Monday, September 19, 2005

It may happen

A ban on any and all men with same-sex attractions entering seminary has been approved by Pope Benedict, according to Catholic World News (link requires registration).

I’ll wait to see what exactly the document says, whether it’s couched as contingent, a response to circumstances, or as necessary, something essential to the priesthood. Whether it emphasizes the universal call to holiness and chastity (and the current social degradation therein) or categorizes homosexual persons as a class apart.

The first-named option in each pair would sting, but I’d accept it as collateral damage from the recent sexual indiscipline (part of the cause of which was poor formation) and the lavender mafia. The latter-named options … well, I don’t want to think about them or say more than that they would prompt one crisis of conscience. They would not be compatible with the last 30 years of teaching on homosexuality.

But any blanket ban, which I don't favor despite my acknowledgement of its legitimacy, will always face three problems:

(1) "sexuality" is a continuum, not a polarity, making a blanket ban for *any* degree of same-sex attraction absurd (does having an pubescent crush on your best friend count?);

(2) a blanket ban, like any rule, will still rely on those who have to ask The Question, and thus depends on their reliability and honesty (not to speak of honesty on the part of prospective seminarians). And like in many other matters, the orthodox will obey, and the dissidents will find a way to get around it or just ignore it. So, perversely, we might have fewer men with SSA, but more of them will be of the bad kind; and

(3) a blanket ban will guarantee that Topic H will never come up during formation, meaning that if any men with SSA do wind up in seminary, they will be entering an environment closer to the poor pre-V2 formation (the reason why checks and balances exist is for situations that DON'T go well). So perversely, we might have fewer men with SSA in seminary, but more of them will be of the bad kind. Ultimately there is simply no substitute for sound judgment on the part of the men in the trenches -- the bishops, the vocation directors, and the seminary officials. And if the bishops and chancery rats are as bad as widely believed in St. Blogs, this rule will not affect them, while the blanket ban will convince people (wrongly) that something will have been done.

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