The Most Talked About Non-Topic at the Vatican? Homosexuality

By Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo

Called to the Vatican this week by Pope Francis to grapple with the crisis of child sexual abuse by clergy, nearly 200 leaders of the Roman Catholic Church sat for lectures on responsibility, accountability and transparency.

But privately, they kept raising one issue not on the agenda: homosexuality.

“We spoke of this,” Bishop Ricardo Ernesto Centellas Guzmán, the president of the Bolivian Bishops Conference, acknowledged on Thursday, the start of the extraordinary four-day meeting of bishops and other church leaders.

Yet homosexuality is exactly the topic the conference organizers had hoped to avoid, pointing to ample research finding no connection between homosexuality and pedophilia.

“The main issue is power,” said the Rev. Hans Zollner, a member of the Vatican’s child-protection commission and president of the Center for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Abuse “can be heterosexual or homosexual,” he added in an interview.

Still, some Catholic bishops and conservative church media outlets have continued to blame the clerical child sexual abuse crisis on homosexuality.

At the meeting, even as organizers and attendees pushed time and again to focus the discussions on pedophilia, the conflicting views about homosexuality within the church emerged as a distraction.

Jean-Claude Hollerich, the archbishop of Luxembourg and Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, moderated one of the meeting’s French-speaking discussion groups, which included leaders from some Francophone African nations.

He said on Saturday that some bishops kept returning to homosexuality as a cause for abuse because “some people have some models in their head and they will always keep to it.”

He said he and other bishops had sought to change their minds.

“I tell them the prime minister of my country is homosexual,” he said. “And he would never abuse children.”

Bishop Rochus Josef Tatamai, of Kavieng, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, said on Saturday that in his English-language group, homosexuality was “alluded to” during discussions about the training of new priests.

“The main issue is power,” said the Rev. Hans Zollner, center, a member of the Vatican’s child-protection commission and president of the Center for Child Protection of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He suggested that “a desperate need for priests” in Europe and the United States had led seminaries to be lax in screening for candidates, some of whom turned out to be gay and abusers.

Pope Francis has clearly shifted the discussion, if not church doctrine, to a more inclusive position on homosexuality.

In 2013, he responded to questions about a supposed “gay lobby” in the Vatican by saying, “Who am I to judge?” — a remark that liberals celebrated and conservatives lamented

But while Catholic Church teachings state that people with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect,” it also calls deep-seated homosexual inclinations and acts “intrinsically disordered.”

Some conservative American prelates have sought to bring down Francis, seeing him as a protector of a gay subculture that is corrupting the clergy. Some have said his positions are eroding the church’s traditional values and planting the seeds of sexual abuse.

Bishops from Africa, Asia and Latin America say that in failing to connect homosexuality to sexual abuse, the Vatican is ignoring that a vast majority of abuse is perpetrated by priests on male victims.

This view has been echoed by Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the church’s chief doctrinal watchdog until Pope Francis forced him out in 2017.

The cardinal told the German magazine Der Spiegel this month that “far more than 80 percent of the victims of sexual abuse under 18 years of age were young men in puberty or post-puberty.’’

And he argued that homosexuality should have been a central topic at the Vatican meeting this week.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, the archbishop of Chicago, a favorite of Pope Francis and an organizer of the conference, said on Monday that it was not the case that “homosexual people are more prone to abuse children than straight people.”

Asked about Cardinal Müller’s remarks, Cardinal Cupich told reporters “it’s important to admit the fact” that the predominance of underage victims are male. But he pointed to landmark studies in the United States and Australia showing that homosexuality in itself is not a cause of child sex abuse, and that access to children is a major factor.

Each day at the meeting, reporters from conservative Catholic news outlets peppered the meeting’s organizers with questions about why they are dodging the topic of homosexuality.

Members of Ending Clergy Abuse, an organization of victims and their supporters, demonstrating Thursday in Rome.

Their short answer: because it is irrelevant.

Homosexuality has “nothing to do with the sexual abuse of minors,” Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, the Vatican’s leading sex crimes investigator, said on Friday.

Still, leading conservatives and traditionalists persisted in their arguments.

Cardinal Raymond Burke of the United States and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller of Germany published an open letter to the presidents of bishops’ conferences representing various countries at the meeting, urging them to end their “conspiracy of silence” about the “plague of the homosexual agenda.”

And Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a former papal ambassador to the United States who accused the pope in August of protecting abusive gay clerics and called for his resignation, argued on Thursday that it was fitting that the meeting’s opening that day coincided with the feast of St. Peter Damian, an 11th-century monk who fought against “sins of sodomy” in the church.

(Some church historians cautioned the archbishop that the saint was perhaps not the best model, as he had also denounced as immoral a Byzantine princess for introducing the practice of eating with a fork.)

The conference coincided with what appeared to be the strategically timed release of “In the Closet of the Vatican,” a gossipy book by the French author Frédéric Martel, who characterized the Vatican as “one of the biggest gay communities in the world.”

Those who attack Pope Francis “are very homophobic and for the large part live a double homosexual life,” Mr. Martel said Wednesday at a news conference in Rome, adding that as a gay man, he was able to determine who in the Vatican was gay.

The book’s release was criticized by advocates for abuse victims.

“Let’s be clear,” said Peter Saunders, a Briton who was forced off the Vatican’s child protection panel for criticizing it as toothless. “There is no link between people who are gay and people who abuse children. And I think that that is a lie that has to be hammered into the ground

Estimates of how many priests are gay vary widely, but at a minimum, it is considered to be a significant percentage. One priest in Florida recently told The New York Times that a third of Catholic clergy members were gay, a third were straight, and a third remained a mystery — even to themselves.

Some advocates for gay equality in the church said their message seemed to have gotten through to church leaders.

Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry in Maryland, a Catholic organization that supports gay men and lesbians, said in Rome that he was pleasantly surprised at the conference to find homosexuality “debunked as a cause” of abuse. He was hoping the Vatican “would give a more definitive, official statement from the pope to that effect.”

But among the bishops in the room with Francis, the issue was not exactly settled.

Entering the conference, Bishop Gonzalo de Villa y Vásquez of Guatemala said, “I think it can be a legitimate question whether or not there is a link between homosexuality and abuses.”

Complete Article HERE!

The Catholic Church is bursting with secrets. Investigating one will unravel them all.

Pope Francis in Rome on Feb. 14.

By Garry Wills

The New York Times published an extraordinary article this week based on interviews with two dozen gay Catholic priests and seminarians in 13 states. “Out” men and women today are often widely admired, but most of the interviews had to be conducted anonymously because the Vatican still treats homosexuality as “objectively disordered” — a policy that persists even though the representation of gay men in the priesthood is higher, probably far higher, than in the general population.

The relevant catechism about sexuality does not condemn people with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies,” just those who act on those tendencies. In other words, you can be gay so long as you don’t do anything about it. The Times article rightly presents this distinction as a trial for the priests involved — one of the last major throwbacks to the era of “the love that dare not speak its name” (as Oscar Wilde’s partner, Lord Alfred Douglas, put it). But I wondered how the church’s policy on homosexuality affects men and women, as well as boys and girls, who are not priests.

The gay priest is required, generally, to uphold the official teaching of his church and of his superiors, making him a collaborator in the suppression of his gay brothers and sisters outside the clergy. In this way, without intending to, the victimized become victimizers. How does that play out, to take an example, in the confessional? If a penitent confesses homosexual activity to a gay priest, does the priest channel God’s forgiveness of a sin that he does not himself consider a sin? This is just one of the many ways in which we Catholics, if we refrain from criticizing this particular stance of our church, contribute to the persecution of the LGBTQ community.

The deepest irony is that a priest who is required to go against his nature is told that he must do this because of “natural law.” The church’s quaint theory of natural law is that the first biological use of an activity is the only permissible use of that activity. If the biological use of sex is for procreation, any other use is “against nature.”

The absurdity of this view is made clear by considering the first biological use for eating: the sustenance of life. If every other use of nutrition is against nature, then any diet beyond what is consumed for life-maintenance is a sin — in other words, no wedding cakes, no champagne toasts. Yet the church continues to adhere to so-called natural law because it underpins doctrine on all sexual matters, including the condemnations of abortion, contraception, in vitro fertilization and stem-cell research.

Given the stakes in these and other matters, the ban on gay sex involves a larger “church teaching” than the single matter of homosexuality.

Priests and bishops who cover up male homosexuality are prone to a mutual blackmail with those who commit and conceal heterosexual acts by the clergy — sometimes involving women, including nuns, who have been victimized by priests. The Times’s portrait of gay priests was followed by a powerful Feb. 18 article revealing that the church has internal policies for dealing with priests who father children. The Vatican confirmed, apparently for the first time, that a priest with progeny is encouraged to ask for release from his ministry “to assume his responsibilities as a parent by devoting himself exclusively to the child” — there being no requirement in canon law that a priest perform this basic act of love for his offspring and the child’s mother.

Secrecy in one clerical area intersects with secrecy in others. There is an implicit pledge that “your secret is safe with my secret.” If there are gay nuns — and why would there not be? — that adds another strand to the interweavings of concealment.

The trouble with any culture that maintains layer upon layer of deflected inspections is that, when so many people are guarding their own secrets, the deep examination of an institution becomes nearly impossible. The secrecies are too interdependent. Truly opening one realm of secrecy and addressing it may lead to an implosion of the entire system. That is the real problem faced this week by Pope Francis and the church leaders he has summoned from around the world for a conference at the Vatican to consider the labyrinthine and long-standing scandals of clerical sex abuse.

Complete Article HERE!

Gay priests ask Pope Francis to reconsider banning gay men from priesthood

Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors warns scapegoating gay priests will not solve the causes of recent sex abuse scandals

An organization of gay Catholic priests has written a letter to Pope Francis asking him not to endorse efforts to ban gay men from becoming priests.

The letter, a copy of which was released Wednesday, comes a week before bishops from around the world are expected to convene a meeting in Vatican City to address the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

Unfortunately, conservative interests are expected to hijack the meeting to push their own agenda: banning all gay men from the priesthood, based on an outdated stereotype that a person cannot experience same-sex attraction and be celibate.

The letter, signed by the chair of the Netherlands-based Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors on behalf of the group’s members, objects to Francis’ past statements and a recent papal document advocating a continuation of policy (in place under Francis’ predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI) that prevents openly gay men from being ordained as priests.

“Although the document states that the Church deeply respects the persons in question, it also makes the arbitrary and unfounded statement that: ‘Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating appropriately to both men and women,’” the letter reads.

The group then enumerates and explains the reasons why it believes there should not be a ban on gay priests, noting that there are already countless numbers of priests who are gay, and that their sexual orientation alone does not disqualify them from living a celibate life or being able to provide religious guidance to their congregations.

“Heterosexual and homosexual seminarians and priests who are aware of the nature of their sexuality, who accept it as given by God, who are not ashamed about it, who can (learn to) speak about it in an appropriate and meaningful way, and who (learn to) deal with it properly in their role as a priest (or seminarian, are not the problem in our opinion,” the letter reads. “On the contrary, they can and do function well and have a valuable role to play within our Faith and Church.”

In contrast, the group argues, it is priests who “deny, disown, or suppress” their sexuality who are more likely to have problems, which can manifest themselves in the form of abuse or sexually inappropriate conduct.

“We have the distinct impression that the Vatican and the Congregation for the Clergy and perhaps even you yourself, tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors. We disagree with this,” the letter continues.

“We believe that the current major crisis with respect to this context is primarily the result of the disapproval, suppression, denial and the poor integration of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, on the part of many individual priests and within our Church as a whole. One is simply unable or unwilling to discuss it, or banned from mentioning it, except within the sacrament of confession. In our view this is detrimental to the Church as a whole and to the priests themselves in particular.”

The priests also thank Pope Francis for showing consideration and compassion to gay and lesbian Catholics, but the current policy banning gay priests is in conflict with that consideration. As such, they ask Pope Francis to “review and correct the stipulation in Il dono della vocazione presbiterale that by definition disqualifies homosexual candidates to the celibate priesthood.”

Francis DeBernardo, executive director, New Ways Ministry, a national Catholic ministry of justice and reconciliation for LGBTQ people and the Church, says that, after a summer of headlines exposing several major abuse scandals, it has become apparent that the church hierarchy — and particularly conservative elements within it — are positioned to blame the presence of gay priests as one of the roots of the sexual abuse crisis.

Cardinal McCarrick’s case, which received the most attention, was not a case of pedophilia. It was a case of adult non-consensual sex,” DeBernardo says. “So it quickly got labeled that this was not pedophilia, but a problem with gay priests. And a lot of the anti-gay forces in the Church quickly glommed onto that, and saw it as an opportunity. And it has since snowballed to becoming one of the issues that will be discussed [at next week’s meeting].”

DeBernardo says that, even though Catholic Church teaching is not to condemn homosexuality, but only homosexual acts, there has been a deliberate conflation of being gay with being sexually active.

“There are anti-gay advocates in the Church who have, since a long time ago, believed the myth that if you are gay, you are sexually active, which is a totally ignorant and irresponsible definition,” says DeBernardo. “While there are some gay priests who have not been able to live up to vows of celibacy, there are many heterosexual priests who have not as well. And there are many more gay priests who have lived up to that promise.

“The other reason I think they’re trying to rid the Church of gay priests is that they do not want to admit that gay people have lived holy lives and lives of service to the Church,” he adds.

DeBernardo worries that the Church risks failing to address the underlying causes of the sexual abuse crisis if they are obsessed with scapegoating only gay priests. Instead, he says, bishops and clergy should be looking at the secretive culture of the church, its treatment of priests as better or holier than they lay people in their parishes, a lack of support systems for priests — including discussions of what healthy celibacy looks like — and the lack of a screening process that might raise warning flags about would-be abusers.

DeBernardo also adds there may be more sinister motivations behind the scapegoating, including a desire to push the Church in a more authoritarian or conservative direction.

“The ones calling for scapegoating of gay priests are same ones who want to bring down the papacy of Pope Francis, because they see him as too liberal,” he notes. “Making the charge that he’s protecting gay priests is a way of weakening his authority. And it’s effective, because how do you prove there aren’t gay priests? It’s like the bogeyman in the closet. If you bring it up, it’s assumed that it’s real.”

Complete Article HERE!

Senator criticises pope’s ‘no room’ for gay clergy in church comment

‘Being gay is not transient, it’s not a phase,’ says former seminarian Jerry Buttimer

‘In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable,’ says Pope Francis.

By Barry Roche

Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer has expressed disappointment at Pope Francis’ declaration that there is “no room” in the Catholic church for gay priests.

“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with the candidates,” Pope Francis says in a book released in Italy on Saturday.

“In our societies it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church.”

Writing in The Strength of Vocation, Pope Francis says some priests did not exhibit any homosexual inclinations when they joined the priesthood only for it to emerge later but he reminded the faithful that the Catholic Church views homosexual acts as sinful.

“In consecrated and priestly life, there’s no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life

Mr Buttimer, who is gay and studied for five years as a seminarian in Maynooth in the 1980s, said the Pope seemed to be delivering a very traditional message with regard to people from the LGBT community which was at odds with some of his initial comments regarding gay people.

Pope Francis was now adopting “ a very hardline” approach to the LGBT community and to say that homosexuality was about being fashionable failed to recognize that people’s sexual orientation was a fundamental part of their being, he said.

‘In god’s image’

“Being gay is not transient, it’s not a phase, it’s not a passing stage of one’s life – I’ve always made the point that, as a Christian, as a Catholic, I was born and am born in the image of the god who created me and the god that I pray to and worship,” said Mr Buttimer.

“For me, this is disappointing from Pope Francis whom I thought, given his initial statements that he would not judge people, would have travelled a journey of being more open, and understanding and accepting of LGBT people but obviously I was wrong.”

Mr Buttimer said one of the fundamentals of the priesthood was that it was a celibate ministry but to say that applies to just homosexual priests without stressing that similar principles should apply to heterosexual priests was “wrong and deeply unfair”.

“The church would be a better church, a more enhanced church by having a ministry that is open to all and it just baffles that the Pope, on one level seems to be a welcoming man and then in the next breath shuts the door completely to members of the LGBT community,” Mr Buttimer said.

“There are many committed Christians and Catholics who are gay, some of them are afraid to come out but they make very fine contributions in the liturgy as lay readers and lay ministers of the Eucharist and they do a wonderful job in our churches, in our classrooms, in our choirs and as part of parish councils.”

Complete Article HERE!

Why LGBT Catholics want to change attitudes in Italy

 

Coming out can be challenging for young people across the globe – but in Italy many young Catholics are struggling with negative attitudes from both their communities and their churches.

While some churches offer support for the LGBT community, others are still asking young people to see a psychologist or stop attending Church events. Sometimes even celibacy is expected.

Giulia is in the committee for an informal LGBT Catholic association that supports people up and down the country. Listen to her chat with her friend and fellow group member Edoardo about the challenges they’ve faced.

You can find out more about issues concerning young people and the Catholic Church by listening to the World Service’s Heart and Soul programme here.