Vatican Meeting Addresses Homosexuality in Priesthood
Cardinals Also Discuss Celibacy Requirement
April 24, 2002
VATICAN CITY — It wasn't on the agenda, but homosexuality in the priesthood was among the topics discussed Tuesday on the first day of a two-day meeting here of U.S. cardinals with Vatican leaders.
"One of the difficulties that we do face in seminary life and in recruiting [for the priesthood] is ... within any given seminary, a homosexual atmosphere or dynamic makes heterosexual young men think twice before entering into a seminary, for fear that they would be identified with that orientation or that they would be harassed," Belleville's Bishop Wilton Gregory, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said during a break.
"It is an ongoing struggle," said Gregory. "It's most importantly a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men. Not only [that] is it not dominated by homosexual men, but that the candidates that we receive are healthy in every possible way."
Catholic moral teaching does not condemn homosexual orientation as a sin, but it considers homosexual activity to be sinful. And, just as heterosexual priests are required to do, gay priests, too, must remain celibate.
"It seems to me that the important thing in seminary formation is to ask whether or not a candidate is capable of marriage and family, because an ordained priest is a married man: He's a committed man to the bride of Christ, which is the church," said Chicago Cardinal Francis George.
"I think the difficulty in formation is to find out whether ... a man can see himself as married and bringing forth new life, which is what a priest is supposed to be. I think from that perspective, you put the question of [sexual] orientation in a little different focus."
Celibacy, another topic not officially on the agenda, also came up, George said, but not in the way that Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and others had hoped. They wanted to raise the possibility of lifting the requirement that priests remain celibate.
Instead, George said, "What came up is ... rather how can we strengthen its observance, so the 1.5 percent or so of priests who have failed, according to the national statistics, in some fashion will not weaken the church's resolve to call only to orders those whom the Lord has given the gift of celibacy."
National polls suggest a majority of American Roman Catholic clergy and laity favor allowing priests to marry.
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