I'm not Catholic. I'm commenting about the Vatican's new Instruction on not ordaining gays because I think it's an interersting issue of importance to the larger society, not because I want to tell Catholics how to be Catholic.
It's always seemed disingenous to me to argue, as part of the debate over sexually abusive priests, that the church should give in and allow priests to marry, as if one would fix the other. These are two distinct groups, are they not? The priests who might want to marry are not the same ones who end up messing around with altar boys. A debate over ending the celibacy rule, fine, but don't try to make it carry a load it can't handle.
On the other hand, the argument against gay priests also seems a little off, at least if I'm understanding Bishop D'Arcy correctly -- all that stuff about "The homosexual candidate . . . is forced to live closely with other males . . . he will live most of his life with males. This is not fair to him for his own spiritual growth." Either priests are committed to their calling, which requires a certain sacrifice of physical expression, or they are not. If a prime requirement of the priesthood is celibacy, what difference does it make if one is giving up a heterosexual or homosexual sex life?
Amy Wellborn, a Fort Wayne writer who has one of the most-read blogs on Catholic issues in the country, pinpoints the dilemma facing the church.
The bigger problem is that there seems to be a consistent connection between sympathy for the secular gay agenda and ethos and a disinterest or even antipathy to traditional Catholic teaching on sexuality and family, period. And we're not talking about little points of minutiae here: we're talking about the big picture, that big picture in which the relationship between male and female is an anaology for the relationship between God and humanity, and even a template for understanding creation, period. Disconnect from that, and you are slowly, but surely, disconnecting from Catholic Christianity as you depend on your own personal revelation, rather than the public revelation of Scripture and so on, to define your faith, and the faith which you are teaching, preaching, and being guided by in your pastoral ministry.
That dilemma is being faced by other churches and a lot of secular institutions as well. As society changes -- usually in the direction of less allegiance to rules and regulations and formalities amd rituals -- how much should the institution change in order to draw in people who might not otherwise be interested? But how much can it change and still serve the purpose it was formed to serve in the first place?
Those questions are far from settled in the Catholic Church, of course. Just read the first comment under Amy's post, detailing a dispute between Bishop D'Arcy and Bishop Skylstad about what the Instruction even means.