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By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman
DETROIT – Two recent documents released by the Vatican appears to ban gay men not only from attending, but also from teaching at seminaries.
Last month the Vatican released the “Instruction Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons With Homosexual Tendencies, Considering Their Admission to Seminary and to Holy Orders.”
The message of the Instruction: gay men, or men who “support the so-called ‘gay culture,'” lack sufficient “affective maturity” to instruct Catholics that gay sex is immoral. “Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women,” the document reads.
Therefore, any man who has experienced more than a “transitory problem” regarding his orientation must not to be admitted to seminary, according to the Instruction.
This ban applies even to gay men who have remained celibate for their entire lives, according to a Nov. 29 online report by Catholic News Service.
The CNS report quotes “the only explanatory text the Vatican published with [the Instruction],” which appeared in the Nov. 29 edition of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
According to the article, which was written by French Msgr. Tony Anatrella, a psychoanalyst and consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, “Candidates who have ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies,’ that is, an exclusive attraction to persons of the same sex – independently of whether or not they have had erotic experiences – cannot be admitted to the seminary or to holy orders.”
On Nov. 29, representatives from Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary and Ned McGrath, the director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit, held a press conference to explain how the Instruction will affect current seminarians at Sacred Heart.
No clear answer was forthcoming.
Fr. Steven Boguslawski, OP, Sacred Heart’s rector and president, said that the document “requires a careful, systematic study,” and that the seminary would critique its admission policies in light of the document. Neither Boguslawski nor the other officials present were able to say specifically what changes might be made at Sacred Heart in light of the Instruction. Boguslawski did say that after reviewing the document, there would be an extensive discussion with both current seminarians and the Seminary’s spiritual directors and that the seminary would then be proactive in implementing the rules.
Fr. Michael Byrnes, a vice rector and dean of formation at the seminary, said that a person becoming a priest has to have an inner capacity to represent church teaching on homosexuality freely, “without internal conflict.”
McGrath, Byrnes, and Boguslawski were joined at the press conference by Bishop John Quinn, Cardinal Maida’s delegate to the seminary and a member of its board of directors.
According to the Catholic Church, homosexual sex is a “grave sin” and “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered.”
At the press conference, McGrath and Quinn affirmed that the document addressed potential new priests, not those already serving the church.
However, a Nov. 4 Vatican letter to bishops that accompanied advance copies of the Instruction instructs the bishops to bar men “with homosexual tendencies” from being rectors or teachers at seminaries. The letter was released publicly recently by Rome’s Congregation for Catholic Education.
The letter tells bishops that the new Vatican document “does not call into question the validity of” previous ordinations of priests “with homosexual tendencies” or of priests for whom “such tendencies have manifested themselves after ordination,” although they are expected to maintain celibacy.
It does prohibit gays from leading or teaching at seminaries. “Because of the particular responsibility of those charged with the formation of future priests, they are not to be appointed as rectors or educators in seminaries,” the letter says. The letter does not instruct bishops how to discover the sexual orientation of the rectors and teachers in the seminaries under their jurisdiction, according to a Dec. 2 report by the New York Times.
The Times quotes the Rev. Richard Prendergast, pastor of St. Josaphat Church in Chicago and a founder of the Web site Catholics Affirming Homosexual Leadership, as saying of the letter, “If that’s not a witch hunt, I don’t know what is.”
Some priests and experts interviewed by the Times questioned the impact the letter would have, while Dean R. Hoge, professor of sociology at Catholic University in Washington and an expert on the priesthood, was quoted by the Times as saying, “We’re not talking about breaking celibacy here, or doing something criminal, we’re talking about tendency. How will they determine that? My guess is that it will not be easy to implement or enforce.” Hoge added, “I don’t think this will stand up in canon law. Priests have rights, too: they have the right to self-defense and to hearings.”
A Dec. 6 statement on behalf of the Archdiocese of Detroit by McGrath did not shed any light on how Sacred Heart Seminary’s administration may react to the letter. According to the statement, “Not unlike the document itself, the cover letter requires serious and careful study. As the seminary rector indicated at the media briefing, he is ‘secure in the guidance that will be provided by Cardinal Adam Maida, who has exercised direct, clear and very careful oversight of Sacred Heart Major Seminary throughout his tenure as the Archbishop of Detroit.'”
Under Maida, the Archdiocese of Detroit donated nearly $500,000 to pass Michigan’s anti-gay marriage amendment, which is now being used in an attempt to take away health insurance and other benefits from families headed by same-sex couples. In February, the Archdiocese forbade St. Mary’s Catholic Church from allowing its facilities to be used for a reception for Sister Jeannine Gramick, who has refused orders from the Vatican to stop her LGBT-affirming ministry.
Additional reporting provided by The Associated Press