[originally published in my Octant, issue 1, December 2005, Simply two areas of concern - the first on genetic engineering; and the second on basically using the gay community as a scape-goat for sexual harassment of minors by a small number of those within Catholic orders.]
This is a brief personal response to the English translation (published online in the New Oxford Review) of the following recent document from Rome by the
Congregation for Catholic Education
Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies In View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders
I shall not attempt to here provide some kind of analysis and response to the details of the paper. It is in any case not a discussion paper, but one to be applied by those of Roman Catholic obedience – and that is something towards which this paper increasingly distances my own inclination.
I perhaps should preface it by stating, given the content of the document, that I am heterosexual and married. Not that the points presented should be influenced by the same. I simply note this as my own sexual preferences have no bearing on the comments herein made.
The paper opens with a point with which I can but only agree with: ‘Through the sacrament of Orders the Holy Spirit configures the candidate, with a new and specific designation, to Jesus Christ’ (my emphasis).
This is perhaps the first and foremost point that the Roman Catholic Church seems to forget in that which follows within that document. There is (or ought to be) a transformation of the individual by divine intervention in Holy Orders.
…but perhaps the Church believes also that there is a limit to the configurations of which the Holy Spirit is capable, and that women, homosexual men (not to mention homosexual women, who are thus thrice removed from even being considered!), are incapable of being recipients of such grace due to the ascribed limits of power held by the Holy Spirit.
To be sure, it should be noted that I personally agree that irrespective of the claimed call to Holy Orders, the Church has a responsibility to ordain only those who have attained an ‘affective maturity’. In other words, a proper discernment does need to be made in favour of candidates who are able to minister and have effective skills and psycho-social dispositions.
What one’s sexual inclination or preference has to do with this, however, is perhaps only (at most) pertinant in social groups that display such closed-minded bias that their own legal statutes would prevent effective ministry. The general claim, however, and coming from a body of men that (claim) sexual abstenance seems, in its own way, a perverse pre-occupation. Surely a good man that has ‘affective maturity’, ie, is caring, responsive to the needs of others, is responsible, is reflective, and can communicate, and who further has the office of Holy Orders graced upon him by the Holy Spirit – such a person is, in my opinion, able to effectively minister, and this quite independently of his sexual orientation.
One key phrase that is used in the document is that of ‘objectively disordered’ in describing homosexuality. I find that rather odd that the individuals who make this comment are part of an institution that imposes on its own hierarchy an ‘objectively disordered’ abstention from sex.
Perhaps, however, it simply results from a different understanding of sexuality. Unlike the implied views of the Roman Catholic church, I do not consider the sexual to be solely for reproductive purposes, any more than the mouth is solely one extremety of the digestive system. I my case, in addition to its digestive capacity, it is also used for speech and other purposes that the Church may perhaps find appaling (despite my heterosexual nature).
Sexual organs, and their uses, have multiple functions, including providing for an overall healthy ‘tonic’ to each human being via physiological and affective organs. To religate sexual organs solely to reproductive usage is even denying some of the spiritual dimension of this ‘God-given’ blessing.
In light of this, one wonders to whom better fits the accusation that ‘Such people, in fact, find themselves in a situation that seriously obstructs them from properly relating to men and women’. It seems to me like an extension of natural law to relate to one’s peers as wholesome people who also have a sexual dimension, than to psychologically deny and subliminate these natural tendencies. And relating thus implies that one’s own natural sexual inclinations are met in appropriate ways.
Of course, there comes a time in the natural cycle of the ageing process whereby sexual urges diminish. Individual sexual activity having individual variations, its diminishment over time varies. What, nonetheless, does not diminish to the same level is the ongoing need for loving and feeling loved by those close to us, including, usually, a physical need of embrace – and here I am not refering to the sexual. One’s own spouse (by whatever name) has here a special privileged status.
It continues to be only to the Church’s own detriment that it ongoingly focusses on the sexual and psycho-social, rather than turning its face towards the sublime and divine, thereby indicating in myriad ways means by which to religare.
There is no theological, there is no social, there is no psychological, and there is no ethical reason as to why those called to the priesthood cannot partake of the Holy Order of marriage, nor why those called to the priesthood need to be exclusively heterosexual and who, in any case, are then required (under present arrangements) to subliminate their sexual ‘natural law’ needs.