A Disaster for the Church?
This is the worst kind of prejudice, and should be seen as an embarrassment for the Church, rather than the basis for its selection of candidates for the sacrament of orders.And there's no worse demoralizer than that.
If a Vatican directive barring homosexuals from the priesthood appears, it will be a disaster for the Catholic Church. First, it would mean setting aside the example of countless hardworking and faithful gay men who have served as priests, and who have lived their promises of celibacy with integrity. Many American Catholics accept their gay pastors, trusting that they lead celibate lives and valuing their ministry in their parishes. Others go further in praising the contribution of gay priests. In an article in the conservative journal First Things, Father Richard John Neuhaus wrote, “It would seem more than likely that, in centuries past, some priests who have been canonised as saints would meet today’s criteria as having a homosexual orientation.”
Second, such a ban would unjustly place blame for the abuse crisis on all gay priests, even the celibate ones, not just those few psychologically sick men who preyed on young boys. It wrongly conflates homosexuality with paedophilia, which is not only bad science, it is an affront to gays and lesbians, as well as an indication of just how little the Vatican seems to understand about human sexuality.
Third, during a crisis of plummeting vocations, any ban would drastically diminish the pool of applicants to seminaries and religious orders. And a number of gay men already in the process of training for the priesthood – in novitiates and seminaries around the country – have confided to me that if they were no longer officially permitted to advance to ordination, they would have to leave. It’s hard not to feel special sorrow for these men, who, after many years of discernment and prayer, will be faced with a terrible choice: either lie and be ordained, or leave and deny your vocation.
The reduction in the pool of applicants would not result simply from fewer gay vocations. Some heterosexual men have told me that they would be less likely to enter a religious order or seminary that evinces such an attitude to some of their fellow human beings.
Finally, a document like the one Archbishop O’Brien predicts would in effect say to gay priests: you should never have been ordained.