Last week, Pope Francis told Juan Carlos Cruz, a survivor of sexual abuse, that God made him gay and still loved him. It was taken as part of a softening stance on homosexuality by the pope and the Catholic Church in general, an extension of the pope’s “Who am I to judge?” philosophy.
But then, a day later, during a closed-door meeting with Italian bishops, the pope reportedly told them to reject potential priests if there’s any sign they might be gay.
“Keep an eye on the admissions to seminaries, keep your eyes open,” the pope was quoted as saying by newspaper La Stampa’s Vatican Insider service. “If in doubt, better not let them enter.”
That’s an unusually harsh stance from this pope, especially because the Vatican has been fairly clear about how gay men are welcome to enter seminary provided that they’re not in a same-sex relationship and don’t take pride in the sexual orientation.
In a 2005 document, released under Francis’s predecessor Pope Benedict, the Vatican said the Church could admit into the priesthood those who had clearly overcome homosexual tendencies for at least three years.
But it said practicing homosexuals and those with “deep-seated” gay tendencies and those who support a gay culture should be barred.
Pope Francis, then, went even further by saying that priests who might be gay — even if they are celibate — aren’t worth the price of admission.
In these cases, “if you have even the slightest doubt it’s better not to let them enter,” Francis said, because these acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood.
The Church’s child abuse and sex scandals have nothing to do with men who were secretly gay. It was the result of criminals and perverts who took advantage of their positions to abuse children, knowing full well they wouldn’t be punished by the Church hierarchy. Allowing priests who are gay and/or in relationships wouldn’t just widen the pool of applicants, it could result in fewer scandals since everyone would have a safe outlet for their desires. But the Church isn’t known for taking a sensible approach on anything.
His comments are also strange because they imply the bishops could tell which applicants are gay. How? What are they basing these hunches on? The pope didn’t explain.
What’s even more interesting about this idea is that the Church is suffering from a priest shortage to the point that they are even considering allowing married men. This new report suggests that celibate gay men who still have same-sex desires would have a harder time becoming priests than married men with families.
At a time when the Church is already losing its grip on people concerned with moral issues — as we just saw in Ireland — it seems absurd to double down on anti-gay bigotry. But what else would you expect from a Church that routinely treats common sense as heresy?
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Drew for the link)