U.S. Catholic leaders’ responses to Vatican decree could imply flexibility on gay clergy | VailDaily.com

U.S. Catholic leaders’ responses to Vatican decree could imply flexibility on gay clergy

U.S. Roman Catholic leaders praised the contributions of celibate gay priests in response to a new Vatican pronouncement against homosexuals in the priesthood, a move that could imply some dioceses and religious orders want flexibility in applying church policy.Two key American statements – one from the president of the U.S. bishops and the other representing religious orders – quickly followed the Vatican’s “instruction” on gay clergy and supported it on several points: Priests should uphold the church’s teaching against gay sex, personally maintain a celibate lifestyle and avoid support for “the so-called ‘gay culture’.”The potential question involves what happens to candidates who meet those requirements but also have a continuing gay orientation.The decree, released Tuesday by the Vatican’s education agency with approval from Pope Benedict XVI, applies worldwide but is crucial for the United States, where clerical sex abuse crisis erupted and the gay rights movement is strong.The Vatican policy insists that men who “present deep-seated homosexual tendencies” should not be admitted to seminaries or ordained as priests. The ban does not apply if men had “transitory problems” with such tendencies and have overcome these for three years.Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Wash., and leaders of the conference for men’s religious orders replied with carefully worded statements that supported the Vatican decree. But they also sidestepped specifically endorsing a ban on gay-oriented candidates.Bishops are responsible for training and ordaining two-thirds of the nation’s 43,400 priests while religious orders supervise one-third.Skylstad, the bishops’ president, said the answer to the question “whether a homosexually-inclined man can be a good priest” lies in the lives of men who “have truly been dedicated priests.”Leaders of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men – representing heads of 210 religious orders such as the Benedictines, Dominicans and Jesuits – stated that priests “have become concrete examples of Christ” through their work, no matter what their orientation.”For religious men, regardless of sexual orientation, the ability to commit to chaste celibate life is a requirement already,” the conference said. In the context of those with a homosexual orientation, “it is important to thank those religious who have been examples of celibate chastity.”The conference’s executive director, Franciscan priest Paul Lininger, said the policy’s application is “best understood and defined by major superiors in dealing with individuals in their communities.” He said most questions will involve how to interpret “deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”The Rev. James Martin, a U.S. Jesuit who writes about the issue, thought these two statements indicate some officials “reserve the right to interpret the new document according to their own reading of it on the local level.” He said Skylstad and the men’s orders are reflecting actual experience with celibate gay priests over recent decades.Other U.S. bishops’ reactions expressed either strictness or subtle toleration – sometimes both.Bishop John D’Arcy of Fort Wayne and South Bend, Ind., strongly endorsed barring men of “deep-seated” gay tendencies. He said it is “not fair” to force them to live closely with other males in seminary and throughout their careers. “Where a significant number of seminarians have that tendency” some heterosexuals will quit priestly training, he said.Archbishop John Myers of Newark, N.J., distinguished between “deep-seated” tendencies and milder orientations in a phone interview Wednesday.”Do I believe there are some priests who have at least some orientation toward same-sex but who live chastely and are doing good and generous service as priests? Yes I do.” He added that instead of “one size fits all, I think decisions would have to be made on an individual basis.”A statement from Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., said “it is important to look at the whole person” in assessing candidates and specified commitment to celibacy and backing for church teaching but did not address same-sex orientation as such.Vail, Colorado

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