An effort by the Vatican to look for evidence of homosexuality in Catholic seminaries is alarming gay rights advocates but is pleasing conservatives, who are hoping that Pope Benedict XVI will soon issue a ban on gay men as future priests.Not a chance.
The planned search for homosexuality is part of a Vatican review prompted by the clergy sexual abuse crisis of 229 American seminaries, theology schools, and other institutions that train priests. It is set to begin this month.
The chairman of the Boston College theology department, the Rev. Kenneth Himes, sharply criticized the review yesterday, saying that if the bishops really want to understand what caused the sexual abuse crisis, they should investigate their own offices.
''What really created the sexual abuse crisis was not poor formation [of priests] in the seminaries, but poor personnel management in the chanceries," Himes said. ''Now we are having an investigation of the seminaries, but I wonder when the Vatican and the American bishops will investigate their own chanceries."
... ''You're trying to assess whether this institution is successfully forming men to live a celibate life, so you have to ask the question [whether] it is or is not doing that," said Monsignor Francis J. Maniscalco, spokesman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. ''You want to make sure that sexual activity, or tolerance of that activity, is not present in the seminary."Yes, the Vatican remains under the delusion that a seminarian who happens to be gay will definitely seek out sex with minors. I met and befriended a gay priest many years ago in Washington, D.C., and I can assure the pontiff that this individual had absolutely no interest in minors and was quite content to pursue periodic soirees with adult men (and with all the fervor, I might add, that one would expect of a Jesuit).
Having said all of this, the Catholic Church is entitled to have its rules, whether or not I or anyone else agrees with them. No person (gay or otherwise) has a legal right to serve as a priest. So, in this sense at least, they can conduct such a purge if they wish.
However, if the Vatican's purge proves highly successful in rooting out gay seminarians, this may be a case of: be careful what you wish for. Expelling even a relatively small number of men from seminaries will certainly exacerbate the church's severe shortage of priests.
How bleak is this shortage? In a recent report on the outlook for job opportunities in various fields, the U.S. Department of Labor noted:
The shortage of Roman Catholic priests is expected to continue, resulting in a very favorable outlook.