Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More on Potential Seminarians who have same-sex desires, aka a homosexual orientation

Some comments to my post below, a mixed message to gay Catholics, seemed worthy of a post.

I want to focus on one question Tim raised in comments there (to read his entire comments, go to that post from Friday, September 23).

Tim said...

"You are right about the need for disinterested friendships and healthy male bonding for men with same sex attraction disorder but the seminary is for the formation of priests not a treatment center for men with SSAD, alcoholism, or any other serious problem. '[T]his should be that place." No our parihes should be that place, The Knights of Columbus should be that place, our Catholic social groups should be that place. '[I]f the seminary is made up of otherwise healthy well adjusted men it would be a very healthy environment for a homosexual male...' My question then is how many healthy well adjusted men per homosexual candidate? Ten to one? One to one? Surely you would not want more homosexuals than straight men. So whats your quota? What do you tell the men with SSAD who don"t get in after you have the safe number. 'sorry fellas we have reached our quota of "Gays" try the next diocese over or just head to LA, Albany, or Rochester. Mahony, Hubbard and Clark never listen to the Pope anyway."

Well, let's unpack this question.

First of all, my original point presupposed that everyone admitted to the seminary is carefully examined, both for commitment to celibate chastity, including a track record, as well as all the other things you look for in potential seminarians.

I presupposed it, not because I'm so naive as to assume it always happens, but to make the point that it MUST happen. And the comments I made were intended only for that context. If there's any validity to having same-sex-attracted men in the seminary, it totally hinges on that.

Now, Tim and others (if I understand Tim correctly) doubt the gatekeepers and formators are being as careful as they ought to be. Understood; and while such negligence is an important question, and obviously related, it is, still, a separate question.

Because if they are as negligent as some insist, I fail to see how helpful a new instruction from Rome will be, if it is simply added to the dusty pile of ignored instructions.

Likewise, even if the formators and gatekeepers do their jobs, I take Tim's concerns with my views to mean that that is still not enough. A further step is needed, to exclude men with a same-sex orientation from the get-go. (And if that's not Tim's position, we may not actually disagree in substance, but perhaps misunderstand each other.)

Second, if Tim thinks I'm advocating seminaries as places of "therapy" or "treatment" for disordered guys, I am sorry my original post was insufficiently clear on this point, and I am happy to clarify it.

No one should be admitted to the seminary who doesn't have his act together, including in relation to his own sexuality. So Tim and I agree, the seminary isn't a place of "therapy" for people who aren't committed to chastity.

So when I said, "this should be that place," I wasn't saying seminaries are places to "fix" guys who aren't chaste, but it should be the place where chaste guys are reinforced in their chastity. Big difference. (Please remember, I was addressing the supposition that an all-male seminary is a near occasion of sin for same-sex-oriented men.)

And my point was, if they happen to have homosexual feelings, a seminary of guys properly screened, properly formed, is a healthy, chastity-affirming setting, not a "seething cauldron of pent-up testosterone" to use Father Jim Tucker's colorful phrase.

So to Tim's question--what should the ratio of homosexual to heterosexual be?
Well, I don't know, and other than those who say "zero," I don't know who knows. And--by the way--if Rome doesn't take the "zero" position, then I have no idea how Rome would answer Tim's question, either.

This may not be a satisfactory answer, but--I'd say with the proper admissions and formation scrutiny, and recruitment, I don't think this becomes an issue.

All I can cite is my own experience. When in the seminary, I had no idea of who might be same-sex-oriented, although I figured there had to be some, so naturally I might wonder about this or that guy. But it's not like I had anything obvious; there were no flamers. Here's a guy who likes opera and show tunes--only he was a widower, married 20 years. Here's a guy who had an odd mannerism (nothing flagrant); only he talked about the girls he went out with in college. Could have been lying. How can I know?

I hinted, but didn't say directly, what I think about a possible policy completely forbidding same-sex-attracted seminarians. I do have reservations about such a policy, in part because I'm having a hard time seeing how it would be articulated, enforced, and how effective that would be--including the inevitable incentives created and unintended consequences. I think the practical difficulties of actually framing such a policy may explain why it's still "in the works." Making it concrete is not easy to do.

Even assuming the strictest possible likely policy, I honestly don't know if I will think that a good or bad idea. I can see arguments both ways, and reservations both ways.

And after all, it all depends on what, if anything, actually emerges. I am not so bright that the reservations I can come up with won't have occurred to the folks in Rome, too.

Finally, if anything emerges, it may end up being more or less what I tend to favor: not total exclusion of same-sex-oriented men, but close scrutiny and a high standard for commitment to celibate chastity.

If anyone is concerned that I'm going to undermine the authority and unity of Mother Church over a policy disagreement, I can assure you that's not my style.

If I may, I publicly swore an oath of fidelity to the Church, and all her teachings, even those not infallibly defined, on two occasions: first, prior to being ordained a deacon, and second, upon my installation as a pastor. In addition, I made a solemn promise at both ordinations, to obey my ordinary, and I renew that every year. Anyone who cares to say I have failed in any of those oaths is welcome to say so; otherwise, I think I'm entitled to the benefit of the doubt.


Anonymous said...

First I want to make clear that I don't question Fr. Fox's fidelity to Christ's Church, her teachings or His Vicar. I KNOW he is a faithful Catholic and a faithful priest. Even aside from topics of faith I also have great respect for his views on politics and the other issues he writes about. I visit this blog frequently because I read and learn. I rarely comment because even when my view differs, Fr. Fox's comments require me to re-think my position. But the authority and unity of the Church can be undermined UNINTENTIONALY even by the most faitful and holy members of the Church.

Regarding Mount St. Marys/Athenaeum: I believe the new director of formation is an exceptional priest, ditto the vocations director. The great job being done in recent years is evident by the faithful men who have been ordained. The proof is in the pudding. The few men that I have met who have been ordained in recent years are the type of men I would like my sons to be like and my daughers to marry. Men that I would follow. That is a pretty strong endorsement but it does not excuse the ultimate gatekeeper of the diocese for alowing Gula, Hayes and Danielson to be distiquished speakers at the Athenaeum or publishing a column touting the heterodox teachings of Fr. Keenan regarding homosexuality even after Keenan testified before the Massachusetts state legislature that Catholic charity demands same sex marriage to be legal!

Regarding Fr. Fox's third to last paragraph, "...but close scrutiny and a high commitment to celibate chastity." Maybe more is necessary. It may be that the priest must see himself as the specific icon of bridegroom to the Church. This may require an understanding of himself and his masculinity that might be a real problem for a man with same sex attraction disorder, even if he is committed to celibate chastity. I am using the words, may, maybe and might to be precise because I don't know. The Apostolic See's policy will be fine with me.

I'll comment in defense of Michael S. Rose on the other post.

Anonymous said...

Lets take a look at this from a legal perspective.
First, the Church discribes homosexual acts as gravely disordered. As such, we admit that those attracted to this grave disorder have a potential for abuse of boys.
Second, we have a history of admiting homosexuals who have abused boys and further complicated the issue by hiding and moving them.
third, we had an independent study done which told us over 80% of the abuse was adult male homosexual priests abusing boys between the age of 12-18. This is not a pedephile. In the homosexual community, it is a common attraction called seeking out "twinks". Go to google and search twinks and you will see millions of hits around the gay community. It is not a rare issue in the homosexual community, but common attraction with a large number of homosexuals.
Fourth, with the ruling in Oregon that all church assets in the entire dioceses can be siezed for abuse settlement, we now know that all our churchs, schools, and other assets from each parish are up for grabs.
With all this knowledge, is it not simply logic that says we cannot afford to allow homosexuals into the priesthood or face charges that we knew all this and still put children at risk? Lawyers are drooling at the prospects.

Please, someone make the case against this.

JJ said...

I would like to respond to something that Joe H said, as a gay woman. Homosexuality and Pedophilia are two completely different things. Homosexuals are actually less likely to abuse children than heterosexuals. The vast majority of studies bear this fact out. The search for "twinks", as you put it, is not any different than the heterosexual male's tendancy to like teenage girls (look "barely legal" up on google and see what happens... or rather, don't. It's disturbing).

I am not Catholic (well, not in the "big C" sense), but I am Christian, and gay... and as yet I have chosen to remain celibate. This does not make me a danger to children (I work with children a lot). And I have to say, I find this sort of reasoning offensive, and rather frightening.