It’s a blow for people who thought the new Pope may be more LGBT-friendly after he famously said ‘Who am I to judge?’ when asked about gay priests in 2013.
Since then, Francis has compared trans people to nuclear weapons.
And yesterday (7 December) he approved a document drafted by the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy.
Entitled ‘The Gift of the Priestly Vocation’, it explains the rules about who can become a priest.
Apart from quoting Pope Francis, it also heavily draws from the writings of Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict, who were both fiercely anti-gay.
The document dedicated nearly a full page to ‘those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”’ and why they should not be admitted to the seminary.
You can read it in full on the Clerus website, but here’s a rundown on what the Church says and why exactly this is wrong (and, often, incredibly offensive).
What they say and why it’s anti-gayThey say: Bishops must ‘evaluate the human, moral, spiritual and intellectual qualities of the candidates, their physical and psychological health and their right intentions’.
They mean: The Church starts by saying it respects gay and bi men, but then goes on to imply they are lacking in key parts – ie humanity, morality and intellect – and, potentially, might even be psychologically ill.
Not to mention have ‘right intentions’. We all know seminaries are, in the end, a house full of more or less young men in a fairly cramped space, but those committed to being a priest will be able to keep it in their pants and remain celibate.
Yes, even the gay ones.
They say: ’Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.’
They mean: Gay and bi men can’t relate to other human beings in a normal way.
They think our loving, close friendships and family relations are just as fake as our marriages and the families we build.
They say: ’One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.’
They mean: The Church doesn’t point out what exactly the negative consequences would be, but there are only two options here, and neither of them sound like fire and brimstone:
Result A of ordinating gay priests: an open-minded Church, welcoming and extending a hand to all.
Result B of ordinating gay priests: A priest who knows from personal experience how hard it can be to be both gay and a member of a religion which doesn’t think LGBTI rights are important or even worthy.
They say: ‘Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with sexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem – for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded.
‘Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.’
They mean: In two sentences, the Catholic Church states homosexuality is something so common everyone experiences it in puberty, but calls it a problem straight away.
And they think this ‘problem’ can and must, be ‘overcome’ at least three years before priests start ordination.
For guys who want to start seminary straight after uni, this would mean potentially ‘overcoming’ their ‘tendencies’ in puberty or just after.
That time is confusing enough on its own, without added pressure to conform to the expectations of outdated Church doctrine.
The implication of ‘overcoming’ is that the church supports ‘gay cures’. These have been universally condemned by all reputable psychological and medical associations around the world. Gay cures are unnecessary, misguided and dangerous.
And, of course, they are implying that homosexuality is a ‘phase’. It isn’t.
They say: ’It must be remembered that, in a relationship of sincere dialogue and mutual trust, the seminarian is obliged to reveal to his formators – to the Bishop, to the Rector, the Spiritual Director and to other formators – doubts or difficulties he should have in this regard.’
They mean: Here, they imply staying in the closet is deeply insincere, yet coming out puts your job and future at risk. Not just at risk, really, because you will be fired.
They don’t call it ‘firing’, of course, instead saying ‘his spiritual director and his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience’ from becoming a priest.
Either way, it’s always a loss: either you stay in the closet and potentially damage a trusting relationship, or you come out and lose your job.
They say: ‘It would be gravely dishonest for a candidate to hide his own homosexuality in order to proceed. Such a deceitful attitude does not correspond to the spirit of truth, loyalty and openness that must characterize the personality of him who believes he is called to serve Christ and his Church in the ministerial priesthood.’
They mean: And if forcing a seminarian to come out doesn’t work, the Church will just guilt-trip them into it.