"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

THAT document has been leaked!

Of course. Somebody in the Vatican has slipped to the news agency Adista (the Italian counterpart of the National Catholic Reporter, so not quite as decorous) the text of the new Instruction on THE CRITERIA OF VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT REGARDING PERSONS WITH HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES IN VIEW OF THEIR ADMISSION TO SEMINARIES AND HOLY ORDERS. (Click here for the PDF in Italian.) The explosive topic of homosexuality in the priesthood, on which I've written several times before, invites this classic case of Romanità: testing the waters by leaking the truth prematurely while maintaining plausible deniability. Nonetheless, the text and the unofficial translation by Robert Mickens seem authentic. (Biretta tip to Rocco at Whispers in the Loggia for posting the latter.)

On that supposition, I must say I am pleased. Issued with the Pope's formal approval by the Congregation for Catholic Education, the instruction sets forth a most salient and needed pastoral rule. Having reiterated the CCC's distinction between homosexual acts, which are "intrinsically" disordered, and homosexual inclinations, which are "objectively" disordered, the instruction continues (emphasis added).

In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, together with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, deems it necessary to clearly affirm that the Church, even while deeply respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to seminary or Holy Orders those who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.

That, in essence, is what's been expected for months. I myself have hammered away at the theme—which ought to be obvious, given Church teaching—that those who support the homosexual subculture should not be ordained even if they are perfectly continent themselves. But two evident qualifiers will allow the Church's defenders to rebut the usual charges of homophobia and unjust discrimination.

One is that not every man who has experienced same-sex attraction in the past, or even acted on it sexually in the past, is ipso facto excluded. Thus: When dealing, instead, with homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem, as, for example, delayed adolescence, these must be clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination. That is most important. It shows that the Vatican's concern is not to punish people who have had a problem in their pasts but to keep out of priestly ministry those who still have the problem or, worse, don't think it really is a problem.

The other qualifier is implicit in the phrase who support the so-called gay culture. It should be noted that such a category includes some straights as well as many gays. Straights who support the gay culture—one whose premises, after all, are incompatible with the teaching of the Church—should no more be ordained than gays who support the gay culture. And the same holds, or should hold, across the board: men who do not accept the constant and irreformable teaching of the Church on whatever topic should not be ordained to the priesthood.

None of this is going to be popular with the secular media or the wider world whose values are shaped and reflected by the secular media. Nor, I'm afraid, will it be much more popular in many chanceries, where passive resistance to Roman directives is habitual and, in some cases, the Lavender Mafia still actually rules. But if bishops and religious superiors actually follow this Instruction's norms, there will be much improvement.

If, if, if... As I have repeated in many contexts before this one, the main problem with reforming the clergy is that reforming the clergy is mostly up to the clergy. As a layman I understand the difficulty of getting ordinary Catholics to believe what the Church teaches and at least strive to act accordingly. But the problem is soluble with a clergy that actually believes what the Church teaches about the truly controversial topics. The difficulty of getting enough clergy like that is one that I have a very hard time understanding and, as a layman, can do rather little about. Perhaps the Pope and his men can do more with messages like that of this new instruction.

What it comes down to is that the Chaputs must prevail over the Mahonys.
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