Monday, 6 February 2012

There are not enough Catholic priests. Why not reintroduce a married priesthood?

Prayer can only do so much. Vocations to the priesthood
remain low and creative change is needed to re-build the priesthood.

How Catholic Priests are chosen to enter the seminary and finally be ordained to Holy Orders. Sexual orientation is a key aspect of this process.
by Tom Thorne
When Catholic males decide to become a priest they know from the outset that they will be subjected to a lengthy period of discernment and scrutiny. This effort is made to make certain that they are able to deal with the rigors of the life of a priest and also that they have a strong spiritual calling, plus a strong enough character to maintain a celibate state.
Candidates are put through a process of discernment not only to examine their spiritual calling but also their sexual orientation. If they show or admit to homosexual tendencies then they are politely asked to reconsider their call to the priesthood. In fact they will not proceed further since their sexual orientation bars them from the priesthood according to a Vatican edict.
The Vatican document about this process is called: Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to persons with Homosexual Tendencies in the view of their admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders. This instruction was approved by the Pope on 5 November 2005.
The Vatican says it has in place a protocol designed to discover those with homosexual tendencies. How well this process works is not known. I suppose that a candidate for the priesthood would come clean under the scrutiny of a discernment. To do otherwise would be to lie which would create an immediate psychological tussle for the candidate.
The Vatican is free from all civil laws and the rights people now have to have their homosexual activity and orientation decriminalized and accepted as a normal human state of being. Church ideas about homosexuality are set within the bounds of Canon Law  and The Catechism which is an internal system that anyone making their way to the priesthood must agree adopt and go by.
There is no equal concern apparent in this document for heterosexual tendencies which can also be a problem should someone slips through the cracks of priestly discernment with any negative heterosexual tendencies which could as easily also be "disordered".
So where does all this  leave homosexuals in the church? Probably In the closet. How do you answer a call to become a priest if you have homosexual inclinations? Stay in the closet. Deny your sexuality and go into some kind of mental limbo state. Cannot a person with a homosexual orientation serve God?
The answer is no. You are expected  admit to your " gravely disordered" state. The implications of this Vatican document  is that "divine grace" is not available to a candidate for the priesthood who is a homosexual. Heterosexuals only need apply. 
In the same breath the church states that we should make all efforts to not shun the person in question in the sense that the person should be exposed to Christian charity and understanding. It all creates a  very approach-avoidance situation and is certainly hypocritical.
Just because someone is a homosexual or a heterosexual for that matter does not mean that they are going to become a pedophile or a sexual predator if they become a priest. That would be equally disordered, to use the Vatican language. 
In the previous piece I wrote on this topic I suggested that the lonely celibate life of a priest may create conditions where the successful control of celibacy can lapse whatever the priest's sexual orientations may be.
How does the church discover whether a candidate for the priesthood is a homosexual and why is that state any more important than discovering whether someone is heterosexual?  Why does it matter? The Vatican document does not say it merely places the responsibility for this process in the hands of Bishops and Rectors of seminaries.
So how do the Bishops and rectors of seminaries do this work? Do they use psychological tests? Do they confront all candidates with a questionnaire? Before the civil law was changed officer candidates entering the military, for example, were subjected to a number of psychological tests in my experience 
Being gay in the military was a no no in my time and the officer selection process tired to find any potential homosexual before they were accepted.  I also know that this process failed to uncover several people I know about. Now of course the military after a tortured experience over the years has largely come to terms with sexual orientation.
I imagine that priest selection is also very similar to the old military selection process which was designed to discover one's sexual orientation but also whether you were inclined to psychopathic tendencies before they let you in. 
This test looked to find disordered personalities and rooted out homosexual sexual orientation but since the military did not expect "divine" help it missed its objectives quite often. Over time it was realized that the tests they used were flawed and biased.
So diocese and seminary people have to find some way to implement the Vatican directions. It must be very tough. Many candidates for the priesthood probably are working out themselves how they will deal with celibacy  requirements of a Catholic priest whether they are homosexual or heterosexual in their orientation.
And just because they are homosexual there is no reason to think that they will turn into pedophiles or sexual predators more than heterosexuals will once they are in the priesthood. Is a homosexual with the divine grace to become a priest not able to control themselves implementing the rule of celibacy? Probably no more or less than a heterosexual. 
So why does the Vatican pick on homosexuals? First there are negative biblical references concerning homosexuality and the fact that they consider a homosexual act to be "against natural law". However the vow of celibacy would curtail any possibility of a homosexual act happening equally as it would preclude a heterosexual act. Celibacy puts sexuality on ice.
Maybe the Church doesn't trust this vow of chaste celibacy that it gives to its priests. If they did trust it then there would be no concern for any priest's sexual orientation. The Vatican's directions on this matter are clearly one sided and politically correct in the sense that they get rid of any problem before it can happen. 

Even if the rule for celibacy was dropped tomorrow the Church would still maintain its views on homosexuality. Only heterosexual marriage would be recognized if priests could marry again.  And since the Church priest selection process will have filtered away any priest with a homosexual orientation, the problem surely would never arise if and when the celibacy rule is rescinded.
If the Vatican is confident  it has implemented a no homosexual process for selecting priests there should be no reason why the sacrament of marriage could not be extended to any of the heterosexuals that are now manning the parishes of the Catholic Church. However, if the church implements marriage for priests it may open marriage for all priests whatever their sexual orientation.
© Copyright 2012, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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