Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 5, 2005
CCCB: Vatican's gay priests document a call for integrity
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
Canadian bishops say the Vatican document on homosexuality and priestly ordination needs to be interpreted with great care.
"I think what there is here is a call for maturity and integrity," Bishop James Wingle said in a telephone interview.
"If we're going to claim the gift of celibacy in the Latin tradition of the Church, then people have to be prepared to live it."
Wingle said, however, the document's narrow focus on homosexual orientation leaves out the difficulties heterosexuals may also face in living a celibate life, which the bishop sees as a special challenge in this sex-saturated age.
"If you were to transpose this discussion into the framework of marriage, I don't think anyone would express surprise, if a man is intending to marry a woman and has no real proven capacity to direct his sexual energy in a way that enables him to obey his commitment, he ought not enter into Christian marriage," he said.
Wingle is co-treasurer of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). His comments were echoed by CCCB Vice-President Archbishop James Weisgerber who told the Catholic News Service in Rome he thought the focus of the document was too narrow.
"If a heterosexual presented himself with the same questions, we would look askance," the Winnipeg archbishop told Catholic News Service.
"This is a very complicated issue. When they speak of 'deep-seated' tendencies, they mean dysfunctional, expressing one's orientation in inappropriate ways," he said.
Weisgerber said the CCCB basically agrees with the document, despite the fact that some of its assumptions are not fully explained.
"If someone has not been chaste for at least three years, if they are involved in the gay culture in a way that this colours everything about him - if these things are not present, then we can consider him as a candidate," he said.
Wingle pointed out the "priesthood is rooted in the ministry of Jesus," and that celibacy is one aspect of the imitation of Christ.
The Canadian bishops are especially concerned to make sure the document is not interpreted as an attack on homosexuals, or on those priests who have a homosexual orientation but have remained faithful to their vows of celibacy.
The document, however, provoked controversy long before it was published.
Some, including high-ranking members of the American Church, have argued that the so-called pedophilia scandal involving Catholic priests is really a homosexual scandal, since the majority of those abused were boys past puberty.
"Almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true pedophilia," said the American cardinals after meeting with the Vatican in April 2002, according to the Pulitzer Prize winning book Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church, by the Boston Globe investigative team, which broke the sexual abuse scandal that year.
While the Globe team does not make a causal link to abuse, it reports a "disproportionately high number of gay men in the priesthood." "Some Church experts estimate that from 30 per cent to fully one half of the 45,000 U.S. priests are gay," says the Globe team.
"Whether or not that represents some kind of reality, I'm not equipped to say," said Wingle. "If the document is used to cast aspersions, that would be irresponsible and regrettable," he said.
"It's intended to clarify the ground and to call for integrity. The priest is and must be a bearer of a mystery greater than himself."
"Celibacy is a challenge to our culture. As much as we value sexuality, it is not an absolute value," Wingle said.