At the same time, the media are quoting anonymous Vatican sources about a new document that may soften admission standards for seminary applicants with homosexual tendencies. Reportedly, if the candidate has been chaste for three years, if he is not involved in public demonstrations, such as Pride parades, and if his tendencies are not serious, the door may be opened to him.
Honestly, I have to reserve judgment about these anonymous reports. They just don't square with past Vatican teachings that kept the door firmly closed. Perhaps I sound like a cave dweller, since I was ordained 35 years ago, but why would anyone abolish such a wise prohibition?
The Catholic Church is just beginning to extricate herself from the greatest scandal and financial payout in her American history. As the human wreckage is acknowledged, and attempts are made at repair, what have we learned?
The John Jay Report, commissioned last year by the bishops, calculated that four-fifths of the abuse victims in the past 50 years were boys between the ages of 11 and 17, making both the sin and the crime homosexual in nature.
Some argue that the priests simply had easier access to altar boys. Nonsense! After 1975, priests had just as much access to altar girls and to girls in catechism and reconciliation. This scandal is not about "easy access" but sexual preference.
The existing ban on homosexual priests is also consistent with two points of Catholic thought. First, the Church is never going to accept that homosexuality is part of the Creator's plan. Philosophically, the Church sees same-sex activity as a contradiction of natural law. Sexuality is ordered to procreation. Human anatomies are hard-wired to be complementary between man and woman. Scripture confirms this: Adam took for his wife Eve, not Everett.
Second, when a Roman Catholic man makes the sacred promise of celibacy, the object is the definitive renunciation of the good of marriage. Ecclesiastical celibacy has value precisely because an average Joe relinquishes the love of a wife and the joy of fatherhood for the sake of the love of God. This oath is appropriately taken by someone who otherwise would have made a good family man.
Canon Law and Vatican instructions provide seminary bishops and vocation recruiters with all the backing they need to say with respect, compassion and sensitivity, "Look, friend, if you're living with some degree of same-sex attraction, the seminary and the priesthood are not the place for you to serve God."
Until it is signed and promulgated, no one knows exactly what the new Vatican document says. Meanwhile, I contend that if the traditional prohibition is enforced, seminaries will be more apt to form psychologically healthy men into spiritually generous priests. In time, the unfortunate association between the priesthood and deviant behavior will diminish, and a new generation of seminarians will emerge.
The Rev. James Garcia is the parish priest at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Menlo Park. He and three other local columnists take turns writing for the Faith page.
Next week: Rabbi Karen Citrin.