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Is the Catholic church ready to purge the homos?

Pope Benedict is out of his mind. John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter says that the homophobic Pope has a document in his possession that outlines what could result in a purge of epic proportions, and a demonization of homosexuality that is beyond the pale.

Sources indicate that the long-awaited Vatican document on the admission of homosexuals to seminaries is now in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI. The document, which has been condensed from earlier versions, reasserts the response given by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2002, in response to a dubium submitted by a bishop on whether a homosexual could be ordained: “A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency, is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

That reply was published in the November-December 2002 issue of Notitiae, the official publication of the congregation.

It is up to Benedict XVI to decide whether to issue the new document as it stands, to send it back for revision, or to shelve it on the basis that for now such a document is “inopportune.” Several American bishops were in Rome last week for the June 29 pallium ceremony, and I spoke to some of them about the document.

Privately, some hope Benedict will decide to put the document in a desk drawer for the time being, on the grounds that it will generate controversy and negative press without changing anything in terms of existing discipline. As one bishop put it to me, the policy against ordaining homosexuals is already clear — the only interesting question is, what do you mean by a “homosexual”? At one end of the continuum, it could refer to anyone who once had a fleeting same-sex attraction; at another, it could be restricted to someone who is sexually active and openly part of a “gay pride” movement. Most people would exclude those extremes, but where is the line drawn in between? Vatican sources have made clear the document will not enter into these details, and hence this bishop believes it’s an unneeded headache. Further, the bishop said, the document may make candidates less likely to be honest with formation directors about their psycho-sexual development, even though some degree of experimentation and ambivalence about orientation is not unusual, and by itself should not disqualify potential priests.

“The risk is that we drive the conversation underground,” he said.

Yes, as if the church needs more conversations about sexuality to be even further shoved underground than they already are. Sully rightfully points out that Father Mychal Judge, a hero, and openly gay man who died on 9/11 in the collapse of the WTC, would be a casualty again, his dedication called into question by his church’s bigoted policy.

Father Mychal Judge, for example, the fire-fighters’ priest who died in the ruins of the World Trade Center ministering sacraments to fire-men, would retroactively be deemed unfit for the priesthood. So would literally thousands and thousands of gay priests, bishops, cardinals and popes over the centuries. The old doctrine, however cruel and inhumane, at least concentrated on moral acts and made no distinctions between who committed them. It laid out clear rules and insisted that gays and straights abide by them equally. The proposed policy would instead focus on a human being’s very core – and exclude him or her as a result. That kind of discrimination is the definition of bigotry. This is the Church? This is God’s voice for human dignity and equality in the world? This is an institution that says all are welcome at the Lord’s table? I can only hope and pray that pope Benedict doesn’t go there. And if he does, I hope that heterosexual Catholics will rise up and defend their gay priests and friends and family members against this unconscionable attack.

That document is one that needs to go into a desk, the drawer shut, and locked with a key. Will this Pope actually issue this change? The firestorm over this will create a crisis of epic proportions. The church, already strapped for priests, cannot afford to purge a significant chunk of its ranks, and it certainly cannot stand the predicted withholding of funds from Catholics already reeling from the pedophile scandals.

The alternative is that the church will adopt the policy and create some sort of laughable continuum of sexual behavior that is deemed OK versus disqualifying. Can you have homosexual fantasies? Is that OK? How many, how often? Or will we get to the point that men entering the seminary will need to undergo some sort of sexual response testing — attach electrodes to their genitals, show them pornographic images of men having sexual encounters and boot out any that become aroused?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding