A “PERSONALITY DISORDER”

According to the latest Vatican leak – to a far-right news service called “Catholic World News” – the new Pope will issue an edict banning all gay men from entering seminaries and the priesthood some time next month. The edict applies to all gay men, even if they are celibate, even if they would make great priests, and even if they have been chaste for over a decade. Money quote:

It will take the form of an “Instruction,” signed by the prefect and secretary of the Congregation: Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski and Archbishop Michael Miller.
The text, which was approved by Pope Benedict at the end of August, says that homosexual men should not be admitted to seminaries even if they are celibate, because their condition suggests a serious personality disorder which detracts from their ability to serve as ministers.
Priests who have already been ordained, if they suffer from homosexual impulses, are strongly urged to renew their dedication to chastity, and a manner of life appropriate to the priesthood.

To recap: the Church’s official position (as of 1986) is that homosexual persons are not sinful; they are “made in the image and likeness of God” and the notion that they cannot control their sex lives is, in the words of then-Cardinal Ratzinger, an “unfounded and demeaning assumption.” The new position is that this “unfounded and demeaning assumption” is now the truth. All gay men are suffering from a “serious personality disorder” and constitutively unable to maintain chastity and perform their duties as priests. What, one wonders, is the nature of this “serious personality disorder”? How does it prevent gay men from being productive members of society? If all gay priests “suffer” from this, then why are any of them still allowed to serve the Church? These are questions lay Catholics must demand of their leaders, as even some arch-conservatives already are. When a group of human beings are demonized not for what they do but for who they are, then we have a right to know exactly what the Pope means.

BIGOTRY SHARPENED: We don’t have the final document yet so we don’t know whether this blast from 1940s psychology will be enshrined in the document. Let’s hope it won’t. But I’m not hopeful. This is, after all, a clarification of the new Benedict XVI position on gays: they they are moral Untermenschen, somehow sick in their very souls, disordered to commit sin, people who must be cast out to cleanse the Church of evil. (The structure of the argument is very similar to that which for so long applied to Jews in Catholic teaching.) The conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia and the equation of celibate, faithful gay priests with compulsive child-molesters is integral to this new policy. In a word, it is inconsistent with previous teaching and morally appalling. And can you imagine what this does to the morale of the thousands of gay priests now serving the faithful? It will be up to the conscience of each, but I cannot see how any moral person can still work for an institution so wedded to the demonization of a whole class of people. Especially if you’re one of them. And what does it say to the gay laity? It says: you’re so sick in the head you cannot lead moral lives. God may be able to forgive you but our job is to protect every other Catholic from your disorder. To say that this is an attack on the core meaning of Christianity – that we are all equal before God – is superfluous. To say that it is a brutal, deep wound to the psyches and souls of millions is equally obvious. But somehow, like all evil, I have a feeling it will become accepted, as Benedict’s church continues its retreat from modernity into the superstitions and bigotries of earlier times. And like all policies of stigmatization and exclusion, it may subtly flatter those left behind and attach them more firmly to the church. As every beleaguered politician has found out, bigotry works. It may indeed work for Benedict as a strategy, especially in the Third World, where hatred of homosexuals is more common. But to rebuild a church on the basis of hate is a truly odious strategy. It may be Benedict’s ultimate legacy.

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