Gay Priests and Lesbian Nuns

Dear John,

The Catholic Church has always been the world's largest employer of gay people - a fact of which I'm very proud. (See my letter to the NorthCarolina Catholic below.)

Although pedophilic priests have been responsible for many horrors, the underlying horror is not "the intrinsic evil" of homosexuality.

Harping on "the intrinsic evil of homosexuality" -- and then castigating homosexual clergy for potential activity totally independent of what homosexually-oriented nuns, priests, bishops and cardinals actually do -- is, in itself, a hideous evil, a mortal sin that I believe puts the Catholic Church at grave risk of losing its soul.

The issue here is celibacy, and celibacy alone.

Those who take the vow need to live up to it. (Of course, this begs the question of married clergy which I'll set aside for now.)

Half of all Catholic priests are sexually active.

As Father Michael confided to me: "I worry more about the ones who aren't." (At least half of all sexually active priests are heterosexual. I do not know how many of them are sexually-involved with married parishioners but the number is no doubt sizeable)

Every day, I receive a Catholic newsletter emailed from Australia. Recently "Catholic News" ran an article about priestly abuse in Ireland - http://www.cathnews.com/news/510/132.php

With remarkable precision, a key sentence in this article spotlights the church's need for confession, repentance and amends: "The Ferns Inquiry report criticised the bishop's decision to ordain "clearly unsuitable men into the priesthood" when he knew or ought to have known that they might abuse children." (Knowing approval of "clearly unsuitable men" -- both homosexual and heterosexual -- has been a hallmark of Catholic hierarchical practice for at least a century.)

By making "the gift of celibacy" a mandatory component priesthood, the church issues an open invitation to sexually-immature and sexually-fearful people.

I'm tired of this shit John.

The seventh and the tenth commandments -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Commandments -- prohibit 1.) adultery and 2.) coveting another person's spouse - specifically his wife.  (I marvel at this bit of gender bias. Are women exempted from lusting after another wife's husband? Similarly, biblical proscriptions against homosexuality -- cheek-by-jowl with proscriptions against shellfish eating and "godly" demands that the whole community stone rebellious children to death -- are written in such a way that they condemn 'lying with another man as one would ly with a woman.' Are we to assume from this wording that lesbians are exempt? Acknowledging that all non-committed sexual relationship is fraught with danger, I do think lesbians are at much less moral risk than gay men. But that's another story....)

The seventh and tenth commandments have become counter-productively freighted with all sorts of obsessively "chaste" minutiae.

I heartily agree that we should not commit adultery.

I heartily agree that we should not lust after another's spouse.

These are clear calamities.

Beyond these clear proscriptions however -- which comprise the actual content of the 7th and 10th commandments -- I also see the importance of sexual singlemindedness and recognize the real risk of sexual dissolution.

However, the two "sexual" commandments make no mention of absolute "laundry lists" that circumscribe the host of sexual behaviors that have been condemned by "celibate" clergy. (I just learned from my University of Toronto alumni magazine that a tapestry in UT's Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies shows Abraham meeting a foreign king who soon lusted after Abraham's wife, Sarah. In keeping with "the morality of the day" --- and I encourage you, in this regard, to review King David's elimination of Uriah in order to get into his wife's pants --- the foreign king was fully prepared to kill Abraham in order to avoid the unforgivable sin of adultery.)

I don't remember if I sent you the following piece. (I submitted it to "NC Catholic.")

I feel very strongly about it.


It appears that the Vatican will soon ban the entrance of gay men to seminaries.
Until now, the Church, in its wisdom, has judged people according to their actions, not by some "undone deed" that might be rooted in a person's concupiscent nature.
By way of justification, the Vatican argues that homosexual orientation is "intrinsically disordered" and therefore all gay candidates to the priesthood must be eliminated. (Are novice nuns to follow?)
Original Sin disorders everyone's nature, which is to say we are all born with a certain skew toward "doing what's wrong" even when we "know what's right."
In view of Church teaching and tradition, it is foolish for the Vatican to judge people – punitively!!! -- by their mere "potentiality" without any manifest "action." (Aquinas was very clear about the bedrock distinction between "potentiality" and "actuality." He was right. The Church should pay attention to its greatest Doctor.)
It is widely agreed that about 50% of all priests are sexually active - whether heterosexually or homosexually.
It is this “acting out” -- and not one's orientation -- that breaks the vow of celibacy.
If the Church wishes to "act" coherently, it would - at minimum - chastise all priests who actually break their vows, and would chastise no one for what they might do.
If my own soul serves as a general template, I realize that -- under certain conditions -- I could do any damn thing. (A review of Stanley Milgram's work is in order - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment )
We humans are at our best when we adhere to systems of jurisprudence that presume innocence until guilt is proven.
By presuming that “actual evil” will come on the heels of “mere potentiality,” the Vatican's pending ban constitutes a philosophical and theological monstrosity.
The pending proscription of gay seminarians has the power to undermine the integrity of the whole Church. (Two other recent occurrences might also dis-integrate the Church and its traditional teaching. 1.) During the Terry Schiavo "case," many high-ranking church-men broke with wise tradition. Catholics believe in the resurrection of the dead and our belief has inoculated us against the widespread materialist conviction that life as a “transient flame in the enveloping darkness” and must therefore be prolonged at any cost. By way of counterpoint, the Church's traditional teaching is this: 'It is not necessary to undertake any heroic measure to prolong life.' 2.) The other recent deviation by Church authorities is the absurd "fast-track canonization" of Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa. I scratch my head in amazement that a church which believes "patience is a foundational virtue" should adopt the world's obsession with "ever-accelerating speed" as a criterion of "the good." "Haste makes waste." There is nothing to recommend 24/7 frenzy.)
When we view these corruptions through the lens of Catholic irony, it may be that God's inscrutable will is orchestrating the humiliation of the Church so that the only way to heal itself of such grievously self-induced error is to reverse course, to repent, to change.
If a great reversal is in store, there will be collateral opportunity to rectify all manner of twistedness.
I recommend today's Talk of the Nation,  "Vatican Considers Ban on Gay Priests"  -  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4865796
Pax on both houses,

PS Just this week, NPR ran an interesting piece entitled "The Son of a Priest and a Nun" - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4969697