Skip to comments.Cardinal's words on gay priests surprise scholars
Posted on 05/03/2002 6:38:30 PM PDT by history_matters
Cardinal Anthony M. Bevilacqua's sweeping rejection of gay men becoming priests diverges from mainstream thinking by U.S. Catholic theologians and policymakers, a range of church scholars said in interviews this week.
But his remarks echoed a little-known Vatican decree issued four decades ago that may come into play as church leaders labor toward a national response to the sex-abuse scandal in the church.
Upon his return last week from the cardinals' summit conference in Rome, Cardinal Bevilacqua weighed in on the debate about gays in the priesthood - a hot issue in the scandal - with a categorical pronouncement.
No "homosexually oriented" men, not even chaste ones, are "suitable candidates" for the priesthood, he told a news conference, because heterosexual celibates "are giving up" the good of family and children, while gay celibates give up what the church considers "a moral evil."
With his remarks, and the hard line taken against homosexuals at the archdiocese's St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Cardinal Bevilacqua has put himself in the front rank of church conservatives who staunchly oppose the ordination of gays.
The cardinal's views reflect an antipathy toward homosexuality that is found in the Catholic catechism, but his statements about banning even celibate gay priests surprised most of the 14 Catholic theologians and other experts contacted for comment. Two of the 14 voiced support.
Most said the dominant view among theologians, bishops, seminary officials and other policymakers is that the decisive factor should not be a candidate's sexual orientation but whether he is "acting out" sexually.
"He's the first one I've heard make this particular argument" distinguishing between gay and straight celibacies, said the Rev. John Baldovin, professor of historical and liturgical theology at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered" and "contrary to the natural law," while urging tolerance toward gays and saying they are "called to chastity."
But to say homosexual orientation alone disqualifies a person for diocesan priesthood takes church teaching into an area where doctrine is unsettled, several of the theologians said.
Church leaders "weren't willing to admit for the longest time that they had gay people in the priesthood," said Father Baldovin, so "nobody was trying to construct the difference between straight celibacy and gay celibacy."
Cardinal Bevilacqua is a canon lawyer, not a degreed theologian, but he has the last word on this matter in the archdiocese, as any reigning bishop has over a diocese. Unless rules bearing papal authority are imposed - which has not occurred regarding gays in diocesan seminaries - a bishop can interpret scripture and doctrine as he sees fit.
Cardinal Bevilacqua will have no further comment on his statements, archdiocese spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said.
The Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, a theologian at the Catholic University of America in Washington and a consultant to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference's committee on doctrine, was among the theologians who questioned the cardinal's views.
A gay person "can't give up his orientation," Father Komonchak said. "... That particular application of theology I've never heard before. If it's anywhere in church teaching, I've never seen it."
A Catholic University colleague, theology professor John Grabowski, said he had seen the cardinal's position "argued by a few others, but I must say it's not a common position... . It's an isolated view."
Grabowski said the argument "doesn't work. The church does teach that homosexuality is an objective disorder, but every person has disordered inclinations. That's the human condition. I don't know how you can bar a person from ordination because of that."
The opposite view was voiced by the Rev. Ray Ryland, who teaches theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio.
"I have not come across this distinction [on gay celibacy] that the cardinal makes, but I think he's quite right in saying it," Father Ryland said. "As a prudential judgment, I agree that persons of that orientation should not be admitted to the priesthood because of the very grave temptations they face" in seminary and parish life.
The Vatican has taken a similar stance. In 1961, Pope John XXIII issued a decree concerning people entering convents, monasteries and other religious orders. The directive, which remains valid, instructs that "those affected by the perverse inclination to homosexuality or pederasty [man-boy love] should be excluded from religious vows and ordination."
Scholars said the decree, developed by the Sacred Congregation for Religious, does not apply to diocesan seminarians. According to Catholic News Service, Vatican officials are considering updating and reissuing the document as part of their internal discussion about whether to impose standards for selection and training of priests.
The matter of gays in the priesthood has emerged as a thorny aspect of the abuse scandal. Some Catholic conservatives, noting that many of the reported molestations have involved priests and older boys, have renewed their complaints about the relatively high number of gay priests.
Gay priests and rights activists have said the cardinal and other conservatives are scapegoating gay priests. Homosexuals, they argue, are no more likely to be pedophiles than anyone else, and no more likely to break their promise of priestly celibacy than heterosexuals.
In his news conference last Friday, Cardinal Bevilacqua said without elaborating that he believed gay priests were at a "much higher" risk of becoming sexually active. "When a heterosexual celibate chooses to become a celibate in the priesthood," the cardinal said, "he's taking on a good - that is, his own desire to become a priest - and he's giving up a very good thing, and that is, a family and children that could follow. That would not be true of a homosexually oriented candidate. He may be choosing the good, but... he's giving up what the church considers an aberration, a moral evil."
The Rev. Donald Cozzens, a onetime Cleveland seminary rector and the author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflection on the Priest's Crisis of Soul, said the cardinal's priesthood theology harked back to the tradition of asceticism. But the church, he said, primarily teaches that a person chooses priestly celibacy "because it feels like the path God has ordained for me for spiritual maturity, not as an ascetical practice like giving something up for Lent... . His framing of the issue is creative. It is fairly new to my ears."
The Rev. Richard McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame and a former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said Cardinal Bevilacqua's outlook seemed to be based on "a fundamentalistic interpretation of Scripture" that "no one with any serious scholarly credentials in the field of biblical studies" shared.
The cardinal's point of view is "rather fundamentalist," said the Rev. Don Clifford of St. Joseph's University, a longtime professor of dogmatic theology.
Further, the 72-year-old priest said, "many people who had the most positive influence on me, on reflection, were very likely gay... . They presumably were living chaste lives and had tremendous influence on their ministries."
The debate about gays is part of a "long-term discussion" within the church, Father Clifford said, and "I always bet on the Holy Spirit to see how it comes out."
Am I correct in assuming that the phrase was never heard before the Church had to deal with homosexuals?
Purge the seminaries of pederasts, pedophiles, homosexuals and enablers and protectors (liberal or conservative, normal or homosexual). End all experiments in AmChurch heterodoxy and heresy. Restore order. Get pushy parishioners out of positions of governance. Expect, according to Canon Law, priests not "eucharistic ministers" to distribute the Eucharist at Mass. End the narcissistic practice of "communion in the hand" to thwart theft of the Eucharist by satanists. Remove from the priesthood and any position of authority anyone who acts so as to undermine the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Nuke any nervy bishop or archbishop like the Mad Monk of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland at the first instance of willful disobedience. Just for starters. AND stop kowtowing to every fashionable and politically correct trend of the week and of the weak. Anyone who finds actual Catholicism too much of a challenge to their morally flabby attitudes can just get out. There are plenty of less rigorous churches.
Instead of having to put up with lavender priests, lavender bishops, heretical priests, heretical bishops and the enablers of them all, Roman Catholics who actually ARE Catholic have a right to a Church led by leaders who are in communion with the Holy See. The Church is not, thank God, a democracy and it ought not to behave as though the iron rule of 50% + 1 is any trustworthy guide in moral matters.
Though I attended a Catholic Prep School during high school ... I am not Catholic. I belong to the Episcopal Church ... which because it has FALLEN to the liberal agenda in the last thirty years [esp. the last 20 years] ... has almost completely destroyed itself.
This just in: Pope John Paul II has announced that he will retire from the papacy effective upon the convening of a conclave to determine the policy of his successor and the election of his successor. The pope said: "My heart is broken by the condition of Holy Mother the Church in the United States and a few isolated locations elsewhere where notions of "progress" have replaced the truth of Jesus Christ. Twenty years ago, armed with the information that has recently come to light, I would have eagerly embraced the responsibility as universal pastor to remove the offenders from their positions in the Church and find worthy successors to reverse the damage they have done."
"I am, unfortunately old beyond my years and broken by the infirmity of my health. The circumstances require that I lay down the wonderful but crushing burdens of serving the servants of God while my faculties remain and I am able to do so. The Church in this hour of crisis must have a pope, not only thoroughly orthodox in belief but thoroughly vigorous in his exercise of authority to root out the evils which are choking the Church of Jesus Christ, compel the obedience of the rebellious in the ranks of clergy and hierarchy and set the Church firmly on the path of genuine renewal according to the Teaching Magisterium and wisdom of all who have gone before us."
"I trust the members of the Sacred College of Cardinals, most of whom it has been my privilege to raise to that honor, to enact a strict and effective policy to deal with disobedience as well as sexual profligacy and dereliction of hierarchical duty, and to elect as our successor one who has the capability, determination, and doctrinal spine to confront for the foreseeable future this latest coordinated effort within and without by those who would exercise their enmity toward the Mystical Body of Christ."
"Make no mistake. We will govern firmly and decisively until that conclave. We will resume our status as cardinal upon our papal resignation and we exempt ourself and any future resigned pontiff from the age restriction on participation and voting imposed by Pope Paul VI.
"We have ordered the formal excommunication of a list of individual members of the clergy and hierarchy because of their respective roles in the current crises of disobedience and disordered sexual abuse. The list will be provided later today. The lifting of these excommunications, should that ever occur, is reserved to the Holy See alone.
"We have also accepted the resignations of Roger Cardinal Mahoney, Bernard Cardinal Law, Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, Bishop Thomas Daily and 43 other diocesan ordinaries in the United States. The full preliminary list will be announced later today, together with the names of their successors. Those of them who have been cardinals will no longer serve as such and will be ineligible for conclave. Their priestly faculties are hereby suspended pending further investigation and until further notice. The successors of the resigned cardinals will themselves be simultaneously designated as cardinals before any ceremony may be held to enable them to participate in conclave.
"We hereby order the abolition of the American seminaries, their replacement by four regional seminaries to be administered from the Vatican by Dario Castrillon de Hoyos and the Sacred Congregation for Priests until a new archdiocese of American seminaries is established and its ordinary appointed. There will be no faculty or administrative tenure and, due to the abolition of the existing seminaries, none will be honored. Cardinal Castrillon de Hoyos knows our mind and will carry out this reform immediately. The newly appointed archbishop for American seminaries will also be responsible for enforcing Ecclesia Dei and compelling within that nation obedience and submission by theologians and institutions of higher education claiming to be Catholic.
"We hereby reinstitute the disciplinary measures imposed in Pope St. Pius X's 1907 encyclical Pascendi Domenici Gregis and all of the provisions of administrative discipline ordered therein to combat the modernist heresy. Any papal act since 1907 to the date hereof cancelling or suspending those measures is or are hereby removed and abolished.
"Be not afraid."
[I am sure that I am not adept at papal cadence but I have no doubt of the outcome, if that were the essence of a resignation message or that his successor would make his enemies long for the "good old days" when he served.]
Many of them act as if they're above all that "Pope and Magisterium stuff."
Please pray for theological fidelity within the Church's hierarchy and scholars.
It is intrinsically disordered (and quite prohibited by both Scripture and Tradition) for a man to have intercourse with another man or a woman with another woman whether or not one or both of the participants have become convinced that it may not be so disordered. Objective reality is objective reality. A is A. Likewise as to the sexual abuse of children (which would in most jurisdictions include those up to 17 years of age).
On many of these threads, you have eloquently argued for suppression of the abuse and the enabling of abusers. To welcome into the priesthood those whose sexual orientation is intrinsically disordered while attacking abuse is analogous to campaigning for inclusive attitudes towards bank robbers while professing opposition to bank robbery.
Apropos of another of your posts, the closer the bishops hew to the Bevilaqua position stated here, the less likely they are to be flat, black and glowing in the dark from a universe of attack from those ranging from Catholic to secular to outright enemies of the Church. Cardinal George is a good man but his desire to keep on board those with previous strikes will not stand. If he is not prepared to do what is necessary and purge the lavenders, all of them, from the priesthood, then it is also time for him to go.
Nonetheless, fornication with a willing heterosexual partner or adultery, for that matter, while certainly sinful does not take on the additional burden taken on by impossibly inappropriate and intrinsically disordered acts between man and man, woman and woman and/or either with Bowser. What is so hard for those moderns obsessed with a Tidy Bowl sense of equality or "civil rights" to understand?
A man who daydreams about experiencing whatever joys the nether regions of a six-year-old boy may have to offer him is not fit material for the priesthood even though he is not "sexually active." This is not nuclear physics.