From the viewpoint of the American victims of priestly sexual abuse, the Vatican’s pronouncements this week about would-be gay priests may be a day late and a dollar short. But a clear line has been drawn in the moral landscape.
On Tuesday, the Vatican issued a long overdue clarification on its position on homosexuals in the priesthood. The document is called “Instruction on the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Priesthood and to Sacred Orders.”
In this twenty-one paragraph document the Vatican weighs in on the most sensitive issue to confront it in the past five years, particularly since the priesthood sexual scandals in the United States in 2002. According to the document, “the church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary and to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called gay culture.”
The document addresses the question of gays seeking admission to seminaries and the priesthood but does not comment upon already ordained priests who may be gay. While attempting to identify and separate from those with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies,” the document does not permanently bar from consideration for the priesthood individuals who may have struggled with what it calls “the expression of a transitory problem.”
As a moral statement this document leaves something to be desired not so much by what it says but by what it leaves unsaid. We still hunger to see the Vatican do more to “call sin, sin” by dealing compassionately but effectively with those priests who were involved in the sex abuse scandals so grievously detailed in the past few years. While the Vatican has certainly responded with concern and with some clerical discipline, there is more that should be done. The issue here is not punishment but moral accountability, clarity, and credibility.
But let’s give the Vatican some credit. It did not buckle to political correctness or current morally relativistic trends. It didn’t waffle on its biblically informed understanding of moral truth about human sexuality. The Vatican considers homosexuality a sin and therefore an intrinsically immoral, psychosexual disorder and in this respect does not depart from traditional Catholic Church policy regarding homosexual priests or homosexuality.
Evangelical Christians ought to cheer—not as “anti-gays” but as followers of Jesus Christ, who loved sinners (including every other sinner—us—who may not be given to homosexuality but who by our nature are given to other sins) but who condemned sin. It’s early, but let’s celebrate this Vatican nod to moral truth as a victory in the culture wars.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2005
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