Homosexuality presents problem to priesthood
Stephen R. Sanchez
class of 2001
I was disappointed, though not surprised, to see Richard Friedman's Nov. 21 article attacking the Church for reiterating its teachings on the priesthood and reiterating the position that the Sacred Congregation for Religious pronounced in 1961 that homosexuals should not be ordained as priests. This is not a new policy, only the reiteration of one that has been mostly ignored for the last 40 years. I am sure that I will draw the ire of some in the Notre Dame community for this letter, but I think it important for some clarification.
Let's start by understanding that the very nature of the priesthood is sacrifice. Priests are not supposed to be glorified social workers. Their primary duty is to administer the sacraments. Their life is a sacrifice in service. Contrary to popular belief, no one has the right to be a priest, not even heterosexual men. The priesthood is a service you are called to, by Christ, through a bishop.
No one can be positive they have a vocation to the priesthood until a validly consecrated bishop, in communion with the Church through the Pope, lays hands on the candidate and ordains him. The Church did not create the priesthood, it is only the custodian of the tradition which Christ founded. This is why the Church has always stated that it does not have the authority to ordain women. The Church has given a form to the fundamental, but it has not created it. She must be careful to guard it against distortion, and cannot add or subtract from its meaning.
The priesthood is also a position of teaching and therefore authority. This does not mean that the priest has power, but rather responsibility to be an example and an educator of the teachings of the Church. It is here that homosexuality is most evidently a problem if allowed in the priesthood.
The fact is, no one who understands the issue blames homosexuality for pedophilia. However, most of the cases in the current scandal are not pedophilia but rather sexual acts with teenagers who had reached, at least biologically, sexual maturity. A 17-year-old being abused is not the same situation as a 7-year-old being abused.
Most of the perpetrators of sexual abuse that have been brought to light have been cases where adult homosexual men, from 25 to 50 years old, have shown a preference for teenage boys. The most unfortunate part of the scandal has been that a clerical culture where homosexuals make up a significant minority has encouraged sexual immorality and covered up its most atrocious instances.
I am not trying to say that persons with a homosexual orientation necessarily advocate sexual immorality. However, any time people who are inclined to a particular activity find themselves in the company of others in like mind, the activity tends to occur. This is why you can go to the Rock on a weeknight and find yourself participating in a pick-up basketball game if you are so inclined. The tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous has the same understanding.
When a group of people who are trying to deny their learned inclination to drink get together, they can encourage each other in their restraint. But they must avoid situations where drinking occurs, or that they associated with drinking previously, until they can be sure the pressure will not be too much. They also are encouraged to find ways to relieve their lives of stress, since a high-stress life tends to discourage the healthy pressure to reform their lives for the better.
Courage, a support group for homosexuals trying to live chaste lives, strongly advises against a person with a homosexual inclination entering a seminary to become a priest. Homosexuals cannot escape the temptations of the world by becoming priests. The priesthood is not a place to run from your problems.
It is not an easy way to live out your life chastely. It is not something you do because you can't do something else. The priesthood, by its nature, is not equipped to deal with a significant number of men who suffer from the same serious afflictions. This is why alcoholism has been such a problem for the priesthood and often priests have to spend many years away from their duties to learn how to live sober lives.
It's also why former alcoholics, or recovering alcoholics, are carefully, and sometimes painfully, scrutinized before they can become priests. And even then it is an exception, not the rule, to ordain such a person. Still, if an alcoholic were to succumb to the bottle it is not the case that his action would likely result in the scandal and pain of something as serious as what we have seen over the last year.
Unfortunately, I think it can be said that we have seen over the last year the effects of a homosexual subculture in the priesthood that has destroyed the lives of many people. The problem, even then, is not persons with a homosexual orientation. It is the unfortunate culture of dissent that holds a strong sway in the Church.
It has become commonplace for priests to disagree with that or another teaching of the Church. Not only have "little ones" been led astray by this, but some have also been terribly scarred. I find it hard to imagine that this problem of pederasty would have had such a strong effect if faithfulness to the teachings of the Church and fraternal accountability had been the norm rather than "hush-hush cronyism" and dissent from teachings on sexuality.
Stephen R. Sanchez
class of 2001
Staten Island, NY
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, November 25, 2002