The Drumbeat Continues....
The Rev. Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., and an influential figure in conservative Catholic circles, said the document fit into an effort by Pope Benedict XVI to ensure doctrinal purity in U.S. seminaries, which will undergo a major inspection by Vatican officials this fall.
Barring homosexuals from ordination "doesn't break any new ground or propose a new policy," Fessio said. "That's the policy that's been in effect, in theory. It's just been ignored in many areas, particularly North America."
The Vatican most recently reiterated that position in 2002, when the Congregation for Divine Worship, its department in charge of the Catholic sacraments, said that "a homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency, is not fit to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders...." John Allen Jr., the Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, a liberal weekly, reported in July that the document was on the pope's desk, awaiting his decision. Allen said in a telephone interview yesterday that it was unclear whether the pope had placed his personal imprimatur on the document, giving it greater authority, or simply authorized the Congregation for Catholic Education to issue it.
Allen also said the most recent draft contained no clear definition of homosexuality. An earlier draft that circulated in 2002 said that candidates with a "permanent, enduring" homosexual attraction should not be admitted to seminaries. But that language apparently has been dropped, leaving it unclear "where on the spectrum of sexuality -- from someone who once had a fleeting attraction 20 years ago, to someone who is actively involved in gay relationships right now -- seminaries are supposed to draw the line," Allen said.
Fessio said that if the document did not contain a clear definition, the church would need to follow up with "some standards" so that the decision was "not left entirely to individual seminaries." But he said it was unlikely that the church would take an extremely aggressive or intrusive tack, particularly toward homosexuals who are already ordained.
"I think someone who is living a good, chaste life and may be fighting some temptations, but you don't even know what they are -- I don't see how that would be a problem for that person," he said. "But if someone is cruising gay bars and promoting a gay lifestyle, someone who is saying it's all right, that it doesn't matter whether you've got this attraction or not, those kinds of people . . . should be in a different walk of life."
A U.S. priest who says he is gay but celibate, and who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear for his job, predicted that the document would push homosexual seminarians and priests further underground and ultimately be self-defeating.
"If you're not going to allow people to speak openly with their rectors and spiritual advisers and friends, if you drive it underground, you'll have less psychologically healthy men, not more healthy ones," he said. "In their effort to address the sexual abuse crisis, they're re-creating the precise kind of environment that gave rise to it."
The news of the impending publication was leaked to the American press in what some Vatican insiders believe could be a ploy to test the level of feeling about the issue among Catholics in America.
Yes, it's well possible that everyone's been baited -- could it not be a clever ploy to find out who's leaking, so that in the coming clean-up of the communications operation, the untrustworthy ones are known and promptly canned?
It's possible, well possible. Either way, a lot of careers will be affected.