Pope Benedict wants to ban even celibate gays from the clergy, according
to his new book ~ Andrew Brown / Guardian London
Hidden in Pope Benedict XVI's new book, Light of the World, is a story
that is not about condoms, but will still be very important to the
future of the Catholic church: he claims, on page 152, that even
celibate homosexuals must be kept out of the priesthood.
"The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the
effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their
sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity,
from the intrinsic nature of priestly being. The selection of candidates
to the priesthood must therefore be very careful.
The greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion
of this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy
of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency
This is utterly unambiguous, and only about 100 years too late to be
effective. What he is saying is that the priesthood must consist of men
who have renounced the love of women, not those for whom it has never
been a major temptation:
"Sexuality has an intrinsic meaning and
direction, which is not homosexual. We could say, if we wanted to put it
like this, that evolution has brought forth sexuality for the purpose of
reproducing the species. The same thing is true from a theological point
of view as well. The meaning and direction of sexuality is to bring
about the union of man and woman
And, in this way, to give humanity posterity, children, a future. This
is the determination internal to the essence of sexuality. Everything
else is against sexuality's intrinsic meaning and direction. This is a
point we need to hold firm, even if it is not pleasing to our age ...
Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation.
Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It
would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for
bringing people into the priesthood who don't want to get married
This is ironic in view of the widely held view that he himself is not a
man for the ladies (as a gay catholic once said to me). It's also
obviously unworkable. But his reasoning is interesting, for it shows
that he understands one of the problems that compulsory celibacy has
brought to the church in the West. As it became less and less common for
men not to marry – and perhaps this was a result of increasing
prosperity as much as anything else – the church was one of the few
professions in which a gay man could remain "respectable", even to
himself. The consequence is a widespread and rather poisonous culture of
camp. This is well-known and admitted by anyone who has made a serious
study of it. And once seminaries are known to be predominantly gay
places, the mothers of straight sons become unwilling to send them
there. A tipping point is reached – as it seems to have been in the USA
– from which the Church finds it almost impossible to recover.
Even Peter Seewald, the Pope's interviewer, responds to his remarks by
"But there is no doubt that homosexuality exists in monasteries and
among the clergy, if not acted out, then at least in a nonpracticed
To which Benedict replies:
"Well, that is just one of the disturbing problems of the Church. And
the persons who are affected must at least try not to express this
inclination actively, in order to remain true to the intrinsic mission
of their office."
What will all this matter in practice? "Pope wrong again" is hardly a
headline to set the secular world on fire. But it will certainly
encourage the Catholic Right to attempt to weed out gays from
seminaries. This is, as I have said, impossible, but it is also likely
to lead to further nasty and bitter infighting. Until now, liberals have
held the line by referring to the passage in the earlier denunciation
about "deep-rooted" homosexual tendencies. This allowed seminary
directors to pretend that men whom they thought could stay celibate were
not deep-rootedly gay at all. But these remarks drop that qualification:
"The issue at stake here is the intrinsic truth
of sexuality's significance in the constitution of man's being. If
someone has deep-seated homosexual inclinations–and it is still an open
question whether these inclinations are really innate or whether they
arise in early childhood–if, in any case, they have power over him, this
is a great trial for him, just as other trials can afflict other people
as well. But this does not mean that homosexuality thereby becomes
morally right. Rather, it remains contrary to the essence of what God
originally willed … For, in the end, their attitude toward man and woman
is somehow distorted, off centre, and, in any case, is not within the
direction of creation of which we have spoken."
Benedict does also say that gay people "are human beings with their
problems and their joys, that as human beings they deserve respect, even
though they have this inclination, and must not be discriminated against
because of it. Respect for man is absolutely fundamental and decisive."
But if I were gay, I wouldn't think that he thought I was a proper human
being at all, whether or not he treated me like one.
If celibate gays cannot be priests, does that mean they can't be Popes?
I assume that is also true, but I frankly have a hard time imagining the
present Pope having had wet dreams over visions of naked women dancing
in his head when he was younger.
Be that as it may, I have to say that it is hard to believe the argument
he makes. He is an unmarried man and presumably never 'fathered' a
child. His argument holds that gays are not capable of being priests
because they are incapable of paternity, ie fatherhood and so cannot
renounce what they never possessed.
One must ask what constitutes fatherhood? Does a child consider an adult
male his or her father because he had intercourse with their mother, or
because he cared for them as a father should? Using the biological
definition a gay man could not be a biological father but a rapist could
be. What spiritual sense does that make? Any damn fool can have sex with
a woman. If that is all it takes to be a father then the bar has been
set way too low to become a priest. A dog would qualify using that
definition. A deadbeat Dad could meet the test while an adoptive father
would be disqualified. There are plenty of men who could 'father' a
child but never become a father to the child. Renouncing sex then is
more important to the Pope than the spiritual meaning of parenting.
Well, renouncing sex does not a father make.
Secondly, the Pope assumes that sex only exists in nature for
reproduction. That is a flawed and outdated hypothesis. Homosexuality
occurs naturally in other species of mammals and birds. It is not simply
a human choice or moral weakness. Furthermore, reproduction occurred in
nature long before there was sexual dimorphism. That was an afterthought
that caught on because it strengthened the gene pool and made the
species stronger. So sex was not always from the beginning of life, and
it is clear from observation of other species that sex serves other
purposes than reproduction. It can serve to enhance social bonding among
members of a group and to restore social ties which have been ruptured
in some way. If nonreproductive sex in nature did not serve a useful
purpose it would not be continued, but in fact it is continued
generationally. And even among human societies homosexuality has been
esteemed and valued in societies other than our own and those of Western
So what we have here is a form of Fundamentalism, based on antiquated
scientific ideas rather than based on antiquated Biblical exegesis which
is the Protestant version of Fundamentalism.
Lastly, given the Vatican's position that celibate gays cannot be
validly ordained, seminaries are now constrained to try to weed them
out. Imagine that process if you will. "Now boys, we are asking that you
drop your drawers while we show a series of photos here on the