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Papal Infallibility: No More Homosexuals, No More Pedophiles?

May 21st, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

The Vatican, through its Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, has confirmed that homosexuals must not be granted admission into a seminary. The letter restates the instruction previously offered in 2005. I suspect the inference is that a ban on homosexuals will serve to halt the molestation of children. I think the issue is far more complex and I’ll elaborate below.

In a brief letter to the world’s bishops, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, underlined that a November 2005 policy statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education is “valid for all formation houses for the priesthood,” including those administered by religious orders, the Eastern Catholic churches, and missionary territories.

Cardinal Bertone’s letter — which, he noted, was specifically approved by Pope Benedict XVI — refers to the Instruction released by the Congregation for Catholic Education in November 2005, saying that neither active homosexuals nor celibate men with “profoundly deep-rooted homosexual tendencies” should be ordained to the priesthood or allowed to begin seminary training.

That Vatican document, which has now been reinforced, instructed bishops and religious superiors to use “painstaking discernment” in appraising the candidates for priestly training. Candidates who are identifiably homosexual are not qualified for ordination, the Vatican said. “In the case of a serious doubt in this respect, they must not admit him to ordination,” the document added.

Since the release of the Instruction in November 2005, some bishops and religious superiors had questioned whether the policy was to be applied universally throughout the Church. Cardinal Bertone’s letter, which he wrote to all the world’s bishops and religious superiors in response “to numerous requests for clarification,” answers those questions in the affirmative.

The letter removes a number of uncertainties that resulted from the prior instruction. Many felt the instruction didn’t specifically prohibit homosexuals from entering the seminary or the priesthood so long as they didn’t act upon their inclinations and remained celibate. The letter makes it clear that the determining factor is the simple existence of homosexual tendencies.

When the instruction was first issued, it drew both praise and criticism in light of the church’s long history of hiding and harboring those who had engaged in numerous instances of child molestation. At the time, many who criticized the instruction suspected that homosexuals were apt to bear the brunt of the Vatican’s response to the scandal. Regardless, the decision to single out homosexuals was anticipated despite the fact that a number of the molestation’s involved children of the opposite sex. In fact, this action is being carried out despite the fact that pedophilia is not an adjunct to homosexuality any more than it is to heterosexuality.

Rather than explore the fact that a system of celibacy may be an innately flawed construct, the church has chosen to place the blame and the responsibility on homosexuals. It’s not that simple. I’ve long contended that the construct of celibacy is apt to appeal to those who feel their sexual desires are inappropriate. The concept of remaining celibate as an act of religious devotion may well lead these individuals to assume that it can be a viable means to suppress the desires they fear.

Choosing religious service may also appear to present a reasonable method to compensate for the guilt that would result from an awareness of the unacceptable nature of desires directed towards children. While this is clearly flawed logic, entering the seminary may appear to be their only palatable means to address the problem.

The fact that many of these individuals engaged in multiple instances of child molestation is evidence that they were in deep denial about their capacity to control their inappropriate desires. At the same time, it is difficult to ignore the flaws in a system that promotes celibacy and then participates in covering up the criminal acts of its own members for forty years without ever exploring the degree to which its own structure contributed to the problem by attracting and enabling perpetrators.

Logic tells us that well-adjusted homosexuals have the same capacity to commit to celibacy as their heterosexual counterparts. The fact that the Church has chosen to address the scandal by concluding that the mere presence of homosexuality should disqualifying candidates from consideration is absurd. Rejecting or removing homosexuals will not put an end to pedophilia any more than it will insure celibacy.

My own experience with the Catholic Church includes numerous instances of priests and nuns engaging in affairs with opposite sex partners and subsequently leaving their positions in the church. Many of these individuals subsequently married and lived normal, productive lives. For years, I’ve argued that this exodus merely represented the departure of those individuals who were well-adjusted. When this happened, the sexual escapades of countless heterosexual priests and nuns didn’t result in an instruction to ban any individual deemed to possess “profoundly deep-rooted” heterosexual tendencies…tendencies they might be prone to act upon. When this occurred, it left behind numerous other clergymen who couldn’t come to terms with their sexual orientation and/or sought and needed the cover of the church to enable their criminal actions (pedophilia).

Look, the bottom line is that the Church has always had an obligation to protect children from predators…whether the perpetrators be heterosexually or homosexually inclined. Presumably, they also have a compelling interest in insuring that their members honor their vows of celibacy. Exclusively intertwining homosexuality with the former without any consideration for one’s adherence to the latter is clearly an inconsistent application of responsibility and blame. It also ignores reality.

Creating a policy to ban homosexuals is simply the means by which inequitable treatment is being codified. I suspect it is also intended to infer that the Church’s forty years of complicity in failing to halt the molestation of children can and should be attributed to the homosexuals they allowed to serve…insinuating that homosexuals are inherently flawed and unfit to serve…regardless of their ability and willingness to remain celibate.

Let me be clear. The Catholic Church isn’t bound by the same standards of equality found in civil society. Hence, it is their prerogative to apply church doctrine as they deem appropriate. The position of the church has long been that simply being oriented towards homosexuality isn’t wrong in and of itself. At the same time, the Church states that it is always morally wrong to act upon that inclination. Hence salvation is available to gays so long as they never act upon it.

The Church’s new position prohibiting homosexuals from entering a seminary is a further step towards negatively distinguishing gays apart from their heterosexual counterparts. In effect, this instruction concludes that gays are unsuitable to serve in the clergy. In doing so, the Church has clearly altered its position. Unfortunately, the assumption that doing so sufficiently addresses the issue of pedophilia cannot be sustained. It also allows the Church to ignore any meaningful discussion of the merits of celibacy or an exploration of whether it was a contributing factor in the child molestation scandal.

Parents taking comfort that this ruling will resolve the long standing child molestation scandal may want to reconsider…especially if their motivation is to insure the safety of their children. The fact that the Church has elected to throw gays under the bus won’t insure that the same bus isn’t the means by which one’s children are being delivered to those who would do them harm.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. 3 Responses to “Papal Infallibility: No More Homosexuals, No More Pedophiles?”

  2. By Jersey McJones on May 21, 2008 | Reply

    Well, this is a tough one. I wouldn’t look at it so much as banning homosexuals from the clergy as banning extremely religious Catholic homosexuals from the clergy. There’s a huge difference. It is the confluence of homosexuality and Catholic morality that is at the root of most of the Priest sex scandals. It’s not as if a non-Catholic homosexual would want to be a priest in the first place.

    It’s a shame that they have to do this as I’m sure there are plenty of fine upsrtanding gay clerics in the church. But as there appears to be no changing doctrine on homosexuality, the church has no other choice.

    It’s just a lose, lose, lose.


  3. By Paul Merda on May 21, 2008 | Reply

    What should one expect from a bunch on non-rational theocrats anyway? If you can swallow the tripe that is the bible, then I think you can easily swallow the tripe that gays and child molesters are the same… Morons.

  4. By Craig R. Harmon on May 22, 2008 | Reply


    I see nothing here that equates homosexuality with pedophilia or gays with child molesters either explicitly or implicitly. The RC Church may be open to criticism on many counts but I don’t think that that is one of them.

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