Yes, I know, a lot of confessions start out with "I have this friend...", but that's not what this is about. I really do know this guy. Not all that well, we've only met once, but have corresponded online for a few years now. We initially met in the gay.com chatrooms, and he seemed like a nice enough guy that, for a while, I was trying to decide if the three-hour drive that separated us was too big an impediment to dating. He's now in his first year at a seminary in Chicago studying to become a Catholic priest. So much for that fantasy.
The Vatican released a new document this week about the ordination of gay priests. (Matt also has some comments on it.) The document has apparently been in preparation for years, and came to light during the child molestation scandal. If you want, you can read the entire document here. This is the money quote (emphasis mine):
...the Church... may not admit to the seminary and Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, show profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.
The "practice homosexuality" bit I get. Sexually active gay men in the priesthood are verboten. Check. That makes (some sort of) sense. Sexually active straight men in the priesthood are also not allowed. Of course, you will never hear of the Vatican putting out a policy document saying that men who "practice heterosexuality" should not be ordained.
The second bit, the part about the "deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies" is the part that pretty much says gay people can't be priests anymore. Notice that they've left quite a lot of wiggle-room with the terms "deeply-rooted" and "tendencies." As in, "Oh, he's not really homosexual, he just has homosexual tendencies." That's very odd wording. It does fit with the Church's stance that gay people are really just broken straight people that have been contaminated with evil homosexual cooties. I wonder if we will start to see a Catholic increase in the rise of the loathsome "ex-gay" movement. That has pretty much been a fundamentalist, evangelical, Prostestant phenomenon until now.
The third part in the proscription above is just so unnecessary. The "so-called gay culture"? I'm not even sure what that means. Does this mean no shopping at Abercrombie and Fitch? No more Lifetime television? Is it five Hail Mary's for humming a showtune? Oh, you have to just love the snide "so-called" modifider on that phrase. Sure, no more tweaked-out circuit queens in the seminary, but something tells me they weren't exactly lining up in tonsures and hairshirts in the first place.
I was chatting with my proto-priest friend online this evening. From what he's described, it sounds like this instruction from on high is basically being ignored by the American clergy. J. is still openly (ex?) gay and still in the seminary. So it doesn't look like "deeply-rooted homosexual tendencies" are enough to stop you from becoming a priest.
The reason for this new document is obvious. Since the dawn of the Catholic Church's child-raping scandal, they have been trying to blame it on the presence of gays in the priesthood. The Church and it's officials don't seem to understand (or find it convenient to misunderstand) that pedophilia and homosexuality are as distinct as statutory rape and heterosexuality. By coming out with this new document the Church appears to be doing something about cleaning house with respect to its sexual problems, while not having to go to the trouble of actually doing anything. Since it appears (from my one data point) that seminaries are not necessarily doing anything different about accepting gay people, the Church gets to have it's gay priests and eat them, too.