May 29, 2018. Pope Francis’ directive to Italian bishops to exclude men they believe may be gay from seminaries raises several deeply troubling issues. According to widely circulated reports from outlets such as Catholic News Agency, “if you have even the slightest doubt it's better not to let them enter,” Francis said, “because these acts or deep-seated tendencies can lead to scandals and can compromise the life of the seminary, as well as the man himself and his future priesthood.”
The comments, made in a closed-door meeting, go beyond official policy, which does discourage gay men from becoming priests, but says that men who have not been sexually active with men for several years prior to their application may be considered for seminary admission and ordination.
Leaders of DignityUSA, which represents Catholics working for equality for LGBTQI people in the church, said the timing of the directive is “insidious,” coming on the heels of the Pope wrestling with the church’s failure to deal effectively with clergy sex abuse in Chile, the subsequent cover-up by church officials, and protests from huge numbers of lay Catholics. All of this led to the mass resignation of the entire cadre of Chile’s bishops. The fallout has badly shaken the church, in Chile and in Rome.
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, said, “Pope Francis’ concern about gay men entering seminaries and becoming priests is totally misplaced. It suggests that gay men are more likely to be sexual abusers than non-gay men, which has repeatedly been shown to be untrue in many reputable studies. Moreover, it suggests that Pope Francis does not understand the distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia and is reinforcing long-discredited myths. The Pope’s comments are also simply bewildering, coming just days after undisputed reports that he told a Chilean gay man, a survivor of sexual abuse, that God made him gay and loves him as he is, as does the Pope himself.”
Duddy-Burke continued, “These comments are deeply hurtful and insulting to the many, many gay priests serving the church and the people of God honorably and with tremendous dedication. It is scapegoating gay men for the hierarchy’s abuse of power and failure to honestly confront sexual abuse that underlies so many of the church’s current challenges.”
DignityUSA believes that God’s call to official ministry in the church is given regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or relational or marital status. The organization calls on Pope Francis to immediately acknowledge the harm and error of his comments and to withdraw his message to the Italian bishops.
DignityUSA is the nation’s leading organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality, and full inclusion of LGBTQI Catholics in our church and society. Founded in 1969, it is a founding member of the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.