Homosexuality and the priesthood revisited

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, head of the Congregation for Catholic Education. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

VATICAN CITY — In 2005, the Vatican issued a long-awaited document saying the church could not ordain men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies. That document did not say, however, who should determine whether a candidate for the priesthood has homosexual tendencies.

On Thursday, the Vatican released an even longer-awaited document that partly answers that question. The “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood” states that psychological evaluation should be used when there is a suspicion of “psychic disturbances” or “grave immaturity” in a candidate — such as uncertain sexual identity or deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

It also said that in judging a candidate’s capacity for living the charism of celibacy with joy and faithfulness, his sexual orientation must be evaluated.

That prompted some questions at a Vatican press conference, and sitting on the dais to answer them was Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, whose Congregation for Catholic Education issued both documents.

One lingering doubt about the homosexuality document was whether a homosexually oriented man who was nevertheless committed to celibacy could be ordained a priest. At Thursday’s press conference, Cardinal Grocholewski gave a rather forceful “no,” and here are the essential parts of his answer:

“The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains.”

Cardinal Grocholewski was then asked why, if a man with strong heterosexual tendencies but who is celibate can be ordained, the same could not be true of a man with homosexual tendencies? His answer:

“Because it’s not simply a question of observing celibacy as such. In this case, it would be a heterosexual tendency, a normal tendency. In a certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a type of deviation, a type of irregularity, as explained in two documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that something isn’t right in the psyche of such a man. We don’t simply talk about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations.”

Commenting on the 2005 document’s distinction between “deep-seated” and “fleeting” tendencies to homosexuality, the cardinal said fleeting tendencies could be overcome. He said there were two schools of thought on this, however:

“Today, some people say homosexuality is so `structured’ that it cannot be cured. On the other hand, many others say today that homosexuality can be cured, and we even have examples of this that have been presented. So we don’t exclude the possibility of a certain cure, but there is also needed a degree of certainty that someone’s psyche has been put right, because very often this homosexual  tendency, as we know, begins to emerge later.”

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20 Responses to Homosexuality and the priesthood revisited

  1. Charles Pilon says:

    Tell me. Who could have come up with this moral theology except Roman, male, celibate clerics? An unbelievable, untenable position.

  2. Dr Joseph R Setter says:

    I agree. The wisdom of the Church is shown in this decision.

  3. Unless a person is sinfully active many times and
    cannot change he should be treated like any other
    person and be permitted ordination if he chooses.

  4. donna becker says:

    Words escape me. The supposition that the homosexual “psyche” is somehow out of sorts and therefore unsuitable for the priesthood is outrageous.

  5. Friar Rick says:

    I think that the Congregation for Catholic Education is not the competent authority for deciding who can and cannot be ordained.

  6. Liz Kayne says:

    A very cogent statement. And yes, the congregation for Catholic Education is the most competent authority in making this decision. There are and have been too many problems out there with priests who have certain unnatural (and yes, they are against nature) tendencies. Somehow, putting Natural Law before our revisionist ideas, makes a lot of sense. Thank you for this article and thank the Vatican (and the Holy Spirit) for speaking Truth.

  7. Holly says:

    I recommend that people go to Courage.com and also go to Headline Bistro to read a paper on Same Sex Attraction. I also found a piece under Homosexuality at Pro-Life Phillipines.
    I found them very informative.
    Informally: We have a lot of educated people who serve as clergy who are very informed on these subjects. Give them a chance first before condemnation and jumping to conclusions. Use some wisdom on this not just secular judgment.
    Use all wisdom first before making a decision.
    The Church has been wrong at times but many, many times her Wisdom has won out.
    I for one am not about the money but many Catholics have been discouraged by the past scandals and the money put out their has been phenomenal. I for one would value wisdom from our Church at this time.
    I know that many priests have felt humiliation for the wrong done and I do not condemn them or anyone.
    I know the the Holy Spirit (This is faith.) will work this out. She already is. The Church must act appropriately at this time and she is doing that. She will observe what happens and she will act as best she can. As for the phenomenal money put out there–The Lord has a lot of money and if He feels we need it and correction it will happen.

  8. Adam says:

    I guess I will discontinue my discernment for the priesthood then.

  9. Aboonatom says:

    How sad it is again that the Roman Catholic Church keeps closing the door and shunning from the Table one group after another. As a priest myself, I can identify significant number of priests and bishops with a homosexual orientation who have faithfully served God’s people in a grace-filled and celibate ministry. Perhaps we need to call them out and banish them now for their “flawed psyche.” My God, have mercy on your Church and what it does in your blessed Name!

  10. Father Scott says:

    As always, the primary question is not simply being able to abstain, but whether or not the tendencies are “profoundly deep-rooted” (meaning that the person allows himself to be dominated by them, even in a celibate way). Good men who live with same-sex attraction who are not dominated by them psychologically will continue to be ordained by most religious communities and dioceses.

    Also, it is important to note that whatever Cardinal Groschelwski chooses to say in an interview, the only thing that matters is what the document itself says. He’s tried this before…putting his own spin on a document in an interview because he couldn’t get a document approved that was as rigid as he wanted it to be.

  11. Evelyn says:

    Once again I am embarrassed and saddened by the hypocracy and short-sightedness of the leadership of my church. I challenge anyone to find more sensitive persons to “feed My sheep” than those persons with homosexual tendencies.

  12. Giacomo says:

    This is outrageous. Why doesn’t Cardinal Grocholewski spend some of his orthodox energy on errant priests (straight, gay or whatever) who are scandalizing the Church with their ‘clown’ masses, ‘Barney Blessing’ masses, ‘leotard dancer’ masses, their ‘worship spaces’ that resemble airplane hangars and gymnasiums and their banal and pitifully preached homilies that say absolutely nothing Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Exactly WHO is going to do the quantifying here? Is the man who is a perfect ‘Kinsey Zero’ going to be 100% grade-A ordained while the man who is a Kinsey 3 only going to be ‘half ordained’? This whole affair gives new meaning to the word silly. The idea that so-called ‘change therapy’ (reparitive therapy) should be entered into is laughable. Everyone knows by now that that pseudo-therapy just plain does not work and in fact brings on more harm than good to the poor soul who goes through it. Don’t get me wrong, have there been offending, non-celibate homosexually oriented priests who have harmed people and the Church by their lack of self control? Of course there has. (and heterosexual ones as well) I’d be the first to agree that the Church has the duty to protect herself and her people from such men, but it should be glaringly obvious to anyone that Cardinal Grocholewski’s ideas are WAY over the top. Evelyn is exactly right when she says: “I challenge anyone to find more sensitive persons to “feed My sheep” than those persons with homosexual tendencies.”

  13. Ryan says:

    Thanks to the Holy See for this document. At least, now, we have set up a mechanism to prevent further scandals done by homosexual priests in the future. Next problem to solve is the misbehavior of heterosexual priests.

  14. Antonio says:

    Why are we surprised or stundfounded!!! What to expect from Ratzinger?….. The Catholic Church from the head to its toes, appeared to be going extremely conservative and trying to correct dogma and policies.. Church trying to lead its people back to Pre-Vatican. Wait there is more… We have not seen it all…………………

  15. Tired of it all says:

    It is really time for every self-respecting gay priest to renounce his faculties and let the church have its way. Then these asinine hierarchs with their hypocritical and fallacious teaching can pursue their literalist agenda and reduce the apostolic ministry to absurd categories like spiritual “paternity.” Who needs this continual assault on what’s left of priestly morale and integrity?

  16. Friar Rick says:

    Father Scott, thanks for that helpful comment, clarification and perspective.

  17. Jimmy Mac says:

    Documents such as this make good fertilizer because they are replete the the element common to most good fertilizer.

  18. John G. Parisi says:

    I’ve been invited to add a comment: Here goes. The Church teaches that sex outside of marriage is a mortal sin. I believe it is a mortal sin. All sins can be forgiven if one is repentent. Homosexuality is not a sin untill harboring the thought, or engaging in such. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is against it. And the Holy Father is against it.

  19. Faustine says:

    The basic foundation of religion will die. We constantly use it to defend our interest . we even use the Bible against it’s self. Homosexual priests wanting to be ordained into the church do not respect the Bible. religion can be counted as beliefs and as something that is so deeply rooted, its like were making a joke out of it. we make religion into a practice, a tradition, a source of being able to live and yet we all see what it says in the Leviticus, but we doubt the bible anyways. If a person looking to be ordained into the priesthood is homosexual they obviously do not have a sense of right and wrong. Read the Bible and stop reading it out of context just because you have this deeply rooted blooming happiness that you want to share, cause I can tell you it have nothing to do with the bible. KNOW that if you are a person whois looking to be ordained and is a homosexual you have to carry the most important and ancient text that upholds both the catholic and christian tradition in your hands…almost all the time!

  20. Faustine says:

    Yes, religion can be broadly interpreted. It can be seen as a culture, symbols, a way to allow men to propitiate to something other worldy, yet be have the Bible, something whole with definitions and meanings and practices, and teachings to show us , but syill we use religion which has no one definition against the Bible. We act as if we don’t, but we do all the time.

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