Sunday, September 18, 2005

NFPC on The Visits

With thanks to a dear pastor for sending it along, Fr. Bob Silva, head of the National Federation of Priests Councils, has issued a strong statement in anticipation of the Visitation process:

Let me begin my few comments by saying that once again, our brothers and sisters who are homosexual are subjected to a somewhat demeaning discussion of their very selves. According to many of those who have called or written, the public discussions that have taken place so far have indicated a kind of discrimination, not against behavior, but against identity. One can imagine how hurtful this must be.

The question arises: How are gay men and women who are ordained or serving as ministers in the Church to respond to discussions that indicate that they are incapable of remaining free from compulsive sexual behavior? Are they to assume that they are not fit for official ministerial service? If so, are they to withdraw from their positions in ministry? Surely this kind of deliberation is terribly emotionally wounding of an individual. Even then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger held this position to be “unfounded and demeaning.” (On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)

To be sure, the Church must confront issues of sexuality that surface in any house of formation. Heterosexuals and homosexuals all must be about the life-task of integrating their lives, sexual and otherwise. It is not unreasonable for the church to review its formation policies and practices in this regard. But, to exclude a homosexual man as a candidate on the basis that it is harder for a gay man to be celibate than it is for a straight man to be celibate is unreasonable. I think experience would prove such an assumption just is not true. Straight men must live in a world where over 80% of their colleagues in ministry are women. Not to expect them to experience serious struggle in the attempt to live the celibate life makes no sense. Yet, the expectation is that they would live a celibate life.

As the Church prepares men for celibate living in priestly ministry, there are a few things I think would be necessary. First, the reason for celibacy must be clear, compelling and engaging. Second, There must be a realization that celibacy is a way of living that does not deny sexuality, but is a charism and a virtue that enhances the sexual power of an individual to engage in intimate relationships that are mutually life-giving. Third, this presupposes a fairly full understanding of the nature of human sexuality and the place of genitality on the spectrum of sexual experience. It requires physical, sociological, psychological knowledge and self-understanding. Fourth, it requires that celibacy be understood and experienced as a positive force for living life in union with Jesus Christ. In other words, the spirituality of the gift of celibacy helps one discover in the lived experience of the celibate the presence of the saving Christ and the Living God.

Well said.

-30-

7 Comments:

Blogger Jason Cardona said...

The self-pity card gets old.

So homosexuals cannot be ordained.

Ok.

Eunechs can't get married.

Kleptomaniacs can't work in a jewelery store.

The deaf and blind can't be movie reviewers.

That's life. I would love to be a professional football player. But I'm not physically fit, anymore than a homosexual is psychologically fit to be a Priest.

Furthermore, a homosexual cannot be "celibate". Celibacy is the voluntary renunciation of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. A homosexual man does not voluntarily give up marriage. He can be chaste, but not celibate.

If the only consideration is chastity, then there should be no problem ordaining pedophiles, so long as they don't indulge their disorder.

Somehow, I don't think that would go over well in a Parish. For good reason. The problem is not that a pedophile or homosexual can't be celibate. Not only can they be celibate; they can be Saints. The problem is that their sexual/psychological disorder is not conducive to the exercise of the priestly ministry, for a variety of reasons. Hence, they are excluded.

Rather than weeping and wailing, "We is we", discern your true vocation. You don't have to be a Priest to serve the Church.

18/9/05 21:30  
Blogger Jason Cardona said...

*"Woe is we"

18/9/05 21:32  
Blogger Jeff said...

Well said, Jason.

I think that Ratzinger in the '86 Report cited (once again) out of context makes a deeper point.

Pedophiles don't IDENTIFY themselves as pedophiles. They may recognize that they have this sad affliction, but they see it as a PROBLEM, a blemish, something to be wrestled with. They don't claim it as a constituent part of their very identities.

In this sense, Ratzinger in the cited document is quite right to say that the Church refuses to recognize that there are any such THINGS as "homosexuals" and "heterosexuals":

Today, the Church provides a badly needed context for the care of the human person when she refuses to consider the person as a "heterosexual" or a "homosexual" and insists that every person has a fundamental Identity: the creature of God, and by grace, his child and heir to eternal life."

The real disservice to "gay" people is buying into the whole notion that there are two orientations, both in some sense natural. There are just human beings, children of God, with any number of afflictions. The tendency to intense and exclusive same sex attraction is just one of them. It doesn't produce some different 'kind' of person.

No wonder that Rocco and so many others can't seem to get beyond the attack mode when dealing with "bigots."

Still, I do think the tone of this post is far better than some. The lack of tendentiousness invites discussion, rather than an exchange of rhetoric...and that's all to the good!

18/9/05 22:30  
Blogger patrick said...

"Furthermore, a homosexual cannot be "celibate". Celibacy is the voluntary renunciation of marriage for the sake of the Kingdom. A homosexual man does not voluntarily give up marriage. He can be chaste, but not celibate."

What nonsense. By that definition, unmarriagable heterosexual bachelors aren't celibate and therefore incapable of the "voluntary renunciation" that you so describe and are therefore inappropriate for ordination. Well, if that is the standard, then John Henry Newman who had a strong aversion to women, whether homosexual or heterosexual, never had an authentic vocation to begin with.

The fact is, all homosexuals who aren't married are by definition celibate.

Having scanned Father Silva's comments, I believe I agree with him nearly 100 percent.

And yes, I think it is fair to describe those who believe that "homosexuals can never have a vocation to the priesthood" as bigots.

19/9/05 10:17  
Blogger Jason Cardona said...

Patrick,

Yes, the principle applies to men with a correctly ordered sexual appetite as well. An impotent man, for example, would not be considered a celibate in the true sense of the word. I believe, before the Council, he was not admitted to ordination either. I don't know if this is still the case. If not, however, it's still of a gravely different character than homosexuality, which is a deeply-seated psychological problem, rather than a physical one.

And I agree with what Jeff says above. Homosexuality is a politically correct disorder. It doesn't make a different kind of person, anymore than pedophilia does. Where's all the sensitivity and compassion and calls for acceptance for pedophiles? Are they not people too? Can they not be chaste?

19/9/05 11:17  
Blogger patrick said...

"And I agree with what Jeff says above. Homosexuality is a politically correct disorder. It doesn't make a different kind of person, anymore than pedophilia does. Where's all the sensitivity and compassion and calls for acceptance for pedophiles? Are they not people too? Can they not be chaste?"

I'm going to go out on a limb and take the contrarian position. You are right that there is a lack of sensitivity and compassion for pedophiles across the board. We can and should do better, though no one seems to be interested. Some pedophiles, contrary to popular opinion, can be chaste, and probably most of them are not hopelessly uncontrollable. They are not all John Geoghan-types and they certainly aren't all like the very scary killer-pedophile in Idaho. If you read psychological literature on the subject, there are different kinds of pedophilia that bear this out.

I do not believe that pedophilia as such should automatically disqualify a person from receiving Holy Orders. The issue is whether there is a realistic prospect that he will remain chaste. To use a slam-dunk example, I see no reason why pedophilia - in of itself - should be a barrier towards a vocation to the Carthusian Order. Nor for that matter would a pedophile priest be incapable of serving as a hospital chaplain, a professor in the academy, a canon lawyer, etc. etc. Regular parochial ministry, obviously, is another issue altogether, obviously. Needless to say, there aren't that many pedophiles that could remotely qualify for the clergy. And, all of this is speculative theory anyway because no one in the Church is not going to risk any additional legal liability or scandal/public relations damage for the foreseeable future.

And I continue to maintain that Jason's definition of "celibacy" is a revisionist definition that no one in the Church would not have recognized until the last few years.

19/9/05 11:55  
Blogger Jeff said...

Why don't we simply look for well-adjusted priests without obvious problems with their sexuality? Or any other serious psychological problems? Why is this so hard? I suspect that some people don't believe that there really are people with a healthy sexuality and enough maturity to control it.

Priests are for the Church, not the other way around. Sad that some people might feel they have a vocation, but there it is.

19/9/05 14:18  

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