UPDATE: An interesting flurry in the Italian press, January 2009:
The 2005 Vatican document barring homosexually oriented men from becoming priests was widely interpreted as applying only to men whose sexuality would weigh on them to a point that it would create difficulties in relating to the faithful, especially women, in the mode of spiritual fatherhood. The heads of religious orders, notably Timothy Radcliffe OP, and many bishops used this interpretation, aiming to blunt the impact of the document and render it inoperative.
John Heard (Dreadnought), an ardent defender of this interpretation, claims that the new Vatican document about psychological testing of seminarians --
-- poses no problems to chaste "same-sex attracted" men entering the priesthood: http://johnheard.blogspot.com/2008/11/dreadpriests-pope-benedict-xvi-vatican.html. The Vatican give a report of the press conference on this document:
http://18.104.22.168/news_services/bulletin/news/22835.php?index=22835&lang=it, in which I do not see the remarks of Cardinal Grocholewski on homosexuality reported elsewhere:
-- remarks which according to Heard also pose no problem to the entry of same-sex attracted men into seminaries. James Alison sees the new Vatican report as playing down Cardinal Grocholewski's view and the 2005 Instruction, as the Vatican slowly shifts to recognizing that it is untenable to treat homosexuality as pathological. http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng53.html
The new document has only one direct reference to homosexuality: "The course of formation should be interrupted in the case in which the candidate, despite his commitment, the support of the psychologist and the psychotherapy, continues to manifest an incapacity to face realistically, albeit with the gradualness of every human growth, his own grace immaturities (strong affective dependences, notable lack of freedom in relationships, eccessive rigidity of character, uncertain sexual identity, STRONGLY ROOTED HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES, and so on." [Il cammino formativo dovrà essere interrotto nel caso in cui il candidato, nonostante il suo impegno, il sostegno dello psicologo o la psicoterapia, continuasse a manifestare incapacità ad affrontare realisticamente, sia pure con la gradualità di ogni crescita umana, le proprie gravi immaturità (forti dipendenze affettive, notevole mancanza di libertà nelle relazioni, eccessiva rigidità di carattere, mancanza di lealtà, identità sessuale incerta, tendenze omosessuali fortemente radicate, e così via).]
The lenifying interpretation would no doubt say that in listing the "tendencies" among forms of "grave immaturity" the document cannot be referring to homosexual orientation as such. Recall that Cardinal Grocholewski in a "30 Giorni" interview in November 2005 formally rejected Timothy Radcliffe's interpretation: (The new document leaves it open to gay seminarians to follow Radcliffe's interpretation)
30 Giorni: "The Instruction has been criticized even within the world of the Church. The former Master General of the Dominicans, Father Timothy Radcliffe, wrote in The Tablet that he has no doubt that God calls homosexuals to the priesthood and that they «are among the most committed and dedicated priests I have met»… "
GROCHOLEWSKI: "We know that every priestly vocation is a call from the Lord, but the call comes through the Church, in the Church and for the Church. For that reason the Church has the right, indeed the duty, of determining the requisites necessary for being admitted to the priesthood. One cannot deny that certain people with homosexual tendencies can carry out their priesthood in exemplary manner. The purpose of our document is the fact that it is nevertheless not proper to call these people to the priesthood. I understand that it is a grave decision, but it was not taken lightly."
He also said, and says, that deep-seated heterosexual tendencies are OK, which contradicts the idea that deep-seated tendencies mean something other than basic sexual orientation.
Cardinal Grocholewski distinguishes the deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which he sees as a variety of psychological immaturity, from transitory ones, which are not a bar to priesthood if one has outgrown them. In the 2005 interview he said: "As an example of transitory tendency our document lists the case of incomplete adolescence. But there can also be other cases. For example the case of those who have performed homosexual acts in a state of drunkenness, or of those who did so as a result of determined circumstances, such as having spent many years in prison. Or of those who have done so out of obedience to a superior or to earn money. In these cases, however, for the sake of prudence, to check that it is a matter of a truly transitory tendency, it is well that a fitting period of time be allowed to pass, which the document establishes as three years, before proceeding to ordination as deacon."
This excludes the idea that a gay person who has not been sexually active for three years would be welcome in a seminary -- a very wilful misconstrual of the document, which nonetheless has circulated widely!
The situation is something like that of the Motu Proprio restoring the Tridentine Mass and Cardinal Grocholewski is placed in the position that Cardinal Castrillon Hojos or the hapless Archbishop Ranjith hold on the liturgical front. It seems to me that Cardinal Grocholewski is desperately trying to suppress the interpretation that disables his 2005 document. The acrobatics to which the novel Catholic hermeneutics of reception, first practiced in the episcopal responses to Humanae Vitae (1968), has had recourse are now so well-developed that thay can take in their stride the most acute contradictions. This is a measure of the distance between Vatican edicts and what is credible and practicable at ground level. But it is a curious way of dealing with truth. (See http://josephsoleary.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/12/vatican_instruc.html.)
It seems to me that the Cardinal's attitude is abusive and that, if implemented, it would be very damaging to the young men subjected to the psychological testing he advocates. In addition there is the wider abuse of a teaching that confirms ancient homophobic attitudes of the Catholic Church. Unless we have the clarity to name an abuse for what it is, we become ourselves perpetrators and perpetuators of abuse.
Another abusive aspect of the situation is the top-down style of communication adopted by the Vatican. In the USA this style of communication has met its Waterloo, as millions of Catholics simply ignored the shrill, authoritarian utterances of their bishops. President-elect Obama, in contrast, created grass roots understanding and consensus, something the Vatican and its bishops no longer even attempt.
There seems to be a new tightening of the rather sinister logic about sexuality and priesthood in these utterances. It was discerned in the 1990s that women could not be priests, for ontological reasons. Now it seems that gay men similarly are ontologically incapable of priesthood -- a point stressed to the degree that some are wondering if homosexually oriented priests are validly ordained at all! Well, bad logic often leads to weird results.
Commentary from gay and non-gay Catholics has been for the most part in the vein of angry reaction, which is quite justified. Yet it is vital that we shift Catholic gay discourse from the register of reacting to Vatican provocations to that of building a solid corpus of wisdom. See
Note that the behaviors listed by the Cardinal as reflective of "transitory" tendencies are indeed immature behavior, whereas he makes a serious category mistake when he equates sexual orientation with immaturity.
It is also a mistake to refer to orientation, both heterosexual and homosexual, as a deep-seated tendency. The word 'tendency' is a weird denial of the reality of sexual orientation. John Heard similarly reduces homosexual orientation to sporadic same-sex attraction, in another tactic of denial.
The phrase "same-sex attracted" is supposed to be a neutral term, but the motive for its invention is to avoid giving any positive identity or valorization to homosexual orientation, as the word "gay" does. It is an ideologically motivated term, directed against gay identity politics. On the phenomenological plane "same-sex attracted" is as gauche and clunky and wooden a phrase as "other-sex attracted" would be to describe heterosexuals. The vilification of the phrase "sexual orientation" feeds into the lies of "Christianists" who want to characterize sexual orientation either as a sinful "choice" or as an "affliction" from which grace and the sect's love-bombing can magically redeem the afflicted one or again as an "objective disorder" (since "orientation" is a word that does not suggest a disorder but rather a natural variant of sexuality). These little linguistic battles are an effort to see the phenomena plain after two millennia of mystification.
Such psychological mistakes are in fact ideologically motivated. One might even find a resemblance to the Stalinist use of psychology as a tool of ideological conformity. The Catholic Church can do without such methods.
The ideological use of bad and outdated psychology is of course thriving in cult-like groups such as Exodus International; see
Again, I think the Catholic Church can do better.
UPDATE Diogenes -- http://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/otr.cfm?id=4875 -- reveals how Vatican statements are recycled in the increasingly shrill rhetoric of Palinesque culture warriors:
"So here's the next move in the culture wars, an editorial cloud no bigger than a man's suspiciously well-groomed hand."
COMMENT: Homophobic innuendo is rife in neocath blogdom -- but the Vatican documents themselves provide the material that sustains these attitudes.
"The Los Angeles Times has an editorial deploring the Holy See's newly-issued Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood. Why? Because, according to the Times, the document emphasizes
that even chaste gay men are to be barred from the priesthood. Never mind that large numbers of gay priests -- estimates range from 25% to 50% -- already serve the faithful, with most adhering to their vow of celibacy.
"The Guidelines never mention the word "gay"; the Holy See is concerned -- as the Times is not -- to keep libido distinct from behavior, and both distinct from conviction."
COMMENT: The Vatican document mentions deep-seated homosexual tendencies; the passage quoted respects the difference between orientation and sexual acts just as much as the Vatican does.
"Nor is it surprising that, for the nonce, most homosexual priests have remained celibate, that is, unmarried. Celibacy is not chastity, however, and anyone who thinks most self-declared gay priests are chaste is deceiving himself."
COMMENT: The newspaper's claim referred to all gay priests, not just to the self-declared ones.
"That said, it's true that the Holy See's unwillingness to admit homosexual priests is broader than avoidance of sodomy. The Church teaches homosexual appetite is in itself disordered, and the psychic disturbance that attends the disorder should be healed before a man is admitted to the priesthood, even if he's physically continent."
COMMENT: Here we see something like hate speech piggy-backing on the Vatican's cool statements. Also, since homosexuality is views as a disorder accompanied by a psychic disturbance, the call for healing of the latter implies a call for the healing of the former, which suggests that Diogenes subscribes to the ex-gay cult mythology. Or has Diogenes thought out the implication of what he is saying? Is he merely spewing hatred? There are legions of such Catholics and they see themselves as doing the Vatican's work.
"It's this unwavering insistence on the homosexual libido as disordered that makes the Times editors so indignant:
The Vatican's hard line against chaste gay priests seems to be inspired by the condemnation the church justly received for its passive response to the sexual abuse of minors -- most of them male -- by some priests. But, as Pope Benedict XVI conceded during his visit to the United States this year, homosexuality isn't the same as pedophilia. That statement was a rebuke to conservative Catholics, and others, who have attempted to equate the two. (Despite the pope's enlightened comments, he approved last month's statement.)
"As this conservative Catholic has insisted, the problem isn't gays, but priests who sodomize persons of the same gender; blue collar slang provides several technically accurate alternatives to the gay-label."
COMMENT: This conservative Catholic feels that his religion obliges him to use unprintable hate speech.
"But the motive for the Guidelines suggested by the Times is false. As Msgr. Bruguès made clear at last month's press conference, the document was initiated back in 1995, seven years prior to the general crisis and condemnation to which the Times refers. The ignorance imputed to the Holy See is, in reality, the Times' own blunder presented to us as a deduction."
COMMENT: Nonetheless, the timing of the crackdown on gay seminarians, as well as some comments made at the time of its publication in 2005, leave no doubt that the sexual abuse of minors was a major determining factor. The idea that the Church only now, unprompted, discovered that gays are incapable of spiritual paternity, is not plausible.
"Having grudgingly conceded that the Church enjoys the right to enforce even unenlightened norms among her own members, the editors' next move is to insinuate that the psychologists who assist the Church in screening seminarians are guilty of an ethics violation:
Yet even if the U.S. church is following a more compassionate policy than Vatican pronouncements would seem to authorize, the role of psychologists in screening applicants raises troubling ethical questions, as even psychologists who approve of such cooperation admit. Aiding the church in weeding out homosexuals is hard to reconcile with these guidelines of the American Psychological Assn.
"Troubling ethical questions. Right. Note the kicker in the last paragraph:
If the church -- or a diocese within the church -- takes the Vatican decree literally, it's hard to see how a psychologist could lend his or her expertise to the thwarting of a young man's aspiration to serve God simply because he happens to be gay. In our view, that's not just cruel; it's unprofessional.
"Does the Times really care about psychologists' smirching their honor? Of course not. The point is to increase the odium directed at the teaching Church, and, more importantly, to nudge the issue of the Church's stance on homosexuality out of the "free exercise" sphere toward the publicly regulated sphere, as a potential violation of civil rights."
COMMENT: The point is not to increase the odium but to point out one further odious effect of an account of homosexual orientatation that contradicts psychological expertise and common sense. A psychologist who lends himself or herself to this charade might be compared to one who would offer his or her services to determine whether a woman was a witch.
"Pay attention to how the language sets up the move. We're presented with a young man whose wish to serve God (and we all know the esteem the Times has for THAT desire) has been thwarted "simply because he happens to be gay." So we've got a wholesome wish (priesthood) that a man who "happens" to be disqualified is prevented from realizing "simply because" he has that disqualification."
COMMENT: There are certainly such young men. Is Diogenes such a cynic that he cannot believe that?
" Where have we heard that language before? First the plea is for tolerance, then acceptance, then ennoblement, and finally compulsion of those who refuse to acknowledge the new regime.
"What's behind the fury fueling the protests against Proposition 8? Outrage that voters still have a right to be wrong -- and the Church (in the protestors' view) is the villainess at the back of the bigotry. What the Times calls cruel and unprofessional today will inevitably be termed intolerable tomorrow."
COMMENT: The fury over Proposition 8 came firstly from gays themselves, who believe they should have the right to marry. The Church denies them this right, but offers no credible explanation or no substantial support for any alternative. The wish for gay marriage is just as wholesome as the wish to be a seminarian; in both cases we are dealing with a generous, loving commitment.