A witch hunt disguised as screening

It appears that the Roman Catholic Church continues to officially blame the sex abuse scandals of the last decade on homosexuality and is mandating even more drastic measures to root out and banish gay men from the ranks of the priesthood.

Toby Cohen writes:

Sex tests will be applied to men wishing to become Catholic priests, according to new guidance issued by the Roman Catholic Church yesterday.

After a series of sex-scandals involving priests, Pope Benedict XVI has authorized a new strategy which will aim to root out applicants with devious sexual urges. The guidance states the tests should also aim to vet for those with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies”.

The tests have been underlined as voluntary, but will be requested by rectors in appropriate cases. The guide stipulated that applicants would be refused entry to the priesthood if it is “evident the candidate has difficulty living in celibacy: That is, if celibacy for him is lived as a burden so heavy that it compromises his affective and relational equilibrium.”

The Vatican affirms that a priest must have a “positive and stable sense of one’s masculine identity,” and that the test will aim to identify those who are ‘immature’.

The Catholic News Service Blog the Vatican says that in 2005 the church could not “ordain men with ‘deep-seated’ homosexual tendencies” but did not define who would define or determine these so-called tendencies. The document released last Thursday outlines this process.

The “Guidelines for the Use of Psychology in the Admission and Formation of Candidates for the Priesthood” states that psychological evaluation should be used when there is a suspicion of “psychic disturbances” or “grave immaturity” in a candidate — such as uncertain sexual identity or deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

It also said that in judging a candidate’s capacity for living the charism of celibacy with joy and faithfulness, his sexual orientation must be evaluated….

One lingering doubt about the (2005) homosexuality document was whether a homosexually oriented man who was nevertheless committed to celibacy could be ordained a priest. At Thursday’s press conference, Cardinal Grocholewski gave a rather forceful “no,” and here are the essential parts of his answer:

“The candidate does not necessarily have to practice homosexuality (to be excluded.) He can even be without sin. But if he has this deeply seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains.”

Cardinal Grocholewski was then asked why, if a man with strong heterosexual tendencies but who is celibate can be ordained, the same could not be true of a man with homosexual tendencies? His answer:

“Because it’s not simply a question of observing celibacy as such. In this case, it would be a heterosexual tendency, a normal tendency. In a certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a type of deviation, a type of irregularity, as explained in two documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that something isn’t right in the psyche of such a man. We don’t simply talk about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations.”

Psychological tests have been used in some seminaries for fifty years. A 2005 Vatican document allowed men to become priests if they had suppressed homosexual urges for three years. However, after spending vast sums on law suits in recent years, the Roman Catholic Church has seen the need for less tolerant measures.

The report and the process outlined misses the mark according to the Survivor of Those Abused by Priests. The Associate Press reports:

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said the Vatican needs to go beyond screening seminarians to end what the group calls the church’s “virtually unchanged culture of secrecy and unchecked power in the hierarchy” that left dangerous priests in parishes.

“Every barrel will always have some bad apples,” the Survivors Network said. “Real change requires effectively reforming the barrel and those who oversee it.”

As long as the Roman Catholic Church assumes, against the best evidence, that neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality is an accurate predictor of who might perpetrate sexual abuse against children and adolescents, then their scapegoating will not result in a safer church nor in deal effectively with the consequences of abuse.

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