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What if I strongly disagree with the views of someone else who professes to be a Christian?

How can Christianity be called a religion of love if "Christians" condemn those whose lifestyle and views differ from their own?

In a world where "right and wrong" often seem hard to define, what's important to think about with regards to homosexuality and sexual orientation?

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Pope Benedict Calls for Youth to Reject “Consumer” Religion

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December 6, 2005

Pope’s Objections to a Gay Priesthood

by Jon M. Sweeney
After months of rumors of what the Vatican would say about homosexuals serving as priests in the Catholic Church, there were very few surprises last week.

The document is titled simply Instruction, and was officially published last Tuesday, November 29. However, one week earlier, most of it could be read in a leaked, Italian-only version on the website of an Italian-Catholic news agency, Adista. (The New York Times, for instance, published a front-page story about the leaked version two weeks ago.)

To no one’s surprise, the short document instructs Catholic seminary officials to refuse admittance to anyone known to practice homosexuality, as well as those who “support the so-called gay culture.”

It also reiterates the Vatican’s position that homosexuality does not represent a disposition somehow equivalent to heterosexuality. Instead, Instruction makes clear that homosexual sex is a “grave sin,” contrary to God’s intentions for any man.

This latest pronouncement from the Vatican is intended to be a structural solution to the clergy abuse crisis that crippled the Church in the United States, Ireland, and other countries over the last decade. Pope Benedict XVI believes that gay men are primarily responsible for the abuses of power that resulted in hundreds of incidents of clergy sexual activity with teenage boys.

Estimates vary widely—from 20 to 60 percent—as to what percentage of priests in the Catholic Church are gay. Some of them, despite an earlier Vatican document (in 1961) declaring that gay men are not to serve as priests, have been out of the closet, although as vowed celibates. Some have even made headlines in recent decades by marching in gay pride parades.
Instruction was written as a series of somewhat vague directives to bishops and other officials who run Catholic seminaries. As such, it makes no conclusions about what are to be done with priests already serving in parishes who are known to be gay.

The fear of many Catholics is that these priests—most of them strong pastors with faithful congregations who value their work—will be driven into the closet, and perhaps eventually out of the Church.

But most unsettling to progressive Catholics and many on-lookers is the more subtle instruction in the document which advises the exclusion of those who “present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.” The task of discerning these tendencies is left up to spiritual directors, such as confessors, and when detected, they “have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.”

As Andrew Greeley, Catholic priest and sociologist, recently pointed out in his book, The Making of the Pope 2005: “While the judgment that homosexual sex is always wrong has declined somewhat among Protestant Americans since 1990, it has declined much more sharply among Catholics—from more than 70 percent to less than 50 percent. Catholics are now somewhat more than 20 percentage points less likely to be antigay than are Protestants.” The conservative Pope Benedict XVI appears to be aiming to change all of that.

© 2005 Jon M. Sweeney.

— Jon M. Sweeney is a writer and editor living in Vermont. He is the author of several books, including THE LURE OF SAINTS: A PROTESTANT EXPERIENCE OF CATHOLIC TRADITION.

More by Jon Sweeney.

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