Thursday, December 01, 2005

No gay priests, part 6: They need the gays

The Conference of Major Superiors of Men has now issued a statement praising gay priests for their contributions to the church, according to the Boston Globe, and said that the practical application of the Vatican policy is ''best understood and defined by major superiors in dealing with individuals in their communities." This is the closest thing you can get in official church circles to outright rejection.

The necessity of all this spin--that it doesn't mean what it really says--reveals the obvious reality: If the Roman Catholic Church wants to maintain a male- and celibate-only priesthood, it simply cannot exclude what is probably the largest group of men who do not marry (women, anyway), and that's gay men. Their numbers may shrink as same-sex relationships receive wider acceptance, but the church simply cannot rely on heterosexual men (unless they want to restrict themselves to those that are celibate only because no one would marry them).

After all the mass exodus from the priesthood in the '70s and '80s was largely due to heterosexual men who left only because they wanted to marry. If there are "too many" gay priests, the hierarchy has only itself to blame for driving out the straights.

If the Vatican was really concerned that gay men are disproportionately represented in the ranks of the clergy, it would relax clerical celibacy. Hell, if they were concerned about the people of God's access to the eucharist they would do it. And if they were concerned about a clergy shortage, they would ordain all those the church (that is, the people of God) call to orders, which would include women and men married and single, of probably every race and ethnic group and sexual orientation. But they're not concerned about any of those things; it seems the only thing they're really concerned about is the priesthood's bella figura--its image, nothing more, nothing less.


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