By Bob Roehr
The Vatican issued its policy to cast out gay priests and those who support “gay culture” unless they have overcome their homosexual tendencies for at least three years, in a document released on Nov. 29.
The policy, ostensibly instructions to seminary directors, intensifies a jihad that the uppermost levels of the Roman Catholic hierarchy have promulgated against gays for several decades.
“The church, while deeply respecting the people in question, cannot admit to the seminary and the sacred order those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support so-called gay culture,” read the leaked document that a Vatican official confirmed as valid.
Pope Benedict XVI approved the policy on Aug. 31. One wonders what the pontiff, who is fond of wearing bright red Prada slippers, would include under the rubric of “gay culture.”
The reaction from gay Catholics and their supporters was universally negative. “The Vatican continues to be obsessed about homosexuality, misguided about human sexuality, and misdirected regarding the sexual abuse crisis in the church,” said Debbie Weill, executive director of Dignity USA.
“It seems that the intent is really to keep homosexuality quiet, to silence gay priests and gay seminarians,” said Frank DiBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry. The group works for the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Catholic Church.
DiBernardo believes the policy is likely to screen out those seminary candidates who are most well adjusted to their sexual orientation and allow through those who have not yet grappled with those issues.
“I believe that the document shows a lack of understanding of sexuality,” New Ways cofounder Sister Jeannine Gramick told the Los Angeles Times. “It does not appreciate the dimensions of human sexuality and the continuum that exists in terms of sexual orientation; it is rejecting a whole continuum of people the scientific community recognizes as valid and normal and natural.”
The ban also perpetuates the problem of a secret institution that has tried to cover up problems of molestations by priests.
New York City GLBT activists gathered outside of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Sunday, Nov. 27, in solidarity with gay priests and religious orders and to protest the hypocrisy and antigay prejudice of the policy. They plan to return on Dec. 4.
Organizer Brendan Fay said that some of the most gifted members of the clergy have been gay. He mentioned Father Mychal Judge who died during the 9/11 attack. “Rather than condemn, exclude, and reject, we call on Catholic Church leaders to celebrate the gifts that many gay persons bring to the Catholic Church.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez tried to translate the policy. “If you have short-rooted gay tendencies rather than the deep-rooted variety, enjoy the theater but don’t get carried away, or if you’re capable of living in denial for periods of three years or longer, grab a robe and a pair of sandals and let’s talk,” he wrote on Nov. 25.
“Frankly, I can’t tell whether this is a sign of progress or further retreat into the Dark Ages.” But Lopez did see it as an attempt to scapegoat gays for the problems of pedophilia that the church continues to be in denial about.
“I think the Vatican, or whoever wrote this statement, should spend a little more time listening to its gay and lesbian members rather than putting out statements,” openly gay Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson told Reuters. “This strikes me as language from people who profoundly do not understand gay and lesbian people…who know next to nothing about being gay or lesbian.”
“The Catholic Church is showing an aversion to both the teaching of Christ and science,” said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. He called it “an attempt to close down open debate” and linked it to the church’s failure to take responsibility for the sex abuse scandals initiated and covered up by members of its hierarchy.