Levada urges gay priests to remain in closet

Head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal-designate William Levada has said that a priest who publicly announces he is homosexual makes it difficult for people to see the priest as representing Christ.

Catholic News Service reports that Levada explained that a public declaration of homosexuality places a priest "at odds with the spousal character of love as revealed by God and imaged in humanity".

Cardinal-designate Levada made his remarks during a homily on Sunday as he presided over a Mass for the installation of the new rector of Rome's Pontifical North American College.

In the presence of some 170 seminarians, Cardinal-designate Levada reflected on the challenges priests face today and on the Sunday Scripture readings, which described God's love for his people as the love of a husband for a wife and described Jesus as the bridegroom of the church.

Referring first to "the tragic problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy," the cardinal-designate said, "thanks be to God, it is now possible to say that the measures taken by the bishops on behalf of the church have put into place a comprehensive program of education, prevention and care for victims, as well as measures to ensure that abusive clergy are not returned to ministry."

"One of the more immediate challenges facing seminaries," he said, is the implementation of the Congregation for Catholic Education's November instruction that men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" should not be admitted to the seminary or ordained to the priesthood.

The instruction, however, made clear that the church was not questioning the validity of the ordinations of gay men who already are priests.

The cardinal-designate said the instruction "is not directly related to the US sexual abuse crisis, but it is not without relevance for it," insofar as a study commissioned by the US bishops identified homosexual behavior as a component in many clerical sex abuse cases.

Beyond the issue of psychosexual maturity, Cardinal-designate Levada said, "the question also needs to be viewed from its theological perspective," particularly in light of the biblical images of God's spousal relationship with his people and Gospel passages in which Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom.

The doctrinal chief said he wanted to look specifically at "the situation of the gay priest who announces his homosexuality publicly, a few examples of which we have recently heard reported" in reaction to the Vatican document.

"I think we must ask, 'Does such a priest recognise how this act places an obstacle to his ability to represent Christ the bridegroom to his bride, the people of God? Does he not see how his declaration places him at odds with the spousal character of love as revealed by God and imaged in humanity?'" he said.

"Sadly, this provides a good example of the wisdom of the new Vatican instruction," he said.

Doctrinal head: Openly gay priests make it tough to represent Christ (Catholic News Service 27/2/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Concerning the Criteria of Vocational Discernment Regarding Perosns With Homosexual Tendencies In View of Their Admission to Seminaries and Holy Orders: English translation courtesy of The Tablet (New Oxford Review 22/11/05)

Australian Bishops defend gay priests (CathNews 5/12/05)
Editorial says gays document also targets macho priests (CathNews 1/12/05)
Seminary bishop says gays document 'helpful' (CathNews 30/11/05)
Local theologian says gays ruling will have 'little impact' (CathNews 24/11/05)
Gay seminarians document leaked (CathNews 23/11/05)
Italian paper reveals details of gays in priesthood document (CathNews 14/11/05)
Document to prescribe caution, not ban, on gay seminarians (CathNews 10/10/05)
Gay seminarian ban imminent (CathNews 30/9/05)
US seminary visitation "mired in controversy" (CathNews 26/9/05)

Participants at Rome seminar warn gay marriage poses risk to children (Catholic News Service 24/2/06)

28 Feb 2006