Pope Francis Seemingly Re-Affirms Ban on Gay Men in Priesthood

Pope Francis

Where does Pope Francis really stand on homosexuality? That question is raised in a new way after news both that he affirmed a gay man’s sexual identity as created by God while concurrently warning against gay men entering the priesthood.

News broke this week that in a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops this month, the pope allegedly affirmed an existing Vatican ban on gay men entering the priesthood. Reuters reported Francis as saying:

“‘Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open. . .If in doubt, better not let them [gay men] enter.'”

Crux added in its report on the topic:

“A report by Vatican Insider says Francis told the Italian prelates: ‘These tendencies, when they are “deeply rooted,” and the practice of homosexual acts, can compromise the life of the seminary beyond that of the young man himself and his eventual future priesthood.’”

Given the private nature of Francis’ remarks, the Vatican has not commented on the veracity of this report. But the president of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, seemed to confirm that Francis mentioned the issue of homosexuality during the meeting in a discussion of Italy’s priestly vocation crisis,  according to Crux.

Crux also reported that Pope Francis commented on gay men in the priesthood while writing to the Chilean bishops about sexual abuse by clergy this month. In the document, the pope wrote that gay priests should not be involved in seminary education because there are:

“‘grave accusations against some bishops or superiors who [allegedly] entrusted to these education institutions priests suspected of active homosexuality.’”

In December 2016, the Vatican’s Congregation for Priests released a document titled “The Gift of Priestly Vocation,” which reaffirmed a 2005 ban on the ordination of gay men. Catholics reacted strongly, including hundreds of signatures for New Ways Ministry’s “The Gift of Gay Priests’ Vocation” statement.

News about Francis’ statements on gay priests came the same week he was lauded for telling a gay man and survivor of clergy abuse, Juan Carlos Cruz, that “God made you like this.” Taking these two headlines together, this moment once again highlights the pope’s ambiguous stance on homosexuality.

As has happened before, in both of these cases the pope’s alleged statements come from third parties without any verification from the Vatican. Catholics are left with more questions than answers. Does Pope Francis believe lesbian and gay people are created that way by a God who loves them? Or is homosexuality a matter of “deeply rooted” tendencies threatening–an idea which reduces people to their potential for genital activity? Perhaps there is a certain dissonance within the pope himself whereby he somehow holds both positions, at least partially?

Whatever the answers to these questions, the people of God deserve more than unverified third party accounts. They deserve clear statements from the pope himself. These need not be answers nor definitive teaching, and could readily acknowledge complexity. But at the very least they should be transparent and clear  about what Pope Francis has actually said and not said.

—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 26, 2018

8 replies
  1. Peter
    Peter says:

    The only thing that is ever transparent and clear with the church is its schizophrenic and abusive way towards those it dislikes for whatever unfounded reason.

  2. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    Your final point, Robert, is well taken. The ambiguity of his statements do indeed confuse. Ifhe is concerned about “deep seated tendencies “that would lead to “homosexual activity” then no one should be allowed to enter seminary because heterosexual men also have “deep seated tendencies” to heterosexual sexual activity. Further, it is becoming more clear to me that seminary and male priesthood is just another manifestation of white privilege even though there are many good, faithful and self-sacrificing priests.

    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      If a heterosexual priest engages in sex, his female partner can be deemed a “temptress,” “vixen,” or “whore.” We know that women are always acceptable collateral damage for the church

  3. Father Anthony
    Father Anthony says:

    Today’s Church reminds me of Judaism at the time of Christ, an observer of the laws. Perhaps we may move in the direction of Judaism and have an Orthodox Church, and observant Church, and a Reformed Church. I am a member of the Reformed Church.

  4. Jeffrey Weyant
    Jeffrey Weyant says:

    Thanks for this article Mr. Shine and for all the good work at NWM. I agree about the need for some clarity. However, this article makes me ask myself related to my faith, what does it matter or why does it matter what Francis says? If my faith is based on what another, even the Pope, says about my membership in the Church and my relationship w God and Jesus then perhaps my seed is sown on rocky ground or among the weeds and so really has no chance to bear fruit for the Kingdom. I stay because I am called to witness and to discipleship. I stay because I trust in own my giftedness and in the Holy Spirit who will help actualize my gifts for the building of the Kingdom. I stay to love and severe and to be loved and served by His people. I do not stay because another sinner and pilgrim who like me is on the way (even a sinner and pilgrim who is the Pope or the Church himself/itself) affirms or gives me permission to do so.

  5. Deacon Thomas Smith
    Deacon Thomas Smith says:

    Our Francis STILL doesn’t get it? Any so-called “deep seated” impulses towards sexual expression are inherently not a good fit for those choosing a celibate profession…..whether they are hetero or homo. Why do these learned men continue to single us out, as if our sexual morality should be held to a different standard? Isn’t this a direct contradiction of the CCC #2358? Our own Fr. Warren Hall, fired for his bravery, would return to the priesthood, they say, if this “Ban of Gay priests” were overturned.

  6. Tom Gaudet
    Tom Gaudet says:

    Does Pope Francis leave any room for the possibility that gay men are just as much capable of living a celibate life as straight men? No. He assumes that gay men in a seminary will automatically be sexually active, and compromise the seminary and the mens’ “future priesthood.” Not addressed is the compromise to seminary and future priesthood when straight seminarians are sexually active. Or maybe he just thinks the seminary and future priesthood of straight men will not be compromised at all. The Pope is trying to have it both ways. It’s either accept and affirm, or denounce and reject. Period. The ambiguity comes down on the side of denounce and reject. If gay men are somehow unfit for priesthood, then how can the Pope possibly seem them as fit lay people? The Church calls all to holiness, not just the ordained. Or is Pope Francis still considering the priests, despite Vatican II, as holier and more worthy than all the rest? If that is his position, then his motivations for everything he has done up to this point are highly suspect. The mercy of God is to be provided by an elite class of the ordained to the poor, pitiable, uneducated, unworthy laity? He can spare us the condescension if that is the case.

  7. Peter
    Peter says:

    The pope should unequivocally state his opinion. He is a voice that is revered. He should allay the fears of many who hold him in high esteem.


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