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Status Ecclesiae November 2005

“Gay” Priest: An Oxymoron

“It’s not about you. It’s about the Church and the good of the Church”

by John Mallon, Contributing Editor, Inside the Vatican

THE REV. GERALD CHOJNACKI, SJ, HEAD OF THE NEW YORK PROVINCE OF THE SOCIETY of Jesus, is unhappy. According to a recent Associated Press report on a forthcoming Vatican document (expected in November) which will reiterate the Church’s teaching that “gay” seminarians should not be ordained priests, Chojnacki, in a September 26 letter to the Jesuits of his province, said he is asking bishops to tell Vatican officials who are drafting the policy “of the great harm this will cause many good priests and the Catholic faithful.”

Great harm? Father Chojnacki must not speak to many of the faithful, who simply want to attend church and have their children taught the Faith with fidelity by priests who are happy with Church teachings and their priesthood, and are not ostensibly celibate men preoccupied with their sexuality. The AP said Chojnacki wrote in the letter that he had participated in the funerals of several gay Jesuit clergy over the last few years. “I find it insulting to demean their memory and their years of service by even hinting that they were unfit for priesthood because of their sexual orientation,” he wrote. Chojnacki said he would be working with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which represents leaders of religious orders in the United States including the Jesuits, Franciscans and others, and with bishops, to fight “for the opportunity of a gay person to say yes to God’s call in celibate service of priesthood and chaste religious life.”

It seems odd, if not telling, that Father Chojnacki cites these men’s deaths. It raises the inevitable question, “How did they die?” One cannot help but think of AIDS in this connection. If, in fact, these men met untimely deaths from AIDS, the question is of course raised as to whether this is the “celibate” and “chaste” religious life of which Chojnacki speaks. Don’t dead young priests qualify as “great harm?” Most sane Catholics would say yes.

Jesuits have reason to be concerned. According to a document that came into my possession a few years ago, complete with names, in the New England Province alone, four priests and one novice died of AIDS between 1984 and 1997. In 1991 the Master of Novices left the order and priesthood to cohabitate with the “lover” of a former novice. In 1993 a Jesuit of the New England Province was convicted of drugging and indecently assaulting Marines and sentenced to five years in Leavenworth Prison. Between 1997 and 2000, seven Jesuits of the New England Province left the order to take up the “gay” lifestyle. In 1999 the Jesuit Urban Center in Boston was named the “Best Place To Meet A Mate, Gay” by Boston Magazine (August 1999).

If vows of chastity were being kept, there would be no issue. This is not a matter of scapegoating or a witch hunt. Active homosexuality in the priesthood or the seminary is a scandal all by itself. Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times recently quoted our old friend Rev. Thomas J. Reese, SJ, former editor of the Jesuit Weekly America magazine, saying that with the shortage of priests, the Church can hardly afford to dismiss gay seminarians.

What are you telling us, Father? That the priesthood is a numbers game? That fidelity to Christ and the doctrine of His Church should be dropped so we can have lots of priests to preach the resultant compromised Gospel? That the priesthood of Jesus Christ cannot survive without homosexuals? That in time we won’t work our way out of the humiliating scandals caused by “gay” priests demanding their “rights”?

It is more likely that men with a serious interest in prayer, pursuing holiness and serving Christ will no longer be run out of the seminary by dissent and homosexual hazing.

Reese continues, “It’s much healthier if a seminarian can talk about his sexuality with a spiritual director, but this kind of policy is going to force it all underground.” The attitude of these Jesuits and other clerics making comments to the secular press seems to be that the Church and priesthood is their own private bathhouse and the Pope has a lot of nerve to impose Catholicism on them 

“Gay” Ideology vs. Catholicism

So, what is really wrong with this? The statements of Fathers Chojnacki and Reese cited here are scandalous themselves, and yet they appear not to realize it. They seem to imply that it is Pope Benedict who is creating the scandal. It illustrates how far gone they are, and what living in the cocoon of the Culture of Dissent does to one’s faith. Perhaps the most depressing thing about this issue is the flood of ignorance being voiced by clergy—who should know better—about the Church’s motives on this. Though the 1961 document setting forth this policy (with the signature and full support of “Good Pope John”) has been widely ignored, the Church’s teachings on homosexuality have always been very clear. Now that the policies are being reiterated, many are crying foul. What indeed were their motives and expectations in pursuing the priesthood?

Dissenters have long used the tactic of the fait accompli— ignore a certain teaching and then claim falsely that it has changed. Then accuse the Church of being unfair or “uncaring” when it restates the teaching. Now, this fait accompli approach has failed.

Almost every argument being made in American op-ed pages by angry priests is based on emotion, not theology. The media naturally obtain comments from priests who object to restating the policy, originally spelled out in 1961.

Perhaps what is most disturbing is the number of priests who use the term “gay priest” seriously. It is one thing to be a faithful priest who struggles with same-sex attractions, but to openly proclaim one’s self “gay” is another matter. It calls fidelity into question. Is calling oneself “gay” in keeping with chastity? Such a man is trying to serve two masters.

The word “gay” is a term of ideology. It implies that homosexual attractions are not merely a struggle but an identity. Some even go so far as to claim their homosexuality is a “gift from God” or that “God made me this way.”

If homosexual attractions are, as the Church teaches, intrinsically disordered, and homosexual acts intrinsically evil, then it cannot be claimed that God made them. Rather they are the result of the Fall—Original Sin. This is not to single anyone out; we all suffer from the effects of Original Sin.

The ideology, implicit in the word “gay” denies that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered, and that homosexual acts are intrinsically evil, and attempts to grant homosexuality the same moral status as race and ethnicity. To accept this Big Lie recalls St. Paul’s warning: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity.” (Romans 1:25-27)

Do we believe this, or do we accuse St. Paul of spreading “hate speech”? Despite the astonishingly up-to-date description this passage provides of today’s world—and today’s Church—citing Scripture is dismissed as “out-of-date prooftexting.” How about what it says?

The Culture of Death is a two-legged stool which only remains standing because it is propped up by lies. Death and lies go together as Christ taught about the Church’s Adversary, “He was a murderer and a liar from the beginning.” The two legs of this stool are homosexuality and abortion. The Culture of Death is the main Adversary of the Church today. The two legs of this stool also comprise not merely sin, but two of the four sins that cry out to God for vengeance: murder of the innocent and sodomy.

Being a Catholic, much less a priest, implies a degree of conversion, and conversion implies a certain degree of renunciation, including first of all renunciation of sin and ultimately renunciation of one’s very self in order to die with Christ. This, in part, is what vows of chastity are all about.

As St. Paul said, “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The First Commandment states, “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, mind and strength.” It is not unreasonable to presume this includes one’s sexuality. To accept the validity of the term “gay” and the ideology and view of the human person it represents is to be in conflict with the Church and the teaching of Christ, accepting the terms laid down by the world, the flesh and the devil over those of Christ.

Therefore the term “gay priest” is an oxymoron. A priest may well struggle with same- sex attractions but to declare himself “gay” is in a sense a capitulation to the Church’s enemies. It is an acceptance of the way of the world, the flesh and the devil and a rejection of Christ and His teachings. A man in Holy Orders is an alter Christus, not a “gay man.” Some will argue, “I am both a gay man and a priest,” but invoking the Biblical language of God being a jealous God, one cannot be both and not be guilty of idolatry. The question is who is on the throne of our lives? Christ the King? Or someone or something else? For a celibate man vowed to chastity to have his sexuality—or homosexuality—on the throne of his life is a recipe for disaster and requires conversion. We have had enough disasters in the Church.

None of us, clerical or lay, lives in perfect conformity to Christ, which is why Christ gave us the Church and the sacraments, to assist us in our daily conversion to Christ, who is our true identity. How can a true priest of God, or any Christian, proclaim his identity to be in his sexual preferences rather than in Christ? It is absurd that Christ would want us to identify ourselves with what is intrinsically disordered or evil. This is not discriminatory; all of us must deal daily with that which is intrinsically disordered and evil. It’s called sin. No one is exempt from the struggle.

Confusion on this is not surprising after a century of Bible scholarship that has sought to tell us that the Bible doesn’t mean what it says, and a half century of dissent within the Church which tells us that the Church must conform to the world, for the sake of “credibility” instead of vice versa.

If I could say one thing to the gangs of clergy writing angry op-eds and letters to the editors to secular newspapers filled with clichés about witch hunts, hurt feelings and being ashamed of the Church, scapegoating for the pedophilia scandals, “outdated teachings from the Dark Ages,” ad nauseam, it would be a cliché of my own: It’s not about you. It’s about the Church, and the good of the Church. It’s about the eternal salvation of souls which homosexuality places in grave danger. How many times does a child have to hear that his priest is “gay” before concluding there’s nothing wrong with it—or even something noble about it—and starts experimenting? A priest’s job is to proclaim Christ, not his own sexual preferences.

The credibility of the Church lies precisely in how it stands against the sinful trends in the culture as a sign of contradiction in fidelity to the Gospel, not in going along with these trends. The world has erected an ersatz morality in opposition to the Church which says homosexuality is simply an “alternate lifestyle” and not to accept it constitutes bigotry and unfair discrimination and that abortion is a “right” and “necessity.” This is an “angel of light” the Church must stand against, not something to which she may acquiesce.

And yet the house of Israel says, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Is it my way that is not fair, house of Israel, or rather, is it not that your ways are not fair? Therefore I will judge you, house of Israel, each one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you. Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. Why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord God. Return and live! (Ezekiel 18:29-32)

John Mallon is a Contributing Editor to Inside the Vatican magazine.