The Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix is joining with Courage International to host the forthcoming "Truth and Love" conference. The stated goal of the January 9-11 meeting is to offer practical and pastoral guidance on the topics of homosexuality and sexual identity. Previous educational conferences organized by Courage and various co-sponsors have been held in Detroit and Rome. The announcement came just as the Vatican announced new guidelines for seminarians that prohibit the admission of homosexuals.
According to a release, the theme of this year's conference is: "Welcoming and accompanying our brothers and sisters with same-sex attractions or confusion regarding sexual identity." So many of the current approaches to homosexuality do not include the fuller perspective of the human person. Rather, they limit themselves to "acceptance" and to the protection of the 'right' of 'sexual satisfaction.' Yet, as the Catholic Church has consistently taught, these approaches will never lead people to the abundant life that Christ promises."
Experts will present authentic pastoral care responses to these issues most relevant to the Church today. Presenters include Fr. Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International; Dr. Janet Smith; Jason Evert; Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse; Andrew Lichtenwalner; among others.
Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles will concelebrate Mass.
Testimonies of people who experience same-sex attractions, or sexual-identity confusion, and "how chaste friendships and the teachings of the Church have helped them on their journey toward chastity and sanctity, will also be presented."
Bishop Olmsted said of the conference, "The work of Courage International, helping those with same-sex attraction to build friendships and virtue, and helping the Church to share the Good News of Christ in a challenging area, is essential in our time. I encourage all who have pastoral responsibilities to join us at the Conference this January in Phoenix. It will help you to grow in knowledge and fellowship."
Fr. Philip Bochanski, executive director of Courage International, sees the conference as a tool to "share the good news that living chastely and finding our true identity as sons and daughters of God is the way to real happiness and authentic relationships."
Vatican bars homosexual men
The Vatican has released a new document concerning the training of seminarians, entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation. Produced by the Vatican's Congregation for the Clergy, the instruction confirms that the Catholic Church “cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies, or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’“ The instruction has been approved by Pope Francis.
The instruction quotes a statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education of a decade ago: “If a candidate practices homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director, as well as his confessor, have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.” Some seminary officials have claimed that the 2005 document only applies to those who openly practice homosexual acts.
The Congregation for the Clergy explained that the last directive governing priestly formation was released in 1970 (amended in 1985). The new document is intended as a model for bishops all around the world to follow. Constituting a Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis, the Congregation for the Clergy is calling on the bishops of each country to issue local standards in conformance with the Ratio Fundamentalis.
Intellectual and spiritual formation are underscored in the document. “Priestly ordination requires, in the one who receives it, a complete giving of himself for the service of the People of God, as an image of Christ the spouse,” the document says. It said that priests should guard not only against “clericalism,” but also against seeking popularity. They are warned against viewing the Catholic Church as a "merely human institution.”
Cardinal Benjamin Stella, the prefect of the Congregation, was quoted in an interview with the Congregation, who said that “one cannot be a priest without balance of mind and heart and without affective maturity, and every unresolved lacuna or problem in this area risks becoming gravely harmful, both for the person as well as for the People of God.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, the executive director of DignityUSA -- an organization of Catholics who declare their commitment to “equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the Church and society” -- was apparently upset by the new instruction. “This document is extremely disappointing in its approach to gay men called to be priests,” said Duddy-Burke. “It is not at all what anyone expected from the ‘Who am I to judge?’ Pope.” Duddy-Burke referred to a statement that the pope made in 2013 in response to a question about homosexual priests. In a press conference, the Pope said, “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?” This was interpreted by many to mean an openness to ordaining homosexuals.
“These guidelines are a tremendous insult to the thousands of gay men who have served and continue to serve the Church with honor and dedication. They undermine decades of commitment by these men, and they fail to acknowledge that God calls a great variety of people to the priesthood,” said Duddy-Burke.
Duddy-Burke continued, “The document does a great deal of damage in four short paragraphs dealing with gay people. It trivializes our identity by referring to ‘homosexual tendencies.’ It claims gay men cannot have healthy relationships with either women or men. It encourages those who experience a call to priesthood to avoid having any same-sex relationships for at least three years, forcing people deep into unhealthy closets. It even says that people who support the ‘gay culture,’ whatever that is, are unfit for priesthood.
“All of this reinforces a sense of gay people as flawed, unfit for ministry, and as second- or third-class members of the Church,” said Duddy-Burke.
The new 90-page document reiterates a position that was promulgated in 2005 by the Congregation for Catholic Education. That document stated that “homosexual acts” are “grave sins” and that “homosexual tendencies” are “objectively disordered.” Moreover, it stated:
“In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture".
A prominent Catholic priest, Rev. James Martin of the Jesuit order, argued in 2010 on the Huffington Post that the language in the 2005 document was an effort to blame the scandal of sexual abuse of minors on homosexual priests. Martin, who is editor-at-large of the influential America magazine, asserted that it was an effort by church leaders to blame the scandal on gay priests. He wrote that he knows “scores” of priests who are homosexual who, nonetheless, allegedly lead pious, chaste lives like their heterosexual peers. Since the release of the 2005 document, Martin said, many homosexuals in the clergy and seminary have kept their sexual orientation private, while he admitted that some seminaries operate on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” basis.
Timothy Dolan, who was Archbishop of Milwaukee and former rector of the North American College in Rome for American seminarians, told Catholic News Service in 2005 that homosexual men who do not exhibit the criteria opposed by the Vatican document “shouldn’t be discouraged” from becoming a seminarian. Dolan is now the Archbishop of New York.
Of the document released today, Francis DeBernardo, executive director of LGBT Catholic organization New Ways Ministry, said it is not too late for the Catholic Church to alter its course. In a statement, DeBernardo said, “It’s not too late for the pope to retract this document,” and added, “That would be a healing balm to many who are surely going to be pastorally hurt by this step, and many others who are sure to leave the Catholic Church because of it.”