“The church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture,’” reads the Dec. 8-dated document, which is titled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy released.
The document also reaffirms Pope Francis’ stance on homosexuality.
What has concerned many is a statement found in the document’s conclusion.
“The Holy Father Francis has approved the present General Executive Decree and has ordered its publication,” it reads.
“At the very least, Pope Francis owes it to the church, the world, and, not least, the LGBT community to explain exactly where he stands,” said Francis DeBernardo, executive director of the New Ways Ministry, a 39-year old national ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBT Catholics.
DeBernardo is referring to Francis’ 2013 interview during which he told reporters, “if a person is gay and seeks out the Lord and is willing, who am I to judge that person?”
That is not the first time Francis has supported “so-called ‘gay culture,’” having previously called for the church to “apologize to the person who is gay whom it has offended.”
“In his three-and-a-half years as pontiff, Francis has shown that he has moved away from now retired Pope Benedict XVI’s approach to issues of sexuality,” said DeBernardo, in a statement.
“It is not at all what anyone expected from the ‘Who am I to judge?’ Pope,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, an organization of Catholics committed to equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the church and society.
“These guidelines are a tremendous insult to the thousands of gay men who have served and continue to serve the church with honor and dedication. They undermine decades of commitment by these men, and they fail to acknowledge that God calls a great variety of people to the priesthood,” Duddy-Burke added in a statement.
“The writers of the document seem to have closed their eyes to the fact that thousands upon thousands of gay men are already serving faithfully and effectively in the Catholic priesthood. Indeed, without gay men, the church would not be able to operate,” explained DeBernardo.
Duddy-Burke is also aware of this problem faced by the Catholic Church.
“Our church is struggling with a tremendous shortage of priests to serve even the basic sacramental needs of Catholics,” she said. “The hierarchy’s exclusion of people that God has called to ministry exacerbates this problem to the detriment of the people of God.”
Duddy-Burke also feels that the wording of the document does “a great deal of damage.”
“It trivializes our identity by referring to ‘homosexual tendencies,’” she said. “It claims gay men cannot have healthy relationships with either women or men. It encourages those who experience a call to priesthood to avoid having any same-sex relationships for at least three years, forcing people deep into unhealthy closets.”
“All of this reinforces a sense of gay people as flawed, unfit for ministry, and as second- or third-class members of the church,” Duddy-Burke concluded.
DeBernardo, however, is slightly more optimistic about the situation.
“Bishops and many heads of men’s religious orders have ignored the 2005 document, realizing the gifts that many gay men bring to the priesthood and church ministry,” he said. “It is likely that these and many other leaders will simply ignore the bad advice of this most recent document.”