Pope Francis shocked many of us LGBTI people with his decision to ban gays from the priesthood.
The Vatican’s document, The Gift of Priestly Vocation, made public last week, reaffirmed its 2005 stance. You can read what they said – and GSN’s analysis of what they really meant – here.
Those of us who have ‘deep-seated homosexual tendencies’ or who ‘support the so-called ‘gay culture”’ are categorically banned from becoming priests.
Pope judges after all
Many of us can scarcely believe that Pope Francis, our supposedly LGBTI-friendly pontiff, kept this policy.
We all recall Pope Francis’s remarks when flying home after a weeklong visit to Brazil in 2013. He set off global shock waves when asked about the so-called ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican.
He replied: ‘When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?’
This public statement is the most LGBTI-affirmative remark the world has ever heard from the Catholic Church.
US gay magazine The Advocate named Pope Francis their Person of the Year for 2013 in response.
But the Pope’s words don’t match his actions.
The truth about gay priests and saints
When it comes to gay priests, Francis knows the history and knows they have always been in the Vatican.
In fact the homosocial and homosexual milieux of gay priests have been part of the Catholic Church for centuries.
Their strength to come out now as a formidable force within the hallowed walls of the Vatican is laudable. But on the other hand it is a liability. It casts the suspicion of being gay on all priests. And it has the potential to expose those priests who want to remain in the closet.
The Catholic Church needs its gay priests.
The Rev Donald B Cozens, author of The Changing Face of the Priesthood, believes the priesthood is becoming a gay profession. He claims half of priests and seminarians are gay.
Many who know the interior of the Catholic Church would argue the priesthood has for centuries been a gay profession. If the Vatican chooses to stop ordaining gay priests or to defrock them now, it will drastically alter the spiritual life and daily livelihood of the church.
AW Richard Sipe is a former priest and psychotherapist who has been studying the sexuality of priests for decades. His message is clear:
‘If they were to eliminate all those who were homosexually oriented, the number would be so staggering that it would be like an atomic bomb; it would do damage to the church’s operation.’
Sipe also points out gay priests are at every level.
‘[Banning them] would mean the resignation of at least a third of the bishops of the world. And it’s very much against the tradition of the church; many saints have gay orientation and many popes had gay orientations.’
They try to keep it quiet but the Catholic Church is a gay institution. And that is not a bad thing!
The church is not safe for anyone
The Catholic Church does not have a problem with gay priests. And the solution is not to remove them. The real problem the church has is the way it has treated them. So who will remove the church from itself?
Years of homophobic church doctrine have made the church unsafe for us all – young and old, straight and LGBTI, adult and child.
Eugene Kennedy, a specialist on sexuality and the priesthood and a former priest, is the author of the book The Unhealed Wound: The Church and Human Sexuality.
He says the Catholic Church ‘had always had gay priests, and they have often been models of what priests should be. To say that these men should be kept from the priesthood is in itself a challenge to the grace of God and an insult to them and the people they serve.’
Supporters and activists of the ‘gay lobby’ in the Curia emphatically state this brave and visible group is essential to the running of the Vatican. By coming together they protect themselves from the church’s hypocrisy in scapegoating them for many of the social ills of the church.
Pope Francis knows this too. That is why he has commented disapprovingly about the political and activist clout the powerful ‘gay lobby’ has in the Curia, the Vatican’s secretive administration.
‘The problem is not having this orientation. The problem is lobbying by this orientation… Being gay is a tendency. The problem is the lobby,’ he told the Italian news agency ANSA.
They can’t fight the future
Right now, the Catholic Church stands in the need of prayer.
And Pope Francis knows that too. Speaking in an interview in December 2013, he stated the Catholic Church couldn’t continue to oppose the modern world in the 21st century, as it did under his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI.
If it did, he said, ‘the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.’
But sadly, this pope is like the previous one when it comes to upholding church doctrine. He may have a friendlier pastoral façade but the policy remains the same.
The Catholic Church should be ashamed of its continued opposition to gay priests. It is time for them to recognize reality, their own history and the many gifts these priests continue to give the church.