Bishop Urges Gay Ban in Clergy
Presses Overhaul for Screening Priests

By Meredith Goldstein
Globe [Brighton MA]
July 19, 2004

Bishop John M. D'Arcy, who in private letters to other church officials as early as 1978 questioned the reassignment of priests accused of sexual misconduct, said yesterday that the church must improve its screening process for accepting seminarians and that homosexuals should be prohibited from being ordained as priests.

"We must be very careful of who we accept in the seminary and who we ordain as priests," D'Arcy told parishioners at Our Lady of the Presentation Church, the Brighton parish in which he grew up. "It's time to ordain men of quality, not to just look for numbers."

During yesterday's 10 a.m. Mass, D'Arcy, now bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese in Indiana, said the church must look for men whom children can respect -- "men who would be good husbands, men who would be good fathers," he said.

In an interview after the service, D'Arcy acknowledged that his reference to "good husbands . . . good fathers" conveyed his belief that only heterosexual men should be allowed to become priests. He said men in the priesthood must embrace celibacy.

To put a gay man in the priesthood, in a mostly male environment, is unfair, given the potential attractions, D'Arcy said. "We don't put these [heterosexual] men in with attractive women," he said, referring to seminarians. "You're putting him in with men. It's not fair to him, it's not fair to them, it's not fair to the church."

D'Arcy said that if the church can bring men to seminaries who have the right temperament for the job, those priests will attract more good men to work for the church.

"If we ordain men with pathologies and difficulties, they will draw the same kind," he added. "Don't just pray for priests, pray for priests of good quality."

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the archdiocese, said that while there has been discussion among some members of the archdiocese and at the Vatican about the possibility of banning homosexuals from the priesthood, no decisions have been made.

"The main issue is celibacy," he said, adding that D'Arcy's concerns about gay priests "aren't necessarily shared by others."

Coyne said he is confident that Boston's method of choosing priests is selective enough. Coyne said that only 20 percent of the applicants for priesthood in the Archdiocese of Boston are accepted by the church. The screening includes multiple, extensive interviews with teachers, psychologists, and lay people, he said.

"I don't see the need here in Boston," he said of possible overhaul. "I can say the process in Boston is a good one."

Chuck Colbert, a Cambridge freelance writer and gay Catholic activist, said many Catholics understand that homosexuality and pedophilia have no connection. "People make the distinctions," he said. "People know gay priests."

D'Arcy's contention that gay men would find it difficult to resist temptation in a mostly male environment is flawed and closed-minded, Colbert said. "Straight men are always around attractive women and they don't collapse," he said.

D'Arcy wrote several letters citing his concerns about the church's failure to remove abusive priests from the ministry, including one, written in 1984, that warned Cardinal Bernard F. Law about the late Rev. John J. Geoghan, who D'Arcy warned had a "history of homosexual involvement [with] young boys."

Geoghan, who was killed in prison last year, had been accused of abusing 150 children, mostly boys, and was a key figure in the clergy sexual abuse crisis that roiled the Catholic Church. Geoghan was convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy and was serving a sentence of nine to 10 years.

D'Arcy was auxiliary bishop of the Boston Archdiocese when, shortly after writing the letters about Geoghan, he was assigned to the Indiana Archdiocese. He returned yesterday to Our Lady of the Presentation to help inspire parishioners as they fight the parish's closure.

D'Arcy said he hopes the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will discuss screening policies for the seminary when it meets this fall. He said he hopes the group takes a firm stance against homosexual men serving as priests.

Parishioners gathered around D'Arcy after the Mass, taking photographs with the bishop and shaking his hand. D'Arcy said he would pray for the parish as it lobbies the archdiocese to remain open as a chapel for a weekly service in the face of a closure order as part of a regional consolidation.

Anna May Callahan said she supported D'Arcy's belief that the priest selection process should be overhauled. "The bishop is sincere when he says they only want a few good men," she said.


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