Status Ecclesiae October 2006
Clerical Homosexuality, Conversion and Belief
By John Mallon
"Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD."
It appears that some North American bishops have not learned the bitter, tragic and humiliating lessons of the 2002 sex abuse scandals. Websites are springing up detailing further problems among bishops and clergy. In my judgment these sites are not run by “cranks” bent on bashing their bishops, but by deeply, urgently concerned members of the faithful who endure deep pain and frustration over ongoing clerical misbehavior and bishops’ inability, or outright refusal to deal with the problems. Or, who deal with them by shooting the messenger and protecting those who is give scandal, which is a scandal in itself.
Apart from general dissent, the pivotal issue in these scandals is clerical homosexuality. Indeed, dissent and clerical homosexuality are emerging as two sides of the same coin: the attempt to make viewpoints Catholic that are incompatible with Catholic belief, and, which are, frankly sinful. Ultimately this is idolatry—following different gods and ideologies and attempting to convert Catholicism to them. The ideologies that underpin homosexual activism and radical feminism are inimical with Catholicism. In the “politically correct” secular society all morality has been reduced to “tolerance” and when unqualified tolerance is unleashed, before long evil is tolerated and people who don’t toe the line of this unqualified “tolerance” are deemed “intolerable,” persecuted, and ultimately, if this system runs unchecked, killed.
We see this when a Communist “peoples’ army” goes out "in the name of the people” and shoots the people to protect “the people.” We see this in the Church when dissenters demand that dissent be tolerated in the Church and then turn around and persecute those who do not dissent. Orthodoxy has become intolerable to them.
As well as being a form of idolatry, dissent is a degree of unbelief. Dissent from Catholic teachings is a tacit refusal to believe Christ’s words to the apostles, “He who hears you hears me,” when He established the Magisterium and Papacy as protected from error in matters of Faith and morals. As much as they claim to be Catholic they do not believe these words of Christ as the Catholic Church understands them. On a matter as serious as sexual morality it means placing greater credence on the World's shifting understanding of sexuality than that of the Church. It is taking one's cues from a different shrine.
It is apparent there are powerful homosexual networks of priests in many, if not most, dioceses who seek to protect themselves at all costs. There are even reports of death threats by priests against priests who threaten to expose their activities. Bishops may be particularly vulnerable to the tactics of the so-called “Lavender Mafia,” who appear to be quite capable of making their bishop’s life a living hell if he crosses them.
Orthodox lay professionals who oppose dissent are forced out and orthodox priests are shunned, frozen out, or worse. Some of the faithful believe their bishops must be members of this Lavender Mafia, otherwise, why wouldn't he stop them? Unfortunately this is nothing new, but due to the exposure of the 2002 scandals the problem is coming more and more into the light.
The current scandals include this punishment of whistle-blowers—by bishops—and the protection of wrongdoers. The most common scenario involves a priest being suspended for trying to call attention to the wrongdoing of a fellow cleric while the cleric involved in sexual misconduct is defended and protected by the bishop and the chancery. Obviously each case must be investigated but I am speaking here of a trend.
Journalist Mary Ann Kreitzer wrote an essay on her website for the Catholic Media Coalition (catholicmediacoalition.org), entitled “Persecuted Priest: Growing Problem in the U.S.” detailing the plight of priests who speak out for Catholic teachings. Kreitzer writes, “Many orthodox priests live in fear that their bishops will remove their priestly faculties. Why? Because they are having an affair with a parishioner’s wife? Because they’re hoarding porno flicks in the closet? Because they’re letting a homosexual buddy live in the rectory? No! Because they defend the faith vigorously against the evils of modernism and the homosexual subculture.”
One priest she cites wrote to her for help because of the backlash he received from his fellow priests and trouble he got into with his diocese for writing a letter to the editor of the local newspaper explaining and defending Catholic teachings on homosexuality after Episcopalians voted to ordain homosexual clergy.
Further on in the same essay she writes of another priest removed from ministry in his diocese in 2000 for asking his bishop to take action against a succession of immoral pastors with whom he was assigned. She says, “They included an adulterer and two porn addicts, one of whom embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from [the parish]." She says, this “case remains unresolved.” She notes another priest, suspended by the same bishop for correcting the liturgical abuses of a permanent deacon, who also remains in limbo after nearly ten months. “It seems unlikely these priests will be reinstated without outside intervention,” she writes.
All of this is confusing to the faithful who come to wonder, as they did in the pedophilia scandals, “what does it take to get the bishop to do the right thing?”
If a priest writes a letter to the editor of a newspaper beginning “I am a priest who happens to be gay...” He is accepting an ideology—a different gospel—than that of Christ by his use of the word “gay.”
Our degree of conversion is the degree to which Jesus is Lord of our life. None of us is converted enough. Obedience to Jesus is a joy. He is God, He knows better than we do. Obedience consists in our willingness to be conformed to Him, to be converted, and our willingness to see things His way. The love of Christ is very persuasive and depending on our willingness to receive it, it will fill the need we sought to fill by sinful means. Most of us are unwilling to part with our idols until we hit the wall after chasing them.
Finally, there is the pastoral aspect to all this. The bishop is entrusted by the Lord with the souls in his diocese, as well as the salvation of his priests. The scenario above makes it very difficult for Catholics who simply want to live their faith according to Catholic teachings. Instead of a sanctuary they find an atmosphere that is pushing the agenda of the World.
The Lord Himself is reaching out and touching people, sovereignly, as in the passage from Jeremiah cited above. We see them streaming into the Church and all too often baffled as to why parish staff, volunteers, and RCIA programs wish to downplay the beautiful teachings that drew them to the Church and lend support—in the name of “tolerance” of the very things that held them in bondage that they seek conversion from.
The Holy Spirit has taught them that all are welcome in the Church and that the joy of the Church lies in repentance of sin, not "celebrating" it, and that our identity lies in Christ not in sexual preference.
Those who have received a sovereign grace of conversion and change of heart from the Lord need a place to come home to that truly represents the Lord they encountered and know to be true, not one preaching “another gospel” of “tolerance and “openness” to the things which nearly destroyed them. It is the responsibility of the bishop to ensure that His diocese is that place. It is the responsibility of the priest to ensure that his parish is that place. Otherwise it is just another lie.
Years ago a colleague of mine approached his bishop with the idea of starting a Courage chapter in the diocese. He received a flat “no” with no explanation. My friend and I were baffled as to why a bishop would veto such an excellent, proven ministry in his diocese. (Courage is an outreach to men and women who experience same-sex attractions who wish to live in chastity according to Church teachings.) My friend and I speculated that it must have been because of the flak he would receive from the homosexual priests in the diocese who do not see homosexuality as the Church does.
If true, this raises another question. Does a bishop have more fear of his renegade priests than he does fear of God?
Another friend of mine, who came home to the Church after such a conversion and a lifetime of struggle with “the lifestyle” of homosexuality, credits his chastity—what he calls his sobriety—of over 20 years now, to God's grace, the sacraments, and attendance to Courage meetings and Sexaholics Anonymous meetings. This friend recently astonished me with his educated guess that the clergy in the diocese where he grew up, and lived most of his life was ninety percent homosexual. That strains credulity, but he stands by it. This is a major American diocese with a Cardinal Archbishop at the helm—a good bishop who inherited the problem.
It is my view that every diocese—if not parish—should have a Courage group for this very widespread pastoral problem. Not only should this be provided for the people but also for the priests, a separate meeting for priests who claim to be "gay," as a condition of remaining in the priesthood.
A priest should be called to make a decision whether he wants to be “gay” or a priest of God with a particular struggle with same-sex attractions, but committed to Christ and Church teachings, chastity of body, heart and mind.
The distinction is a real one. Acceptance and use of the word “gay” implies an acceptance of the ideology of “gay culture,” a system of beliefs hostile the Church. This proposal suggests that a man wishing to continue in the priesthood embrace his configurement to Christ with his entire life “animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and by an authentic pastoral charity.” (CF, Congregation For Catholic Education, Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders; No 1)
Mallon is Contributing Editor of Inside the Vatican. In upcoming issues he will launch a series of interviews with some of the newer, younger bishops who are bringing hope to the Church.