This Document is a Trojan Horse!
In its present form, as leaked to the public, the "Instruction concerning the criteria of vocational discernment regarding persons with homosexual tendencies, considering their admission to seminary and to Holy Orders" to be issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education on November 29, 2005, should be withdrawn before it is even released.
As response to the clergy sex scandal which the Vatican mistakenly views as rooted in "gay culture" in general and a U.S. culture of "pan-sexuality and sexual licentiousness," it is not only ineffective but a potential boomerang that may come to haunt its originators. Church leadership should look instead at a world-wide clerical culture of secrecy and the assumption of special privilege that appears to justify the tradition of bishops becoming complicit in crimes by handling accusations against priests internally, by concealing evidence, by transferring priest predators from parish to parish, by protecting the guilty, and by failing to inform secular authorities of criminal activities among priests in their jurisdiction. These are global problems and can only be overcome by admitting the sins of the past, facing centuries of whitewashing tombs, and insisting on radical transparency on all levels of church administration.
There is, in fact, no scientific correlation linking homosexuality and pedophilia except for the obvious fact that gay pedophiles prey on boys and heterosexual pedophiles prey on girls. Since some 90% of the population are heterosexuals, in the general population the vast majority of pedophiles are men (usually married) and most victims are girls. However, the practice of clerical celibacy has provided a safe environment not only for gay men but men who suffer from a variety a paraphilias, including pedophilia, in the clergy, and that -- in addition to the ready availability of altar boys -- accounts for the relatively large proportion of male victims among those abused by priests or brothers and fosters the appearance of homosexuality as responsible for pedophilia.
Threatening to ban gays from the clergy will not solve the problem. It will only drive some homosexuals deeper into the closet, reinforce the malignant culture of secrecy, encourage homophobia, and deprive the Church of many of its very finest priests. Most significantly and ironically, it seems that in the process of "cleaning house" this Vatican document could be used to challenge the legitimacy of the entire clerical structure of the Church.
In the document it is claimed that:
According to the constant Tradition of the Church, baptized males alone may validly receive Holy Orders. ...[T]he 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. ...Vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. Responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to Him in love. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient and there is no right to receive Ordination. It is the duty of the Church-- in Her responsibility to define the necessary requisites for the reception of the Sacraments instituted by Christ--to discern the qualification of he who wishes to enter the seminary, to accompany him during his years of formation and to call him to Holy Orders, if he be judged to be in possession of the requisite qualities.
If this were true, it would, of course, have been true throughout the history of the Church, and the ordination of gay men would always have been as invalid as it is now claimed was the ordination of Ludmila Javorova in the 1970s by Bishop Felix Davidek in the underground church of Czechoslovakia. In other words, like women, homosexuals would never have been actually ordained and their confection of the Holy Eucharist or their performance of the sacraments would always have been invalid. This also applies to the faculties of gay bishops to confirm and ordain. Since, on the one hand, there is irrefutable evidence of the presence of gay priests, bishops, and popes throughout the history of the Church, and, on the other hand, it is impossible to identify homosexuals who have concealed their sexual orientation, or to distinguish between "deep-rooted" and "transitory" homosexual tendencies, such an assumption effectively calls into question the legitimacy of the world-wide Catholic priesthood throughout history. We can either accept this document and be left with doubt cast on the legitimacy of all priests, bishops, and popes, since at some point in the past, an invalid ordination may have broken the chain of apostolic succession, or we can reject this document as irreconcilable with the Church as it has in fact existed throughout its tradition.
Ingrid Shafer, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma
Vice-President, Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church