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September 22, 2005

Questionable Popery

Not to question the Pope on these matters -- he's got an in with God and all -- but after the Catholic Church bans even celibate gays from becoming priests, where does he honestly think the Catholic Church is going to get priests? They're not exactly running a surplus on priests as it is, and it's not the 16th century anymore, when primogeniture laws left a surplus of disenfranched sons running about looking for something to do with themselves.

I'm not Catholic and never was (I was baptized in a Lutheran church, if you can believe that, largely because it was close by to where my parents lived -- which, incidentally, is a terrible reason to get baptised into a particular denomination), so I don't really get a vote here, but in my opinion, any man who can keep it in his pants for Christ is showing a level of devotion that deserves merit. I do also wonder what the Church is going to do after it's booted all the gay priests and discovers it still has pederasts in its ranks, as pedophilia doesn't significantly map to sexual orientation. But these are things for the Church to work out, not me.

One other question, though: Given the shortfall the Church already has in recruiting priests, particularly here in the US and in other first-world countries, how much longer will it be before the Church, by necessity, begins to allow married priests? Personally, I don't think it's likely at all, but again, I'm on the outside looking in, and if it comes down to married priests or none at all, it'll be interesting to see what transpires.

Posted by john at September 22, 2005 12:08 PM

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Comments

Jennie | September 22, 2005 12:59 PM

Or female priests. HA! Sometimes, I crack me up.

John Scalzi | September 22, 2005 01:01 PM

Female priests would mean that sooner or later they'd have to have a second bathroom open during conclaves. And that's just wrong.

Chris | September 22, 2005 02:03 PM

There are already married Catholic priests.
Former Anglican priests can be allowed special dispensation if they convert to Catholicism.
This happened a fair bit in the UK when the Church of England started allowing women priests, and many male priests decided to leave...

Aimee | September 22, 2005 02:08 PM

I wonder if they realize that this gives the appearance of tolerating those who act on their sexual attraction to children, but not those who are able to control their attraction to adult members of the same sex.

alkali | September 22, 2005 02:16 PM

Not to question the Pope on these matters -- he's got an in with God and all -- but after the Catholic Church bans even celibate gays from becoming priests, where does he honestly think the Catholic Church is going to get priests?

Perhaps some of those nice single men in the choir might be willing to sign up.

Steve Thorn | September 22, 2005 02:30 PM

Why worry about the number of priests when there is always GodWeb -- no need for priests just more web developers..

Jim Winter | September 22, 2005 03:18 PM

I really don't expect Pope New Guy to address it. (And he'll always be Pope New Guy I. I mean I was 13 when John Pauls I & II emerged from the conclave.)

I also don't expect the next guy to deal with it. Pope after next, though...

John H | September 22, 2005 04:08 PM

They will start using third-world priests for positions here and in Europe. Come to think of it, that would be an excellent recruiting tool...

David Klecha | September 22, 2005 04:14 PM

Homosexuality has, I believe, always been a disqualifying characteristic for priests, so this is more of a case of "enforcing the laws on the books" than creating any new doctrine. As a Catholic I viewed it as sort of a non-story when I first saw it because it's just another facet of the RCC trying to maintain a traditional ideal of the priest. They've been fighting this battle ever since they came out of the Dark Ages and started, you know, really only taking those who were called to the life, instead of filling the ranks with aristocratic cast-offs. Once you take a more humanist view of the role of the priest, you open the door to anyone, male or female, gay or straight, single or married, who believes they are so called.

It's a thin line the Church is walking these days, and as you point out, the continually declining numbers are showing that the Church is wobbling a bit there.

KenL | September 22, 2005 04:17 PM

I think realistically speaking, the hard-line edicts of Pope New Guy are really opening the door for a counterswing to progressivism in the next election. Which will almost certainly be within most of our lifetimes.

Terry Karney | September 22, 2005 05:15 PM

One of the interesting things is that celibacy isn't required to become a priest, but none of the recognized orders' Rules allow it.

This is how the Anglican priests above were (and are) able to be priests. When the Roman Church recognised the continuity of episcopacy in England, they had to admite the priests, because they had been formally ordained by those with the ability to do so.

There is a real problem with Benedict's decision, in that it revereses a position (he can do that, he's the pope) but the present teaching is that God thinks homosexuality is wrong, He also (for those inscrutable reasons which are only His) decided to add this burden (of desires they may not fulfill) to some of His creation.

When seen that way, there is nothing wrong with the homosexual, merely the act.

But, at least in my view,by making the fact of homosexual existence anathema (rather than the actual deed) he is making it less possible for the Church to say it loves every member.

TK

Cassie | September 22, 2005 05:58 PM

On the contrary, we may see the number of vocations increase.

The See of Lincoln, Nebraska, is run by Archbishop Fabian, recognized as one of the most conservative bishops in the US, is flourishing.

http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/1993/sep1993p4_808.html

From that link, this quote: The major common feature of successful dioceses and seminaries - as far as seminary numbers is concerned - is an uncompromising orthodoxy.

If we see His Holiness begin to hold to the traditional, orthodox standards, I think that we may see vocations increase.

As to trying to separate pedophilia and homosexuality: it seems to me that the vast majority of the child abuse by priests has been done by men to boys, not to girls.

Chris Gabel | September 22, 2005 06:09 PM

Isn't it funny how we all love to tell churches - especially the RCC - how they should run things? Hey, I do it too & I'm not Catholic. Once something is declared "thus saith the Lord"... it's awfully hard to back down. "What, you've been wrong all these centuries??"

Still, it's a silly exercise, however irresistible....

Jill | September 22, 2005 06:17 PM

Yup, all those thoughts pretty much crossed my mind when I heard this story on my commute home. I am befuddled at how they are going to check seminary students for this. Stylish shoes? Bette Middler albums?
The whole thing reminds me of the cliche, "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?" If a priest doesn't have sex, what does it matter if he (or she) is gay or straight? I'm hoping for married priests and female priests some day, but I'm not holding my breath.

John Scalzi | September 22, 2005 06:18 PM

Chris Gabel:

"Isn't it funny how we all love to tell churches - especially the RCC - how they should run things?"

I'm not telling the RCC how to do things; I just wonder how they're going to recruit the priests they need.

Cassie:

"it seems to me that the vast majority of the child abuse by priests has been done by men to boys, not to girls."

If you'd bothered to follow the link on pedophilia, you might have found this nugget of information, which is relevant to your point:

For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.

Also, regarding your link about Lincoln, it's a story from 12 years ago. How is that diocese doing these days ?

chibent | September 22, 2005 06:20 PM


I have to ask: Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Synod, or ELCA?

(I was born, baptized, and raised Missouri Synod Lutheran. My mother is heartbroken now that I've become mostly Mennonite.)

John Scalzi | September 22, 2005 06:25 PM

I honestly have no idea, Chibent. Clearly, I don't take my baptism with a great deal of seriousness (which is not to say it's not serious business to others).

Andrew Wade | September 22, 2005 08:01 PM

If you'd bothered to follow the link on pedophilia, you might have found this nugget of information, which is relevant to your point:
For the present discussion, the important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals – who are often characterized as fixated – are attracted to children, not to men or women.

To follow up on Scalzi's point, even if you feel like defining pederasts as homosexual (or bisexual as the case may be), rooting out homosexuals is utterly useless because you can only root out those homosexuals you know about, and pedophiles by and large don't come off as gay. (And if you know someone has a prediliction for boys, you hardly need the label of "homosexual" to turf them. Unless, of course, you're some bureaucrat in buck-passing mode.)

BTW, scuttlebut I heard was that despite getting little press, girls were molested in large numbers by priests too.

And if an "objective disorder" (cough) is reason enough to disqualify someone from priesthood, they are going to have a very difficult time finding priests. I daresay most people have a disorder of some sort or other, even if it is merely myopia (shortsightedness) or something.

Anywho, not my religion. I do wonder what exactly the church expects gays to do with their lives? I suppose they can settle down and rear kids; Folks have been getting married and rearing kids without love quite successfully for a very long time. But it doesn't sound like a particularly good idea to me.

Cassie | September 22, 2005 08:50 PM

Comparing data from the Diocese of Lincoln and the Diocese of Great Island, both of Nebraska:

Lincoln reports 38 seminarians, from a population of 89,000 communicants.
Great Island reports 1 seminarian. I couldn't find the number of communicants.

Both are small, rural dioceses, so I took a look at Boston (randomly selected) and found a
document
from 2004 or 2005 (it's dated both) that says they currently have 40 seminarians, of a total 2 million communicants.

Unfortunately, time constraints prevented me from clicking on your link. The only pedophile I know preferred girls, so I recognize that it's not a uniquely same-sex phenomenon.

Re: married priests. The Eastern Orthodox Church has maintained a married priesthood which predated the split of the churches. If the RCC was looking for a traditional example to follow, they have only to look back some thousand years in their own history.

Chris Gabel | September 23, 2005 01:00 AM

FWIW:


My previous comment was directed at the commenters, not at the esteemed proprietor.

Sergio Guillen-Pantoja | September 23, 2005 06:44 AM

What I would like to know is how do you prove that someone on line to be a priest is a homosexual. It's impossible even to prove that he is a heterosexual. I think (and that might be the evil me speaking) that it's just another way to filter priest ordainments to match personal likes or dislikes.

Tom Scudder | September 23, 2005 08:52 AM

Cassie: Re: married priests, the Roman Catholic Church doesn't even need to look so far afield as the Orthodox churches, given that most or all of the Eastern Catholic rites have married (parish) priests.

(Also worth noting that in the Orthodox churches, priests have a choice between being married or moving up in the hierarchy - bishops and other senior officials are all drawn from the celibate clergy).

mythago | September 23, 2005 11:44 AM

it seems to me that the vast majority of the child abuse by priests has been done by men to boys, not to girls

That's what happens when you get your information from what makes the headlines on Fox News.

There has been plenty of sexual abuse of girls (and, for that matter, adult women) by priests--it just doesn't get as much publicity because it's not seen as quite as horrifying.

Laurie Mann | September 23, 2005 12:40 PM

It seems like I've met a fair number of gay RC priests in my life. I suspect most of them were either celebate or appropriately sexual (with adults only). The RC church continues to be in very deep denial...

Stan | September 23, 2005 01:48 PM

If you were to hold a sign that said "No Sex Ever Again! Sign Up Here." the people that lined up probably wouldn't be the most socially adept well balanced individuals. Is it any surprise that the RC church has trouble with pedophiles? Now not even homosexuals burdened with guilt from their religion's teachings can get in. Who else is left?

Steve Eley | September 23, 2005 02:09 PM

I have no wish to over-pimp my podcast, but our story this week is somewhat apropos to this thread, and a lot of this crowd might find it funny:

"The Burning Bush" by Jennifer Pelland

Erin | September 23, 2005 04:57 PM

Hey, I just wrote about this myself. I am *technically* Catholic, though I haven't geen *practicing* for quite some time. I am quite unimpressed with Pope New Guy...watch him live to be 100.

Cartoon Coyote | September 24, 2005 12:03 AM

Cassie: "As to trying to separate pedophilia and homosexuality: it seems to me that the vast majority of the child abuse by priests has been done by men to boys, not to girls."

Ya think that maybe, just maybe, it MIGHT be because female altar servers are only a fairly recent phenomenon?

Chris Byrne | September 24, 2005 02:20 AM

How are they going to enforce this?

Well, they aren't. Homosexuality is a sin according to the church, both in act and in thought, however sinners are allowed to be priests; so long as they repent and recieve absolution. In the promulgation of this doctrine, they have made it clear that a homosexual priest is not in grace with god, and therefore a man who is true to his faith must recuse himself from the priesthood; in fact from the both performance and reciept of all the sacraments except confession. Even then they may only recieve absolution with sincere repentence, and renunciation of the sin.

It's a matter of conscience, as are many things in the catholic faith.

I was rasied as a catholic, though I left the church long ago due to various disillusionments. It sticks with you.

The thing is, doctrine states that a homosexual man CAN be in a state of grace with god, so long as he repents his homosexual desires, and does not act on them.

I do not agree with this doctrine (as regards priests), because as has been pointed out, it violates a fundamental precept; that of redemption. If one sincerely repents ones sins, and recieves absolution; one should be regarded as in a state of grace with god, and thus not barred from the other sacraments, including holy orders.

They have basically said you can be in gods grace if you are gay, but not if you are gay and a priest; however there is no teaching justifiying this differentiation.

I can tell you WHY they did this: there is an association in the public AND the hierarchies mind between homosexuality and pedaerasty. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant to the perception; which is what they are atempting to manage by issuing a message on this doctrine at this time.

Unfortunately, yet another reason I can no longer consider the catholic church my spiritual home.


Lauren McLaughlin | September 24, 2005 11:00 AM

One thing this move on Pope Benedict's part does is get people arguing about the details of priestly ordination rather than asking The Big Obvious Question--i.e., "Why does this backwards, medieval, misogynistic, homophobic, child-raping, condom-depriving, choice-denying institution remain relevant to the modern world?"

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