A Matter of Orientation

Dec. 15-21, 2005
A Matter of Orientation
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Local Clergy React to Controversial Church Document on Homosexuality

The Vatican recently released a document concerning homosexuality and the criteria for admitting men into the seminary. The full title of the Vatican’s English translation is “Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations With Regard to Persons With Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Sacred Orders.”

Reaction to the document within the Syracuse Diocese was relatively quiet as a letter from Bishop James Moynihan issued to the priests of the diocese suggested that nothing would substantially change, according to Father Neal Quartier, the director of Formation for Seminarians.

“[The letter is just an attempt to] clarify that nothing is really changing regarding our acceptance procedure,” the priest said. “People around the country have thought that maybe it would change but we’ve been dealing with the issue of healthy sexuality for years.” One of the major sticking points in the document is its language used in reference to who cannot be admitted.

“…this dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’” “I don’t see it as a crisis of homosexuality. I see it as a crisis of unintegrated sexuality…for many reasons, the men who got in trouble weren’t able to come to a mature sexuality in their lives,” Father Quartier said. “It’s much more complicated than to say it’s homosexuality or it’s pedophilia. Perhaps some of it’s the fault of the seminary training. But it’s a failure to help seminarians mature in their sexual understanding and development.”

The buzz around the document thrust Father Fred Daley of St. Francis DeSales in Utica squarely into the national spotlight. Within the last few weeks, the Utica priest has appeared on CNN and “Nightline” and on the cover of the Syracuse Post Standard before and after the document from the Vatican was released.

Father Daley revealed his own homosexual orientation in March 2004. He found the document’s language to be offensive given his own sexuality. “As a gay priest, the document is saying to me that I’m objectively disordered, that I’m not capable of relating properly to men and women, and that’s very hurtful,” Father Daley relayed. “It’s saying that my ordination was a mistake. No matter how you spin it, that’s what it’s saying and that’s hurtful.”

Many believe that the document was intended to address specifically the sex-abuse scandal that has fractured the church over the course of the last few years. In an article written in his church bulletin, Father Brian Lang of St. Joseph’s in Camillus stated that the church hierarchy has long been scapegoating homosexual priests for the priest-abuse scandal.

Father Jeffrey Keefe, OFM, is the director for COURAGE, an outreach ministry for Catholic homosexuals who wish to follow institutional teachings of the church regarding sexuality. For some 40 years, the Franciscan priest has been counseling both homosexual laity and homosexual priests. He believes that homosexuality is a developmental issue.

“Whether they’re priests or not priests, a homosexual male has difficulty accepting himself as masculine because in their development, they’ve suffered some trauma possibly through their siblings or their peers,” Father Keefe said. “My view is not that it’s a sexual problem basically, it’s a self-concept problem and that’s when the therapy occurs.”

Father Keefe, Father Quartier, Father Daley and Father Lang all agreed that homosexual priests are capable of leading celibate lives. The criterion that must be met is the ability to lead a celibate life. “It depends on the level of a person’s faith…how much they believe in the Catholic church,” Father Keefe said. “To be a Catholic you have to accept three basic things. The first is that God exists; the next is Jesus is Lord, Jesus is divine and the third is that Christ founded the church and that’s the Catholic church. But I don’t think that it’s easy for anyone to be chaste, that’s a very strong drive. But with grace, all things are possible.”

“It’s about healthy sexuality — heterosexual or homosexual. We can’t admit candidates who are unable or unwilling to live a celibate life. That’s the criteria we look at, how healthy they are to be celibate, whether they’re heterosexual or homosexual,” Father Quartier said. Father Keefe distinguishes between those who are homosexual and those who identify themselves as gay.

“Gay is not only a condition; it’s a philosophy,” the Franciscan priest said. Both Father Keefe and Father Quartier consider sexuality a process of maturation. By contrast, Father Daley cited behavioral science when he asserted that sexual orientation is arrived at around age 3 or 4. “One can neither choose nor change his orientation,” the priest said.

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