The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said yesterday that under a new Vatican directive on homosexuality, men with a lasting attraction to members of the same sex can still be ordained as priests, as long as they are not "consumed by" their sexual orientation.I suppose we'll see what develops. In the meantime, I wonder how many gifted, qualified seminarians who are truly called to the priesthood the Church will lose. I'm guessing the number is not insignificant.
Bishop William S. Skylstad's flexible interpretation of the document, which was officially issued in Rome yesterday, was sharply at odds with the position of some other U.S. bishops. They said the Vatican intended to bar all men who have had more than a fleeting, adolescent brush with homosexuality.
"I think one of the telling sentences in the document is the phrase that the candidate's entire life of sacred ministry must be 'animated by a gift of his whole person to the church and by an authentic pastoral charity,' " Skylstad, the bishop of Spokane, Wash., said in an interview. "If that becomes paramount in his ministry, even though he might have a homosexual orientation, then he can minister and he can minister celibately and chastely."
Skylstad's comments are the opening salvo in what promises to be a wide-ranging battle within the U.S. church over the document's implementation. Bishop John M. D'Arcy of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., said yesterday that Skylstad's interpretation is "simply wrong" -- a rare public clash among bishops, who usually go to great lengths to preserve an image of collegiality, even when they disagree.
"I would say yes, absolutely, it does bar anyone whose sexual orientation is towards one's own sex and it's permanent," D'Arcy said of the document. "I don't think there's any doubt about it. ... I don't think we can fuss around with this."