By Mubarak Dahir
To anyone who has followed the long history of anti-gay edicts out of the Catholic Church, the latest development in its anti-gay campaign will come as no surprise.
According to numerous published reports last week, the Catholic Church is expected to soon move to ban gay men from being ordained as priests.
The latest religious instruction against gay men out of the Catholic Church has apparently been drawn up by the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, the body that oversees the training and the ordination of priests.
The controversial new document – that has not yet been released but is reportedly being reviewed by Pope Benedict after at least three revisions – is said to instruct the faithful that gay men are not fit to enter seminaries and study for the priesthood.
Previously, the Catholic Church’s official position was that since both heterosexual and gay priests had to commit to a vow of celibacy, sexual orientation was not (officially) an issue for being ordained.
Given the fact that the Catholic Church has declared that being gay is “objectively disordered,” it’s hardly shocking that the Catholic Church is now trying to prevent gay men from becoming leaders in its ranks.
What is astonishing – and in fact is downright deceitful – is the way the Catholic Church is reportedly going about justifying its latest move.
According to insiders who are familiar with the proposed instruction, the document that will try to ban gay men from the priesthood will not lean on previous teachings that essentially call gay men unholy.
Instead, the Catholic Church is taking a slicker public relations approach. It’s trying not to look quite so anti-gay.
The new document “will not be an attack on the gay ‘lifestyle,'” John Haldane, professor of moral philosophy at the University of St. Andrews told the British newspaper, the Observer. “It will not say ‘homosexuality is immoral.’ But it will suggest that admitting gay men into the priesthood places a burden on those who are homosexual and those they are working alongside who are not.”
In other words, Eve just won’t be able to resist taking a bite out of the forbidden apple if it is dangling right there beside her day in and day out in the seminary.
While this faulty reasoning seems laughable in the modern age, the Catholic Church’s move is one to be taken seriously, even for those of us who aren’t Catholics.
As part of the public relations ploy not to appear anti-gay, the document banishing gay priests is expected to be signed by a cardinal rather than the Pope himself.
But none of the smoke and mirrors can hide the real motives behind the Catholic Church’s anti-gay move: It is just the latest step in the organization’s scapegoating of gay men for the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the American Catholic Church in recent years.
In fact, in September the Catholic Church will send more than 100 investigators to the United States to look into the sex abuse scandal. The investigators will visit a scheduled 220 churches and Catholic seminaries, interviewing teachers, students and alumni.
Observers believe the new report could be issued as part of their response to the investigation.
It would give the appearance of being “timely,” and it seems choreographed to take some of the heat over the inevitable controversy around it away from the Pope himself.
But there is no disguising this Pope’s anti-gay bent.
Before he was elected Pope Benedict, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was perhaps the most highly-placed and one of the most vocal anti-gay mouthpieces for the Catholic Church.
In 1999, he ordered two Americans, Father Robert Nugent and Sister Jeannine Gramick, to cease their ministry that reached out to gay and lesbian Catholics.
He was the author of the 2003 Vatican directive that called on priests around the world to work actively to prevent governments from legalizing same-sex marriage. He also called on priests to work to repeal existing laws that gave gay and lesbian unions any kind of legal recognition, such as civil unions or domestic partnership protections.
He opposes the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS.
As Pope, he has been vocal in his opposition to same-sex marriage, calling it “pseudo-matrimony.”
And in June, he issued a rant against gay and lesbian families.
I am not a Catholic and so I have been told, particularly by other gays who are Catholic, that the Church’s policies on homosexuality are none of my non-believing business.
But this is not simply a “Catholic” issue. It affects us all because the Catholic Church has injected its religious philosophies into our political and social debates.
And because the Catholic Church is so powerful, its moves influence social attitudes, politics and the posturing of other religious groups towards gays and lesbians.
Unfortunately, the one thing the Catholic Church’s latest move isn’t going to do is to stop the problem of sex abuse in its ranks.
That’s because the problem isn’t with gay men, it is with sex offenders.
And it is incredibly insulting to all of us who are gay, Catholic or not, to mix up the two.