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Friday, December 02, 2005

Gays in the priesthood, take two

I'm revising some of my earlier remarks about the new Vatican "instructions" on gays in the priesthood, based partly on the cover letter that is apparently being sent out along with the instructions themselves (NYT article here). Said cover letter says that, while already-ordained gay priests may continue in their ministries, one thing they can't do (or continue to do) is teach seminarians.

Although this recommendation isn't really any different in kind from the instructions themselves, when taken together they make it harder for me to argue that the Vatican isn't beginning a concerted campaign against gay priests. (I'm aware, of course, that the Vatican--if not most American Catholics--has long had an injust and certainly un-Christian attitude toward "active" gays and lesbians; my hope, I suppose, was that as long as the Church recognized the worth and dignity of celibate gays and lesbians, and taught that homosexuality was as much the work of God as heterosexuality, then the logic of that position would inevitably, eventually, lead the institution to recognize that the expression of that sexuality is also natural.)

Andrew Sullivan has been arguing for some while that the Church is now effectively saying that homosexuals have no moral worth. I still think that's an overstatement, based on Sullivan's rather selective reading of both these instructions and other Vatican documents,* but I'm feeling fewer hope-against-hopes that these instructions represent some kind of compromise position between the Church's conservative and liberal factions.

That being said--I still don't know what to make of the fact that the "instructions," much less the cover letter, are widely agreed to be unenforceable. The Times quotes a Jesuit currently at Santa Clara University (shout-out to SCR!) as saying that the instructions are only an interpretation of canon law, and the letter not even that. That makes me wonder: is the Vatican gearing up for a more official, dogmatic statement about gays and lesbians? Or is the unenforceable nature of these recommendations testimony that the Vatican is aware, however dimly, of its own bad faith in promoting this interpretation, which directly contradicts the last several decades of Church teachings?

I guess that last speculation is the extent of the optimism I can muster today for Benedict's papacy.

*In today's posts (scroll down), Sullivan makes some interesting observations about the position that hetero-normative masculinity now seems to be (re)assuming in church discourse. Muscular Christianity, anyone?

link | posted by La Lecturess at 8:51 PM |


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