It seems that an Italian newspaper has received information concerning a long-awaited amended policy on gays being accepted into the priesthood. The sources indicate that gays who have been 'chaste' for three years and exhibit no external signs indicating they are gay or might be attracted to persons of the same gender then they might be accepted into seminaries for training leading to ordination as priests.
The Vatican it seems has confirmed that the policy will be published shortly, but has decined to discuss its probable contents in any way.
What does all this mean? Well, it had been rumoured some weeks ago that the new Pontiff would live up fully to his reputation as a 'traditionalist' by decreeing a blanket ban on gays in the priesthood. I wrote about these rumours here. A lot of commentary in catholic-leaning websites seemed to indicate worries that a blanket purge of homosexuals was being planned and the likelihood that if this were rigorously applied wuld lead to paralysis for the Church, specially in countries such as the US.
As to what these latest rumours might mean, several possibilities seem to bear consideration:
- the Vatican has authorised a leak in order to 'test the waters' on how such a modified policy (the 3-year 'chaste' rule) might be received in important markets for the message it peddles, such as the US; for example, does it go far enough in placating the right-wing and the liberalisers not to risk bringing the Church's operations there into [more] ridicule and complete chaos;
- it is a completely unfounded rumour and has no relation to what the Vatican is considering publishing as its latest policy on the matter;
- there are a number of other subsidiary comments that might be made; perhaps I'll do this in a later post.
If the 3-year 'chaste' policy is being considered, it seems to me to be somewhat confused as to principles and aims. Aren't all priests supposed to be celibate? I thought that was the point? Why should it make a difference if a [trainee] priest is heterosexual or homosexual in his tendencies; the Church has always, for whatever bizarre psycho-sexual reasons, prescribed celibacy on the part of its foot-soldiers. I think it is really coming up against the reality that, whilst many priests of whatever sexual proclivity may have been celibate always, there have always been some, both heterosexual and homosexual, who have not achieved this 'perfect state', whether by interfering with little boys or other priests, or having it off with female parishioners - some of them undoubtedly just as underage as some of the males certain of their colleagues may have had dalliances with. How anyone can possibly have confidence in an organisation which imposes, as this leaked new policy seems to, dishonesty and concealment amongst its practitioners is beyond my understanding of what the words 'honesty' and 'integrity' are supposed to mean. Why anyone should be expected or prepared to seek counsel or guidance from people who are expected to struggle constantly against their own inner urges (whether heterosexual or homosexual) and quite possibly become twisted and unbalanced themselves as a result, is equally beyond me. When I need help or advice with something I generally try and talk to people who don't have to lie to themselves constantly, because I'm afraid that my view is that if they have become so habituated to lying to themselves regularly then they have quite possibility lost the objectivity to give advice to anyone else.
One awaits with bated breath to see just what circumlocutions the text of this new Vatican policy will employ to satisfy the needs both of orthodoxy and of the practical realities of operating a 'business' (which in some ways is what the modern Catholic Church is) in the early 21st century in societies where people have grown used to thinking for themselves and not following blindly policies laid down from 'on high'.
UPDATE: (Saturday 8OCT05 14.35 BST) According to Toronto priest Father Alphonse de Valk the rumours published in Corriere della Sera are all part of the gay rumour mill at work within the Vatican by so-called homosexual factions which wish to water down Vatican policies. Sounds an eminently rational man to me - NOT - this Father Alphonse de Valk! What a bunch ... (I do recall that in the 1930s another crowd of bigots believed that all the world's ills were attributable to a coterie of secretive financiers and bankers 'with hooked noses'. That particular 'rumour' was just as false as I expect this latest scare story is.)