reluctant penitent:
Why do so many people seem to assume that all persons with "deep rooted homosexual tendencies" must have once been sexually active?'

I was not assuming that they are all sexually active. I was responding to RPBurke's claim that there is parity in all respects between homosexual males and heterosexual males--i.e. that exactly the same rules apply to both. My point was that there are many ways in which a heterosexual man can act on his heterosexulity without violating Church teaching--Jane's Bob being an example. The same is not true of the homosexual man.

Sorry to take so long to respond. It's tragic how mundane matters like work and family obligations can interfere with matters of consequence--matters like pontificating pseudonymously to an audience of complete strangers.

reluctant penitent

'There are many weighty, meaty, wonderful spiritual documents that come from the Vatican. I'm glad they have a Website and online bookstore, because otherwise this Catholic would never see or hear of them, except maybe as an object of harsh criticism by my local clergy. May God bless His Church!'

Boy Zhou, even in California (including the SF-Berkeley area) I've met plenty of Catholics--clergy and laity--of whom this is not true. Maybe you should just avoid going to these freaky parishes. Or maybe you just have a soft spot for dissenters and actively gay priests. Well things will change in those parishes too. Cdl Mahony might have been able to avoid prosecution under civil and Canon Law. But His Excellency's reign of error will end one day.


I agree with Sandra. Dead letter.

There is no part of this letter that holds the bishops responsible for not implementing it. Those who think it is wrong will simply ignore it.

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