The Vatican’s 2016 document on priesthood, which renewed a ban on gay men, is “disrespectful” and “insulting,” said a national organization of American priests.
This week, the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) released its statement on “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” which had been released by the Congregation for the Clergy last December. The AUSCP describes its mission as “to be an association of U.S. Catholic priests offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting Church and society.”
AUSCP criticized the document’s inclusion of the terms “homosexual tendencies” and “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” because this language is”ambiguous and disrespectful of the personhood [of gay people].” The National Catholic Reporter said the statement continued:
“‘We find it also unfounded and insulting,’ the group said, adding that the clergy congregation document ‘implies that ordained priests with a homosexual orientation who serve the Church with distinction “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.”‘
“If the Congregation for the Clergy document had stated that heterosexual and homosexual persons who are living chaste lives can be admitted to ordination to the priesthood it would have been more respectful and inclusive. The issue for discernment is whether the applicant or candidate has integrated his sexual identity with Catholic Christian faith and spirituality.”
The statement, which came from AUSCP’s leadership team, has been sent to every U.S. bishop, as well as to “the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, and the National Association of Hispanic Priests of the USA.”
Since December, many Catholics have been left wondering how the same pope who said “Who am I to judge?” in reference to a gay priest could also approve such an exclusionary document. Some critics have challenged the document for using imprecise or even inaccurate information in its treatment of homosexuality, and the document has done little to end the harm caused by forcing gay priests to remain closeted and by perpetuating homophobia in clerical spaces.
AUSCP’s statement keeps up pressure against the harmful Vatican document, and the statement is particularly incisive coming from the people most affected by “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation.” U.S. Catholics in the pews have not wavered in their support of gay priests: some 1,500 people signed New Ways Ministry’s “thank you” to them, and Catholics wore white ribbons in support at Easter Masses last weekend.
Still, gay and bisexual men in the priesthood have yet to have a “Stonewall Moment,” as theologian Lisa Fullam phrased it in December, when the principle behind “Who am I to judge?” would really allow such priests to live authentically and to minister openly for the benefit of the entire people of God.
Lisa Fullam will be a plenary speaker on sexual ethics at New Ways Ministry’s Eighth National Symposium, “Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss: LGBT Catholics in the Age of Pope Francis,” April 28-30, 2017, Chicago. Among the many focus sessions at the symposium will be one on gay men in the priesthood and religious life, led by openly gay former priest Warren Hall.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, April 21, 2017