(1) Monsignor Robert Bussen says he did not do the gay Masses as a cause celebre -- "If it's to be about me, it can't continue." Now ... I don't mean any of what follows to be construed as implying anything about particular priests being bad or good. But this furor was about him. Or to be precise, it was about his idea of gay ministry.
It seems to me pretty elementary stuff that, apart from all else, you don't want people in ministry to homosexuals, or any definable group, to be men who struggle with that sin themselves (if our Courage chaplain said he did, I'd swear he was lying). Much less doing so semi-publicly as "Father B" was.
There's also the matter of doctrine, which should not dissemble or water-down what the Church teaches or play down the radicalness of Christ's call to die to self. But the SLC Tribune said the monsignor also "attended a meeting of Dignity, a organization of Catholics whose stated mission is to change the church's doctrine on gay marriage. And he joined other religious leaders at an interfaith service during the Winterpride Festival in February." If those aren't alarm bells, nothing is.
And apparently the alarm bells went off. A parishioner recorded the gay Mass and said that while priests are "not supposed to be ambiguous as far as church teachings are concerned" (I cited the Church document below), the sermon left the impression that "it's OK to be a practicing homosexual." "This is not about Father Bob. He's a wonderful, caring man. We just want to be sure that he's representing the views of the church," the man said.
To re-cite then-Cardinal Ratzinger (Section 15 here):
But we wish to make it clear that departure from the Church's teaching, or silence about it, (emphasis mine) in an effort to provide pastoral care is neither caring nor pastoral.(2) I'm really not sure how public priests who struggle with homosexuality should be. Or rather, I'm certain they should be private and discreet, but don't want to say it should be an absolute secret that should never be broached. I'm pretty open with people who already know me, especially if religious or conservative, but I would never make a public speech.
But those are situational judgments. Monsignor Bossen seems to be trying to have it all ways. On the one hand he says:
"In the Catholic Church, the emphasis should not be on the personality of the priest. It asks us not to make public declarations. There should not be the gay priest and the straight priest. I have never told my parishioners that I am straight or gay. I simply try to be their pastor."Fair enough. But then there's the following:
He points to a recent survey in which a small percentage of priests said they were straight and an equally small number said they were gay, but the vast majority said they didn't know. They all take vows of celibacy, after all.Well ... which is it? Should priests not "suppress [their] sexuality" in the interests of not having it "come out somewhere else"? Or should they have no sexual identity, lest parishioners think of them as the straight priest or the gay priest?
Eliminating healthy talk of sexuality is dangerous, even for celibate priests, he says.
"Celibacy does not mean you're not a sexual being. If you suppress your sexuality, it's going to come out somewhere else. It will do violence to you or the people you serve - alcoholism, power-seeking, pornography, workaholism and abuse."
Still ... I wrote the following on Amy Welborn's site a couple of years ago:
In fact, particularly for a young boy struggling with latent homosexuality, a chaste gay priest might be the best friend he could have. If nothing else, such a priest would personify the Church teaching that these inclinations are not the end of the world even if they never go away, and that the boy is still called to serve God somehow and be part of the Church family somehow.So am I trying to have it both ways, too?