My wife writes in and asks what I think of the Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.
I’m not sure why she writes in to ask about this. I immediately think her interest is somewhat suspect. That she’s being, well, let’s say mischievous, rather than snarky. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but she’s never mentioned this document to me or asked me about it before. However, I decide to treat her question seriously. And so I go and read the thing.
By way of background, the Instruction is a document of the Catholic Church, approved by the Holy Father on August 31, 2005, and formally published on November 4, 2005. Specifically, it is a document of and by the Congregation for Catholic Education, which itself is one of many congregations, and congregations are one department of many in the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Catholic Church. The Congregation for Catholic Education is ultimately responsible for what is taught, and how it is taught, in seminaries, universities and schools. My wife is herself something of a product of the Congregation, having received a number of graduate degrees from the Catholic University of America.
The particular Instruction at present, as its name attests, speaks to what to do with gay men who want to become priests. The Instruction first reiterates the Church’s position that homosexual acts are grave sins and it describes homosexual tendencies as a disorder. Therefore, “the Church … cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’.”
Okay, so I’m not real thrilled about this. And, frankly, I don’t have to be.
As I understand it, I’m required to believe in Jesus Christ to be a Christian. And I’m required to believe in a lot more things to be a Catholic. We recite the Creed at Mass most Sundays. And I just personally figure that I ought to believe these things that I say out loud every week that I believe. And then there are further Catholic dogmas that we have to believe that we don’t talk about every week, like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. And I love those, by the way, so, hey, no problem believing those.
And so then I can disagree with the Church on things beyond that. I’m not in charge, mind you, so I can’t directly change a lot of those things, but I can disagree. It’s kinda like living in America under the Bush regime. Just because it’s official United States policy that we attack Iraq doesn’t mean I have to like it, that I have to agree with it. And disagreeing with it doesn’t make me not an American. And disagreeing with certain doctrines of the Catholic Church doesn’t make me not a Catholic.
So I believe that someday we’ll have married priests, and women priests, and openly gay priests. And gay marriage. Probably not in my lifetime, but someday. And I’m okay with that. Vitally integral to my return to the Catholic Church was my realization that I don’t know everything, that I don’t have all the answers. And I suppose the opposite side of that coin is that nobody else knows everything or has all the answers either. I follow the Catholic Church because it is the faith of my parents and grandparents and goes way back. It’s a part of me. And I do believe. I believe in God, in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord, in the Holy Spirit, in one catholic and apostolic church, and the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. Amen.
But the Church has been wrong before and likely is wrong about things now and will be wrong about things in the future. And it’s right about things too. And so too me. And we all work towards getting it right.