Sex, Celibacy, and Priesthood: A Bishop’s Provocative Inquisition

Sex, Celibacy, and Priesthood is a pastoral review of the research, sexual activity, and celibacy among Roman Catholic priests. It features heart-wrenching, anonymous, and candid self-disclosures about the sexual behaviors of heterosexual, gay, and bisexual priests. It explores the meaning of celibacy in accordance with Roman Catholic Church teachings, doctrine, and canon law. It is an honest, raw, and frank study of current perspectives on celibacy in light of priestly sexual behaviors. This new book allows for Roman Catholic priests to speak out in their own voices about their struggles and conflicts between celibacy and their sexual activities.

Seminaries, formation teams, religious superiors, pastoral care counselors, spiritual directors, therapists, and anyone fascinated or concerned about the sexual scandals within the rank and file of the Roman Catholic Church will find Sex, Celibacy, and Priesthood a candid and transparent study.

In a time when most people are disgusted with the sexual scandal cover-ups, smokescreens, and a veil of secrecy provided by many Roman Catholic bishops and their apologists, Sex, Celibacy, and Priesthood tells the truth and encourages us to think imaginatively and compassionately about an issue of crucial importance to the Roman Catholic Church at this time in history.

About The Author:
The Most Reverend Lou Bordisso is Bishop Emeritus within the Old Catholic faith tradition serving the Diocese of California, American Catholic Church. He is a religious with the Order of St. John Vianney (OSJV) providing pastoral and spiritual care for both ordained clergy and lay ministers.

Prior to being received into the Old Catholic faith tradition and the Diocese of California, Bishop Bordisso was a Roman Catholic vowed religious. Bishop Bordisso has served as Presiding Bishop for the American Catholic Diocese of California and as Provincial for the Order of Saint John Vianney (OSJV).

Like the vast majority of the clergy in the Old Catholic/Autocephalous tradition, Bishop Bordisso is bi-vocational. Bishop Bordisso has been licensed as a marriage and family therapist for over two decades.

Bishop Bordisso is program host for the public and community access television and online broadcast, “Political Inquisitions” which addresses ethics, morality, spirituality, and politics, interviewing political and community leaders about a variety of distinguished topics.

A priest’s anti-gay ad campaign

A recent series of advertisements attacking homosexuality has dragged the Catholic Diocese of El Paso into a citywide political recall debate.

The advertisements, titled “The truth about homosexuality,” were written by the Rev. Michael Rodriguez of San Juan Bautista Catholic Church and published in four parts in four consecutive editions of the El Paso Times. The ads started running on Saturday and ended Tuesday. The advertisements were also on

While Rodriguez maintains the ads represent the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, officials of the Diocese of El Paso said they do not.

“These paid advertisements are the personal views and opinions of Father Michael Rodriguez,” said the Rev. Anthony C. Celino, the vicar general and moderator of the curia for the diocese.

Celino said the Catholic Church is not taking and cannot take a side in the recall effort.
The advertisements quote several Bible passages and denounce homosexuality and any encouragement of homosexuality. It also alluded to Mayor John Cook and city Reps. Susie Byrd and Steve Ortega, who are currently the target of a recall petition, organized by Word of Life Church Pastor Tom Brown.

“All Catholics have a moral obligation before God to oppose any government attempt to legalize same-sex unions,” Rodriguez wrote in part two of the series. “Here in El Paso, certain City Council members have remained obstinate in promoting public recognition and legitimization of homosexual unions. Whether

they realize it or not, their actions are objectively immoral and gravely harmful to marriage and the family. It should be obvious to all Catholics what our duty is with respect to these members of City Council.”

Rodriguez said he wrote the pieces but did not pay for the advertisements or submit the writings to the Times.

A couple from Plano, Texas, paid for the advertisements, he said.
“I decided to write these articles primarily because it’s my duty as a Catholic priest to teach the truth when it comes to faith and morals,” Rodriguez said in a written statement to the Times. “My mission is to labor for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. That’s why I wrote the articles. The government has no right to undermine or redefine the institution of marriage. This is beyond the scope of their competence.”

Rodriguez said he also did not like the fact that the City Council went against the voters’wishes by providing health benefits to the gay and unmarried partners of city employees despite the fact that the public voted not to do that.

“Furthermore, the government has no right to undermine basic public morality,” Rodriguez said. “Unfortunately, members of El Paso’s City Council have made decisions that are immoral, irrational, and contrary to the common good of our city.”

Byrd said the advertisements are a political action because they alluded to the recall effort.

“To me, that is not the most terrible thing about the ad,” Byrd said. “What is, is the fact that he spent a lot of time and money to harm a group in our community.”

Ortega said he does not believe that religion should be mixed with government.
“I haven’t read his opinion pieces,” Ortega said. “I firmly believe in the principle of separation of church and state and therefore his opinions, as a priest, carry absolutely no weight with me as a public official.”

Brown said the advertisements came as a pleasant surprise.
“I think it’s wonderful. It is freedom of speech,” Brown said. “Ultimately, I agree with Rodriguez.”

Brown said the diocese should not remain silent on the recall because it goes against the Catholic faith.
“I think the Catholics should have an opinion,” he said.

Paul Landernan, an adviser for the El Paso chapter of the Stonewall Young Democrats, said that his organization — a youth-based organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the United States — is disappointed that Rodriguez is still stuck in the 19th century.

“He has official duties for the people of his parish,” Landernan said, “some of whom are parents of gay people, related to gay people or work with gay people every day.”
Rodriguez’s words can divide communities, Landernan said.
“Why would a person like this have that level of a violent reaction to the evolution of our society?” he asked. “He suddenly turned the clock back 40 to 50 years to a time when the Jim Crow-type of thinking was acceptable.”

In two weeks, recall petitions for Cook, Byrd and Ortega will be due at City Hall. Landernan said the advertisements’ timing was “curious.”

“It would have been a blip on the radar” if Rodriguez were not a priest, Landernan said. “And really, the church is almost a victim in this. He has almost used the name of the church without authorization.”

The controversy was not limited to the paid advertisements.
On Aug. 21, members of St. Raphael Catholic Church found fliers on their car windshields after church services.

The fliers said, “Éour popes and bishops have reminded us that we must oppose all government efforts to legitimize homosexual unions by attempting to equate them with marriage.”
The fliers also said, “Members of the City Council and the mayor have violated our rights and overturned our popular vote. We must hold our politicians accountable and insist that they truly serve our people.”

The church’s head priest, Monsignor Francis Smith, and the diocese said the fliers were not approved by or affiliated with the church.
“The diocese does not endorse or oppose candidates, political parties, or take actions that can be construed as endorsement or opposition,” Celino said. “Recall fliers claiming to be ‘Catholic’ were not authorized by the Diocese of El Paso.”

Smith said the people who distributed the fliers sneaked into the church’s parking lot during that Sunday’s two largest Masses.
“I always tell my people that if they stick it under your windshield, I did not authorize that,” Smith said. “If it is something worthwhile, then why be sneaky about it.”

The message on the fliers is not what Smith preaches at his church, he said.
“We have been asked several times to take their stance, and we will not,” Smith said. “I do not agree with that lifestyle (homosexuality), but I will help anyone who needs it.”
The fliers also list names and numbers of individuals who filed the intent to recall Cook, Byrd and Ortega.

Two of those individuals, Ben Mendoza and Nacho Padilla, said they had no prior knowledge of the fliers. Neither did Brown, he said.
“I personally would not authorize that,” Mendoza said. “I can see handing it out on the sidewalk, but not on cars.”

Mendoza said he is for the recall because the people’s vote was overthrown and he believes that should be the main issue.

Padilla said the fliers led to more individuals signing petitions.
“What they did has worked really positive,” Padilla said. “We have gotten a lot of signatures. We won’t deny that.”

Brown said he was proud that those who support the recall are acting on their own.
“It’s a free country, and people are free to promote however they want,” Brown said.
Brown said “we’d like to make more progress” as the deadline nears to turn in recall petitions.

“I’d like to say we can predict victory, but we are not there yet. We need to keep working.”

An Open Clergy Rebellion In Austria’s Catholic Church

There is open rebellion among the clergy of Austria’s Catholic Church.

One highly placed man of the cloth has even warned about the risk of a coming schism, as significant numbers of priests are refusing obedience to the Pope and bishops for the first time in memory.

The 300-plus supporters of the “Priests’ Initiative” have had enough of what they call the Church’s “delaying” tactics, and they are advocating pushing ahead with policies that openly defy current practices.

These include letting non-ordained people lead religious services and deliver sermons; making communion available to divorced people who have remarried; allowing women to become priests and to take on important positions in the hierarchy; and letting priests carry out pastoral functions even if, in defiance of Church rules, they have a wife and family.

Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Vienna’s Archbishop and head of the Austrian Bishops’ Conference, has threatened the rebels with excommunication.

Those involved in the initiative are not, incidentally, only low-profile members of the clergy.

Indeed, it is being led by Helmut Schüller — who was for many years Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Vienna and director of Caritas — and the cathedral pastor in the Carinthian diocese of Gurk.

The issues that supporters of the initiative want addressed may be revolutionary, but they are by no means new: they constitute basic questions that have been around for a long time but have never been addressed by Church officials.

Initiative supporters are demanding that parishes openly expose all things forbidden by the Church hierarchy, thus putting a stop to hypocrisy and allowing authenticity of belief and community life to emerge.

The appeal for “more honesty“ made to the world’s youth by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid last week left a sour taste in many mouths in Austria, where some say that honesty is a quality the Church hierarchy has more of a tendency to punish than reward.

Open pressure and disobedience

Particularly affected are some 700 members of an association called “Priester ohne Amt” – loosely, priests without a job – who have a wife and children that they stand by, but wish in vain to practice their ministry.

Priests who break ties with loved ones, on the other hand, are allowed to continue working.

According to initiative founder Schüller, only openly disobedient priests and joint pressure from priests and laity alike can force the hierarchy to budge.

Although the problems have been out there for decades, he says, the Church keeps putting off doing anything about them. Cardinal Schönborn stated that the critics would have to “give some thought to their path in the Church” or face unavoidable consequences.

On the other hand, Anton Zulehner, a priest who is one of the most respected pastoral theologians in Austria, believes that this time the Church is not going to get away with diversionary tactics.

Twenty years ago, Austria, nominally at least, was 85% Catholic.

Today, in the city of Vienna, Catholics account for less than half the population, and rural parishes are melting away.

Various scandals have rocked the Church in Austria, among them child abuse charges against former Vienna Archbishop Hans-Hermann Groer, and the nomination of a series of reactionary priests to the rank of bishop.

Presbyterian church moves to avert schism

A schism is brewing in the Presbyterian church over the ordination of openly practicing, sexually active gays and lesbians as clergy. The matter is being discussed at a conference of the Fellowship of Presbyterians, attended by over 2,000 ministers and laity.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The Presbyterian church has suffered declining membership and internal division over theological issues, Biblical interpretations, increasing bureaucracy, and the controversial ordination of practicing homosexuals. By attempting to be as “inclusive” as possible, some of the church leadership believe it has doomed itself to division.

Church leaders are wary of schism, and are trying to avert such a move. However, many members, and leaders, are uncomfortable with what they feel is a departure from strict Biblical prohibitions against active homosexuality. The Presbyterian church is one of the few Christian organizations that ordains openly homosexual ministers.

One of the proposed possibilities is to divide the church, creating a new “reformed” body and allowing individual presbyteries to vote on which side of the issue they prefer to stay. The two bodies of the church, traditional and reformed, would remain under a single bureaucratic umbrella.

Perils of a theological democracy

The Presbyterian Church is governed by a constitution that was changed in May to allow for ordination of practicing homosexuals. The change did not compel churches to ordain gay ministers, but removed barriers to ordination, leaving the issue up to individual churches.

The heart of the problem is the church’s operation as a quasi-democratic institution. Many prefer the an all-inclusive interpretation of the Gospels which allows anyone to participate as clergy. Others adhere to an orthodox interpretation which emphasizes sexual morality and excludes active homosexuals and lesbians. The Presbyterian church allows churches and individuals to choose their interpretations of some scriptures.

Church leaders believe they can weather the controversy and preserve the church from schism. They have called upon God in prayer to guide their decisions, to provide vision and unity. How those prayers will be answered remains an open question.

Vatican stifles theological inquiry

In a move some theologians say undermines the credibility of the leading English-language Catholic theological journal, the Vatican has pressured it to publish a scholarly essay on marriage, unedited and without undergoing normal peer review.

The essay, which appeared in the June 2011 issue of the quarterly Theological Studies, published in Milwaukee under the auspices of the Jesuits, upholds the indissolubility of marriage. It was a reply to a September 2004 article in which two theologians argued for a change in church teachings on divorce and remarriage.

The Vatican has been pressuring the editors at Theological Studies since not long after the publication of the 2004 essay, according to theologians not connected to the journal or to the Jesuit order. The Vatican aim is to weed out dissenting voices and force the journal to stick more closely to official church teachings.

The theological sources, who asked not to be identified lest they come under pressure from the Vatican, say the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith pressured policy changes at Theological Studies. The journal’s editor in chief, Fr. David G. Schultenover, announced the changes, following the words “A clarification” printed in bold letters in his editor’s column in the December 2010 issue.

He then wrote for his subscribers, mostly Catholic theologians who carefully read each issue for scholarly purposes, an explanation for some editorial policy shifts in the journal. Schultenover began by making a reference to a controversial essay published in the journal’s September 2006 issue. That essay, sources have told NCR, further raised tension levels between the Vatican and Theological Studies’ editors.

Wrote Schultenover: “Even with the best professional protocols and sincerest intentions to offer a journal of service to the church, an article might appear in our pages that some judge could mislead some readers. This seems to have been the case with ‘Catholic Sexual Ethics: Complementarity and the Truly Human,’ by Todd Salzman and Michael Lawler (September 2006). Some readers might have formed an opinion that because this article appeared in our pages, the journal favors and even promotes its thesis, one that does not in all aspects conform to current, authoritative church teaching. For all such readers, I wish to clarify that this article, insofar as it does not adhere to the church’s authoritative teaching, does not represent the views of the editors and sponsors of Theological Studies. While the journal, heeding the mandates of recent popes to do theology ‘on the frontiers,’ promotes professional theology for professional theologians, it does not promote theses that contravene official church teaching, even if — though very rarely — such theses find a place in our pages. If and when they do, our policy will be to alert readers and clearly state the current authoritative church teaching on the particular issue treated.”

Asked by telephone to explain why the journal now feels it necessary to warn readers when publishing essays believed to contravene official church teachings, Schultenover refused comment. When told other theologians said the Vatican had pressured Theological Studies to make the editorial changes, he answered: “Their conclusions did not come from me.”

In an uncommon note in Theological Studies that preceded the Vatican-mandated June 2011 essay, Schultenover wrote that “except for minor stylistic changes, the [marriage] article is published as it was received.”

This editorial note tipped off some Theological Studies readers to the unusual nature of the article. Fr. James Coriden, canon lawyer, professor at the Washington Theological Union, and coauthor of the original 2004 essay on marriage, said that upon reading the note he immediately concluded Schultenover had been forced to publish it.

“It’s a terrible precedent,” Coriden said, referring both to the publication of the “as is” article and the new editorial policy that singles out theology not in keeping with official church teachings. Coriden is the recipient of the 2011 Catholic Theological Society of America’s John Courtney Murray Award, the highest honor bestowed by the society to a theologian.

John Thiel, president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, said he regrets the Vatican interventions, calling them “misguided” on several fronts.

“First, it wrongly assumes that the journal’s readership of professional theologians is incapable of making its own professional judgments about theological positions. Second, it seems to conflate theology and doctrine, wrongly thinking that theology’s task is the repetition of doctrine. Theology’s long history of playing a role in the process of doctrinal development shows this not to be true. Third, the publication of an article by a fiat in violation of the editorial process calls into question the integrity of the article so published, placing its authors in an unfortunate position.”

Fr. Charles Curran, professor of theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said the Vatican action “is the most serious attack possible on U.S. Catholic theology because Theological Studies is our most prestigious scholarly journal.”

Curran, whom the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared in 1986 was not suitable to be a Catholic theologian because of his dissent from hierarchical moral teaching, noted that “once again” it is moral theology and sexual ethics that has become the Vatican’s litmus of orthodoxy.

He said the Vatican actions could doubly hurt Theological Studies, first by encouraging theologians who might be “working on the frontiers” to go elsewhere with articles they think might no longer get published in the journal and, secondly, by forcing Theological Studies editors to “ration dissent” in the publication.

“There’s definitely a chill factor here,” he said. “And if this is going on here, you have to think it is going on elsewhere, in Europe.”

“The Society of Jesus has a cordial, ongoing relationship with Cardinal William Levada, moderator of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” said Jesuit Fr. Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States. “The society fully supports Theological Studies and its mission of theological inquiry and investigation. I am grateful for the fine job Fr. Schultenover has done as its editor in chief.”

The article that first sparked the controversy in 2004 was coauthored by Coriden and Franciscan Fr. Kenneth Himes, chairman of Boston College’s theology department and previous head of the Catholic Theological Society of America.

In an earlier essay in Theological Studies, Himes and Coriden argued for a pastoral approach that would allow divorced and remarried Catholics to fully participate in the Eucharist under certain conditions. However, in the 2004 article, “Indissolubility of Marriage: Reasons to Reconsider,” they go much further and maintain that the teaching of the church on the indissolubility of marriage should be changed.

“We believe the pastoral care of the divorced and remarried in the present situation has reached the stage where honesty requires a reconsideration of the continued divide between the church’s teaching on indissolubility and the pastoral strategies of its ministers,” they wrote, asking “if church teachings remain persuasive.”

“By asking this question, however, we do not wish to be seen as advocates of divorce. The teaching of the Catholic church that marriage between baptized persons is a sacrament that should entail a permanent and faithful union of love between husband and wife is a wise and much needed message in the modern world.”

After years of mounting pressures, exchanges, and at least one rejected rebuttal submission written by Jesuit Fr. Peter F. Ryan, the Vatican finally mandated that Theological Studies publish — unedited — an essay coauthored by Ryan and theologian Germain Grisez titled “Indissoluble Marriage: A Reply to Kenneth Himes and James Coriden.”

Ryan is professor of moral theology at the seminary of Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md.; Grisez is emeritus professor of Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary’s University.

In their essay the authors offer a vigorous defense of church teaching on marriage, saying it can never be changed. “At the risk of seeming presumptuous, we will argue that substantive revision is indeed impossible,” they write, criticizing Himes and Coriden’s arguments.

It is not unusual for Theological Studies to publish a reply to an essay. Normally, however, such replies run half the length or less of the original essay. The Ryan and Grisez reply is an exception, running the length of a full article.

Schultenover took over as editor in chief at Theological Studies in January 2006, succeeding Jesuit Fr. Michael Fahey, who served 10 years in the position. Theological Studies says it has subscribers in some 80 countries. It has a Jesuit board of directors and 13 editorial consultants who assist Schultenover by reading and helping to choose manuscripts. The journal says it typically receives some 200 unsolicited submissions yearly, of which some 35 are published.

This is not the first time the Vatican has placed significant pressure on a U.S.-based Jesuit publication. In May 2005, Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese, editor of America magazine, resigned at the request of his order following years of pressure for his ouster from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that instance, the Vatican also said America had strayed too far from official church teachings.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not respond to NCR questions regarding Theological Studies.