Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Catholic Church to prevent gay priests

As a Catholic, this whole situation just makes me sad.

BOSTON (Reuters) - Gay rights activists and liberal Catholics girded on Wednesday for a long battle over the Vatican's tougher stance on homosexuality, predicting the Church would lose thousands of followers in the United States.

The policy, drafted to deal with scandals over pedophile priests that erupted in Boston in 2002 and spread across the United States, says the Church can admit those who have clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.

But practicing homosexuals and those with "deep-seated" gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred, it said. Conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church and in other religions welcomed the stand.

"We are calling on all Catholics of goodwill to speak to their priests and to express their outrage at this decision," said Harry Knox a director of Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group based in Washington.

"We'll seek to speak over the heads of the Pope to Catholics in the pews to urge them to take into consideration what Jesus would do if He saw His neighbor being treated in this way," said Knox. "Jesus would never exclude."

The Catholic Church would lose thousands of future priests in the United States, while those who remain will live in fear of "witch hunts," said Marianne Duddy-Burke of gay and lesbian Catholic group Dignity USA in Boston.

"A number of good, holy gay priests will probably quietly slip away from their calling because of the climate."

That is exactly what many conservative Catholics say should have happened long ago. They laud the 21-paragraph Vatican document for reinforcing a standing policy that many believe has not been properly enforced.

"This is not just about homosexuality or homosexual acts -- it's about an agenda and subculture that is in direct conflict with the teachings of the Catholic Church," said Michael Rose, author of "Goodbye, Good Men: How liberals Brought Corruption Into the Catholic Church."

Like many conservative Catholics, Brian Saint-Paul, senior editor of the Catholic journal CRISIS, sees a firm link between homosexuality and the scandal over pedophile priests.

One can only pray that the Church heirarchy doesn't turn this into a witch hunt because every priest in the Church is an asset to their congregation and community whether or not they are gay. But any responsible priest must understand the importance of protecting the children in these communities. We can not allow the abuse scandal to continue, and there can be no hint of the church covering up for these priests.

I recall a priest from my parish when I was still in grade school being transferred suddenly, and a day later the news carried a story that he had been accused of molesting a couple boys. I was stunned. Of course this led to my parents talking to me, asking the gruesome yet appropriate and important question: if I had been molested. Fortunately, in my case, the answer was no, I had not. I was an altar boy at the time, and all the altar boys (and the rest of the students from the associated parochial school for that matter) liked that priest. He was the fun priest who could relate to and talk with the kids at their level.

It's only now that I look back, that I shudder at the thought of what may have happened and perhaps, why he was so good with the children. What's just as disturbing is how the church quickly transferred him with the hope that the situation would disappear. It did actually, after that news piece ran on television. It was never mentioned again at the parish, and I never heard anything on the news about it either. This is what must be stopped: rouge priests (gay or striaght, it doesn't matter) and the cover up by the church. That the church appears to be actively dealing with the matter which is great, but it sounds as if the process will be full of vague generalities... "deep-seated gay tendencies," "support gay culture," and gay seminarians can only be admitted after having "clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years." How do you judge that?

While I don't know their sexuality for a fact, I believe I know several gay priests who have been not only exceptional priests, but just all around wonderful people.

I can only pray that this all works out and doesn't tear the Church apart in the process.

UPDATE: A gripping exposé in the LA Times on Catholic missionaries abusing children as well. Membership (it's free) is requried and it's a long article, but well worth it.