A union of gay Catholic priests in the Netherlands have written a letter to Pope Francis protesting his declaration that gay people are not welcome in the clergy and for the assumption that they are responsible for the clerical sex abuse crisis.
The letter from the Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors is dated last October 2018 but is just being released publicly recently. It speaks about a document the Pope issued in 2016 which re-emphasised the church’s ban on gay priests.
“It is a continuation of the policy adopted by your two predecessors to prevent gay men from being ordained as priests,” the letter reads.
“Although the document states that the Church deeply respects the persons in question, it also makes the arbitrary and unfounded statement that: Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating appropriately to both men and women. In May of 2018 many news media reported that during a meeting at the Italian Bishops’ Conference, you strongly supported the banning of homosexual candidates for the priesthood. We now wish to inform you that, as members of the Working Group, we are deeply unhappy with this vision and this policy concerning homosexuality and the priesthood.”
The group perceives that there are many gay men serving as priests, and they function as well or poorly as heterosexual priests do. Those who accept and understand their sexuality do not cause problems, the letter says, but those who “deny, disown or suppress” it do. The church expects priests to adhere to their vow of celibacy, no matter their orientation.
About the sexual abuse scandal, the letter reads:
“We have the distinct impression that the Vatican and the Congregation for the Clergy and perhaps even you yourself, tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors. We disagree with this. We believe that the current major crisis with respect to this context is primarily the result of the disapproval, suppression, denial and the poor integration of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, on the part of many individual priests and within our Church as a whole.”
Some right-wing commentators, such as Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, have admittedly blamed gay priests for the sexual abuse of minors. And the Pope himself has insinuated that gay priests may be more likely than straight ones to break their vows, leading LGBT+ advocates to worry that he would indeed blame them for the abuse crisis. This is a far cry from Francis’s 2013 statement about gay priests, when he famously said, “Who am I to judge?”
The letter is being published ahead of a Vatican meeting with world bishops to discuss clergy sexual abuse which begins next week. Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, which works for LGBT+ equality in the church, said he does not know of any other group of gay priests anywhere in the world that has taken such an action.
The publicity of the letter also comes at the same time as the publication of a book “In the Closet of the Vatican” that asserts that 80 per cent of priests working within the Vatican are gay. The book, by French journalist Frédéric Martel, is being published in eight countries and seeks to expose what publisher Bloomsbury calls “corruption and hypocrisy at the heart of the Vatican,” The Guardian reports.
During an interview, Pope Francis has apparently clarified the pontiff’s position on LGBT+ members of the clergy. An advanced copy of Fernando Prado’s The Strength of Vocation was made available to Reuters, and in it, the Pope makes it clear that LGBT+ priests, nuns and monks are not welcome in the Catholic Church.
In the interview, the Pope says:
“The issue of homosexuality is a very serious issue that must be adequately discerned from the beginning with candidates. In our societies, it even seems that homosexuality is fashionable and that mentality, in some way, also influences the life of the church.”
Pope Francis then affirmed his stance the position of LGBT+ people as clergy members:
“In consecrated and priestly life, there is no room for that kind of affection. Therefore, the church recommends that people with that kind of ingrained tendency should not be accepted into the ministry or consecrated life.”
Additionally, the Pope added that LGBT+ clergy members should step down from their position:
“It is better that they leave the priesthood or the consecrated life rather than live a double life.”
The Pope’s comments point to an ingrained tendency within the Catholic Church that demonises LGBT+ identities. As he departed Ireland following the papal visit in August, Pope Francis told reporters that gay children should be brought to a psychiatrist.
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