The National Catholic Review
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Every bishop possesses the sacred duty of discerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders. St. Paul’s advice to Timothy is fitting for all bishops, especially today: “Do not lay hands too readily on anyone” (1 Tim. 5: 22). The church’s life and the way it manifests itself as the sacrament of salvation for the entire world leans inextricably on the shoulders of her priests. The supernatural “health,” one could say, of the church depends heavily on the fitness of candidates for ordination.

 

In the aftermath of the scandal of clerical sexual abuse of minors, the church and society have focused partly on the role of homosexuality. The question has arisen as to whether or not it is advisable for a bishop to admit a man with predominantly homosexual tendencies, or what some call “same sex attraction” (S.S.A.), to the seminary and/or present him for holy orders.

Thanks to a recent Circular Letter in 1997 from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments concerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders, some guidance and assistance from the Holy See have already been given in order to tackle the thorny and difficult issue of suitability.

The letter says that a vocation is based on “a moral certitude that is founded upon positive reasons regarding the suitability of the candidate.” Next, it mentions the fundamental reason not to admit a candidate to holy orders. The document says: “Admission may not take place if there exists a prudent doubt regarding the candidate’s suitability (Canon 1052 §3 with Canon 1030). By ‘prudent doubt’ is meant a doubt founded upon facts that are objective and duly verified.” Later, the congregation advises that it would seem “more appropriate to dismiss a doubtful candidate” than to lament the sadness and scandal of a cleric abandoning the ministry.

In other words, the congregation seems to suggest that even if there is only a “prudent doubt,” based on objective facts, about the suitability of any candidate, the best and safest course of action is not to admit him to holy orders. The church does not ask for certitude that a man does not have a vocation but simply that a doubt has arisen through a prudent examination of evidence. Even though there may be a lack of certitude but a definite prudent doubt, a proper ecclesiastical authority should judge the candidate to be unsuitable.

What about a candidate with S.S.A.? Does it introduce a prudent doubt about suitability resulting in not admitting an applicant to a formation program or not issuing the call to holy orders?

In order to determine the existence of a “prudent doubt,” it would be helpful to clarify the meaning of the term “homosexuality.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as “an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.” Some may experience a wide range of intensity or different types of attractions to persons of the same sex, as some experts propose. Although, in the context of determining suitability for ordination, it would seem appropriate to limit the definition of the term “homosexuality” to describe those with exclusive or predominant tendencies, because a “prudent doubt” can be better verified objectively based on the clear presence of the disorder. With this clear information, a bishop can then make his decision concerning suitability.

Some have described S.S.A. as a sexual “orientation.” At first glance, this description may seem to have some merit. The sexual attraction of someone with S.S.A. is “toward” persons of the same sex, and this “tending toward” could easily be described as an “orientation.” However, to classify homosexuality as an “orientation” may obfuscate the serious disorder that exists and the distortion that has been introduced into a biblically inspired Christian anthropology.

Genesis speaks of God creating an image of himself by making man “male and female.” In this dual and complementary relationship of persons, man finds within himself or can, in a certain sense, “read” in his body and in the body of a person of the opposite sex, a tendency to “leave his father and mother” and “cling” to the other (Gen. 2: 24). The sexual orientation, the “tending toward” another of the opposite sex, is “written” in man’s created constitution. It is part of what Pope John Paul II calls the “nuptial meaning of the body.” Any other tendency to “cling” to another (be it to persons of the same sex, children, beasts, objects) is an aberration of the divine economy in which God reveals himself by creating an image of himself in the orientation of male to female and female to male.

The “orientation” of those who have another attraction, other than the divinely constituted one, is not a true “orientation.” It would be better described as a “disorientation.” It is fundamentally flawed in its disordered attraction because it can never “image” God and never contribute to the good of the person or society. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that the disorientation of homosexuality is “objectively disordered.” Homosexuality may be an inclination, tendency or condition but it is fundamentally “dis-orienting” in that it tends toward a corrupt end. The attraction as such is not a sin. Only when one chooses to pursue the attraction in thought or deed does the disordered inclination become a disordered, and therefore sinful, choice.

Nevertheless, homosexual tendencies are aberrations that can and should be addressed by both the individual and by competent experts with the aid of behavioral sciences as well as by spiritual means, including prayer, the sacraments and spiritual direction. According to some experts, S.S.A. can be treated and even prevented with some degree of success. But does it introduce a “prudent doubt” when determining suitability for ordination?

There are a number of significant negative aspects to S.S.A. that contribute to a “prudent doubt” with regard to the suitability of a candidate for holy orders.

First and foremost among them is the possible simultaneous manifestation of other serious problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression. With more than one serious disorder, a candidate may find it difficult to respond to the demands of formation, and the seminary or religious house may struggle to accommodate the extra needs involved in the healing process of the individual.

Likewise, there is an increased possibility that persons with S.S.A. may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression, either conscious or subconscious, which were learned in trying to deal with their tendencies in a largely heterosexual environment. After years of hiding or of being confused about their abnormal attractions, it is possible that duplicitous or pretentious behaviors could appear. These kinds of personal defects make the moral formation of the candidate much more difficult and can negatively affect the formation of the other candidates.

Another aspect that would contribute to a “prudent doubt” concerning a candidate with S.S.A. is a question about his adherence to church teaching. There are many men and women with S.S.A. who uphold and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality. But if someone with S.S.A. is insecure about dealing straightforwardly with his disordered attractions or has some doubts about their disordered character, he may tend to possess a distorted and erroneous view of human sexuality. Thus, there exists the risk that such an individual will struggle with or even deny the clear teaching of the church regarding his disordered inclinations and any acts that might flow from these tendencies.

Part of the distortion of S.S.A. is the tendency to view the other person of the same sex as a possible sexual “partner” or even to reduce the other (also a temptation for heterosexuals) to a sexual object. In such a clearly male environment as the seminary and the priesthood, the temptation is ever-present for those with the disorder. This temptation could present very difficult circumstances and the overwhelming presentation of the object of their attraction (men), which is naturally part of an all-male and intensely close community, could make their efforts to live chastely or to be healed of their disorder very difficult.

Furthermore, as has been the unfortunate experience in some seminaries and dioceses, cliques may form based on the disordered attractions. This could hamper the healing process that might be possible for some, because the effeminate affective manners and a certain “acceptability” of the disorder are often promoted in such groups. Also these cliques can confuse young heterosexual men in the growth of their understanding of manhood and in developing skills and virtues to live a celibate life, because they can often see modeled in members of these cliques a disordered view of human sexuality and of proper masculine behavior.

Another question for determining suitability for a candidate with S.S.A. is whether the individual can live celibacy. Celibacy is a vocational choice to which one is bound by a vow or promise to live chastely for the sake of the kingdom of God by foregoing the good of marriage and family life. It is a sign of one’s identification with Christ, one’s availability for service to the church and of the spousal union between Christ and the church in the kingdom of God.

People with homosexual tendencies can live certain aspects of celibacy, but their commitment is significantly different from that of heterosexuals because it compromises two fundamental dimensions of celibacy.

On the one hand, celibacy involves a sacrifice of a good for a greater good. It sacrifices ordered and good inclinations toward spouse and family for the sake of the kingdom. For someone with S.S.A., an act of binding oneself by a vow or promise to abstain from something that one is already bound to avoid by the natural law (attractions toward someone of the same sex) seems superfluous. To avoid doing something (heterosexual acts) that one does not have an inclination to do is not a sacrifice. The struggle to live chastely may be extremely difficult for someone with homosexual tendencies, and these struggles would truly be meritorious and virtuous as acts of chastity, but not necessarily of celibacy.

Likewise, the spousal dimension of celibacy seems unclear for those with S.S.A.. Celibacy is a way of living the spousal character of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. Through the celibate life, the priest redirects his sexual attraction to the opposite sex toward another “body,” the church, which is a “bride” in a complementary spousal relationship. He exercises a spiritual fatherhood and lives a supernatural spousal relationship as a sign to the church of Christ’s love for her. Someone afflicted with S.S.A. cannot redirect his inclination toward a complementary “other” in a spousal relationship, because homosexuality has disordered his sexual attraction toward the opposite sex. It then becomes difficult to be genuinely a sign of Christ’s spousal love for the church.

If it can be said that a man with homosexual tendencies can live a celibate life, at the very least it is lacking some important elements due to S.S.A., and it could be another reason to conclude that there exists a prudent doubt as to his suitability for holy orders.

 

It would seem that if there are firmly established facts, both from an objective psychological evaluation and an examination in the external forum of past and present behavior and choices, that a man does indeed suffer from S.S.A. as an “exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex” (Catechism, No. 2357), then he should not be admitted to holy orders, and his presence in the seminary would not only give him false hope but it may, in fact, hinder the needed therapy and healing that might come from appropriate psychological and spiritual care. It may be that a man could be healed of such a disorder and then he could be considered for admission to the seminary and possibly to Holy Orders, but not while being afflicted with the disorder.

The Pauline exhortation not to “lay hands too readily on anyone” is a heavy responsibility for any bishop; but if a candidate’s suitability is scrutinized with prudence, the act of “laying on of hands” will bear abundant fruit in the lives of those who will be touched by the ministry of a priest.

The Rev. Andrew R. Baker, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., is on the staff of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.

Comments

Thomas Rausch, S.J. | 11/20/2002 - 2:20pm
In 1974 Bernard J. F. Lonergan published a seminal article arguing that Catholic theology, like western thought in general, had shifted its fundamental outlook and way of arguing, a “Transition from a Classicist World View to Historical-Mindedness.” The traditional, “classicist” world view was fundamentally abstract, deductive, and absolute.   Rooted in universal concepts or norms, it moved deductively to the particular case, without much attention to empirical evidence.   Its view of the human person, morality, and theology was essentially static; these were unchanging realities, like Platonic forms or Aristotelian universals.

     What had displaced this classicist world view was the rise of historical consciousness, a method of investigation which stressed the concrete and particular and proceeded inductively, arguing from empirical observation, critical investigation, historical evidence, and personal experience.   Thus it presumed change and development, new syntheses based on new insights, higher viewpoints, and reinterpretations of traditional positions. A classicist world view, Lonergan argues, approaches the human by abstracting from all human differences to reach a residue or universal called “human nature,” while historical mindedness begins from people as they are and moves towards an understanding based on advancing knowledge, new insights, and concrete, particular experience.

This latter approach is taken for granted by Catholic theologians today.   Its concern for history has led to significant developments in ecclesiology, liturgical studies, and sacramental theology and it has enabled those engaged in ecumenical dialogues to find new areas of agreement. It has raised new questions in moral theology and recovered neglected aspects of the tradition, for example, the centrality of the Trinity; at the same time, it has led to a critique of authority structures in the church and to the development of theologies of liberation.  

     Yet the classicist approach is still very much alive in some sections of the Church. This was most evident in a recent article in America by Msgr. Andrew R. Baker, entitled “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction.”  Baker’s article maintains that it is inadvisable to admit a man with predominantly homosexual tendencies to seminaries or holy orders. He has three principal arguments.

  First, since Genesis speaks of God revealing himself “by creating an image of himself in the orientation of male to female and female to male,” a same sex orientation is really a “disorientation” which can never “image” God and never contribute to the good of the person or society.

     Second, Baker asserts that people with homosexual tendencies cannot really live celibacy in its fullness, since a homosexual gives up, not “ordered and good inclinations,” but a same sex attraction that he is already bound to avoid by the natural law, and therefore he is not really making a sacrifice.

     Third, he maintains that it is difficult for a homosexual to be genuinely a sign of Christ’s spousal love for the church, since his sexual attraction is not directed towards a complementary “other” in a spousal relationship.

     Baker also argues that those with same sex attractions may have other problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction, and depression, that they may not accept church teaching in this area, or that they may view others as possible sexual partners. But since these possibilities can be true of both heterosexuals and homosexuals (which he acknowledges only in the last case), it seems unfair to raise these issues as particular problems for gays.

     Let’s look more closely at Baker’s three main arguments.   The first, based on the image of God fails on two accounts.  First, Baker’s illegitimately reduces the creation of human beings “in the divine image” to making them “male and fema

Ron Dirks | 9/28/2002 - 6:02pm
Who Is Suitable for Ordination?

A few observations are in order concerning Rev. Andrew R. Baker's arguments against the suitability of ordaining men with "same sex attraction" (S.S.A.) as presented in "Ordination and Same Sex Attraction," America, 9/30/02.

Emphases is made in Father's argument concerning the "disorder" of S.S.A.s based upon his analogical argument drawn from Genesis and referenced to "male and female" and the sexual relationship "ordered" by God's creative act and from which the S.S.A. cannot escape.

I point out that the greater "disorder," not mentioned by Father Baker and also found in Genesis, is the "Fall," of the "male and female," called "Original Sin" by the Church and from which descendents of this "original union" cannot escape by their own merits either. Baptism, whose redemptive effects are due to Jesus Christ, are necessary to restore "order" for all of us. Even then, we are taught that the "effects" of "Original Sin" are still present in our "flesh," i.e., our bodies are all still subject to death, suffering, etc.

So I conclude if "order" is restored to S.S.A.s as well as to men with "opposite sex attraction" (O.S.A.s) through Baptism, an analogical argument more to the point can be made that Holy Orders, administered by the Bishop, legitimately builds upon the "restored order" effected by Baptism in both O.S.A.s and S.S.A.s. To argue that "disorders" remaining in the "flesh" (effects of Original Sin) be they death, suffering, psychological afflictions, etc. disqualify, in themselves, candidates for ordination vitiates the sacramental "power" of Holy Orders whose effects are principally received in the baptized soul of the person receiving this sacrament.

I urge all Bishops to recognize the power of the "sacramental grace" conferred in Holy Orders as being principally "spiritual" in effect and appropriate for all men called to the sacramental ministry. All men, S.S.A.s and O.S.A.s, should be considered "suitable" for ordination if truly "called" to the ministry by God (the chief criteria of suitability) and professing sincere intentions to represent Christ in their spiritual and moral life and in a life of sacramental service to all members of His Church.

James F. Riley | 9/26/2002 - 10:19pm
The only consolation is that, while Fr. Baker is busy naming bishops, Tom Gumbleton is one.

Fr. Charles J. Norman, OSFS | 9/24/2002 - 12:06pm
Thanks, I just wrote to Fr. Reese exressing wonderment why AMEICA would choose someone without scholarly credentials and without a permanent respected position to represent this view. It is a rare error in judgment on the editor's part.

Thomas Rausch, S.J. | 11/20/2002 - 2:20pm
In 1974 Bernard J. F. Lonergan published a seminal article arguing that Catholic theology, like western thought in general, had shifted its fundamental outlook and way of arguing, a “Transition from a Classicist World View to Historical-Mindedness.” The traditional, “classicist” world view was fundamentally abstract, deductive, and absolute.   Rooted in universal concepts or norms, it moved deductively to the particular case, without much attention to empirical evidence.   Its view of the human person, morality, and theology was essentially static; these were unchanging realities, like Platonic forms or Aristotelian universals.

     What had displaced this classicist world view was the rise of historical consciousness, a method of investigation which stressed the concrete and particular and proceeded inductively, arguing from empirical observation, critical investigation, historical evidence, and personal experience.   Thus it presumed change and development, new syntheses based on new insights, higher viewpoints, and reinterpretations of traditional positions. A classicist world view, Lonergan argues, approaches the human by abstracting from all human differences to reach a residue or universal called “human nature,” while historical mindedness begins from people as they are and moves towards an understanding based on advancing knowledge, new insights, and concrete, particular experience.

This latter approach is taken for granted by Catholic theologians today.   Its concern for history has led to significant developments in ecclesiology, liturgical studies, and sacramental theology and it has enabled those engaged in ecumenical dialogues to find new areas of agreement. It has raised new questions in moral theology and recovered neglected aspects of the tradition, for example, the centrality of the Trinity; at the same time, it has led to a critique of authority structures in the church and to the development of theologies of liberation.  

     Yet the classicist approach is still very much alive in some sections of the Church. This was most evident in a recent article in America by Msgr. Andrew R. Baker, entitled “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction.”  Baker’s article maintains that it is inadvisable to admit a man with predominantly homosexual tendencies to seminaries or holy orders. He has three principal arguments.

  First, since Genesis speaks of God revealing himself “by creating an image of himself in the orientation of male to female and female to male,” a same sex orientation is really a “disorientation” which can never “image” God and never contribute to the good of the person or society.

     Second, Baker asserts that people with homosexual tendencies cannot really live celibacy in its fullness, since a homosexual gives up, not “ordered and good inclinations,” but a same sex attraction that he is already bound to avoid by the natural law, and therefore he is not really making a sacrifice.

     Third, he maintains that it is difficult for a homosexual to be genuinely a sign of Christ’s spousal love for the church, since his sexual attraction is not directed towards a complementary “other” in a spousal relationship.

     Baker also argues that those with same sex attractions may have other problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction, and depression, that they may not accept church teaching in this area, or that they may view others as possible sexual partners. But since these possibilities can be true of both heterosexuals and homosexuals (which he acknowledges only in the last case), it seems unfair to raise these issues as particular problems for gays.

     Let’s look more closely at Baker’s three main arguments.   The first, based on the image of God fails on two accounts.  First, Baker’s illegitimately reduces the creation of human beings “in the divine image” to making them “male and fema

Ron Dirks | 9/28/2002 - 6:02pm
Who Is Suitable for Ordination?

A few observations are in order concerning Rev. Andrew R. Baker's arguments against the suitability of ordaining men with "same sex attraction" (S.S.A.) as presented in "Ordination and Same Sex Attraction," America, 9/30/02.

Emphases is made in Father's argument concerning the "disorder" of S.S.A.s based upon his analogical argument drawn from Genesis and referenced to "male and female" and the sexual relationship "ordered" by God's creative act and from which the S.S.A. cannot escape.

I point out that the greater "disorder," not mentioned by Father Baker and also found in Genesis, is the "Fall," of the "male and female," called "Original Sin" by the Church and from which descendents of this "original union" cannot escape by their own merits either. Baptism, whose redemptive effects are due to Jesus Christ, are necessary to restore "order" for all of us. Even then, we are taught that the "effects" of "Original Sin" are still present in our "flesh," i.e., our bodies are all still subject to death, suffering, etc.

So I conclude if "order" is restored to S.S.A.s as well as to men with "opposite sex attraction" (O.S.A.s) through Baptism, an analogical argument more to the point can be made that Holy Orders, administered by the Bishop, legitimately builds upon the "restored order" effected by Baptism in both O.S.A.s and S.S.A.s. To argue that "disorders" remaining in the "flesh" (effects of Original Sin) be they death, suffering, psychological afflictions, etc. disqualify, in themselves, candidates for ordination vitiates the sacramental "power" of Holy Orders whose effects are principally received in the baptized soul of the person receiving this sacrament.

I urge all Bishops to recognize the power of the "sacramental grace" conferred in Holy Orders as being principally "spiritual" in effect and appropriate for all men called to the sacramental ministry. All men, S.S.A.s and O.S.A.s, should be considered "suitable" for ordination if truly "called" to the ministry by God (the chief criteria of suitability) and professing sincere intentions to represent Christ in their spiritual and moral life and in a life of sacramental service to all members of His Church.

James F. Riley | 9/26/2002 - 10:19pm
The only consolation is that, while Fr. Baker is busy naming bishops, Tom Gumbleton is one.

Fr. Charles J. Norman, OSFS | 9/24/2002 - 12:06pm
Thanks, I just wrote to Fr. Reese exressing wonderment why AMEICA would choose someone without scholarly credentials and without a permanent respected position to represent this view. It is a rare error in judgment on the editor's part.

John Lasseigne, OMI | 10/16/2002 - 11:16pm
Andrew Baker fails to convince me that gays should be automatically excluded from the priesthood (9/30). Heterosexual priests, too, have been known to break vows, dissent from church teaching, and resign from ministry. Who’s to say which group of priests is more likely to engage in this kind of behavior? Although I suppose the answer to the question is anybody’s guess, I have heard a few priests conjecture that Baker’s description fits better the heterosexuals in our ranks.

Fr. Leo Sprietsma OFM | 10/4/2002 - 6:04pm
As regarding Fr. Baker's reasoning for not ordaining homosexual persons to the priesthood, I have generally found it a good 'rule of thumb' that the more a person has to resort to 'mystical' and 'pious' reasoning, the weaker is their basic argument.

The whole 'basic premise' seems to rest on an interpretation of the two myths of Creation found in Genesis, and mixes the two together.

Fundamentally it is something of the old "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" sort of argumentation, with a 'nuptial meaning of the body' thrown in.

The Genesis myth form does not really support this sort of argumentation.

Otherwise we would need to get into all sorts of strange speculation: that Cain must have married his sister (even though none are mentioned; and the story of Cain suddenly presumes other people being around)

Jeremiah Alberg | 10/3/2002 - 2:43am
I would like to call into question your judgment in publishing the point/counterpoint articles on the ordination of gay men. I doubt that either article changed anyone's mind. The format implies that debate is the way of making progress in this issue. I felt a bit like I was reading a debate on slavery held in 1870 America. The moral space for this kind of debate no longer exists. The debate itself struck me as 'obscene'. My conviction is that gay men, at their best, are not afflicted with anything, not even afflicted by people, like Fr. Baker, who think that they are afflicted. Gay men do not have any disorder that needs to be cured, beyond the disorder that all of us are born into of shoring up our goodness by denouncing some desire as evil. As the Church, we need to create a space where people can tell the story of their relationship to God. To publish the article of Fr. Baker as something about which we should think and to which we should respond is to take the wrong approach. We must concern ourselves with giving these men a safe place to speak. Msgr. Baker will joing this in God's good time.

(Rev.) William McLaughlin | 1/29/2007 - 1:08pm
The Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s piece of thinly rationalized homophobia (9/30) deserves to be responded to point by point. For example, his limiting true celibacy to heterosexual people reminds me of the woman who ordered a Shirley Temple highball without bourbon. The bartender replied that they were out of bourbon, but would she like one without scotch?

I do have a serious question. Since it is possible for people who are not sexually active to conceal their sexual orientation, how would bishops and seminary rectors know to whom to deny ordination? Given the bigotry that still exists in society and in the Catholic Church toward homosexuality, I would not blame a gay candidate for ordination for lying about his sexual orientation. Come to think about it, my response now, after decades of ordained ministry, to an official’s question about my sexual orientation would be, “If you can’t tell, why are you asking?”

I don’t know if word has reached the Congregation for Bishops that we have a priest shortage over here.

Michael Sheridan | 1/29/2007 - 1:03pm
It was not clear that the discussion in America (9/30) on the ordination of gay men was up for a vote from the readership. I will cast mine anyway.

The Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s response to the question was coldly logical and based on a number of false premises. To begin with, he assumes that the orientation of homosexuality is in itself a disorder that somehow can be chosen and subsequently be changed. Aside from the fact that that sort thinking is simply wrong, it also leads to discrimination and violence. Has he forgotten that these, too, are morally wrong? I am offended by his misuse of Scripture to justify this position.

Second, Father Baker seems to do a lot of hairsplitting in determining the motives of a man choosing celibacy. I wonder how many candidates for the priesthood really think through clearly what the full implications are for ordination, namely “spiritual fatherhood” and “a spousal relationship with the church.” Father Baker assumes that ipso facto, gay men are somehow not masculine enough to fulfill these roles. He also implies that gay priests cannot model either masculinity or spirituality to the larger church. Gay men are fully as masculine and spiritual as are straight men, and they can be just as capable of “spiritual fatherhood.” Maybe the real problem is the lack of integration in so many men of “masculine” and “feminine” characteristics—something in which these “effeminate” men could in fact lead the way in forming better priests.

Finally, he asserts that gay men are more devious in hiding their orientation or “repressing” it while in seminary formation. Funny how, if it’s homosexual, it’s “repressing,” whereas if it is heterosexual, it is “sublimating.” Small wonder that a certain “hiding” may occur when an institution that does not want them has forced gays to do it. Yet they are no more devious than other underdeveloped straight men who seek a kind of spiritual/political power over other people as church careerists. There are far too many of those, I am afraid. When a man does “come out,” it is a graced process that leads to real integrity before God and the church he loves, even in the face of possible rejection by some of its members. Then his choice to serve the people of God is a real sacrifice of a true “father” and “spouse.”

Unless I am profoundly mistaken, the last I heard, Christ chooses his spouses. Is it not possible that a gay man who lives a celibate life according to church teachings might be called to just such a spousal relation to Christ and his church? As Bishop Gumbleton has pointed out, it is not only possible, but has happened throughout the church’s history. Personally, I know many such deeply committed ministers of the Gospel who just happen to be gay. They are the true lovers of God and God’s people, the church. I can only conclude that God has called them to service as priests. This is the gist of Bishop Gumbleton’s response, one that I find more balanced and resonant with everything I know of the teachings and example of Christ.

Should gay men be ordained? Should straight men be ordained? I would say it depends. The criterion should be the same for both with regard to their moral, spiritual and psychosocial health.

Mary Hogan | 1/29/2007 - 12:51pm
In “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (9/30), you’re pulling our collective, metaphorical leg, right? Please tell us someone spiked the office coffee and you decided on a frat-boy, Dear-Abby contest to come up with the most outrageous defense of an untenable argument that you could muster, just to see who was awake. Otherwise we’d have to believe that an ordained person could pen such a specious triumph of anti-matter over mind, and that would be one more disillusionment.

St. Paul’s delicate analogy of the divine/spousal relationship has been stretched torturously in many a painful homily through the years, but this anthropomorphic (anatomical?) excess plumbs new depths. Is it naïve to hope that reflections on the choice and charisms of celibacy would center on the kind of love and unity one is moving toward—rather than the kind of sexual activity one is leaving behind? Are we really to think that God is impressed with self-congratulatory reflection on the “girl(s) I left behind me” and indifferent to the fact that I seek the grace not to become a repressed robot, but to redirect my affective nature from an individual focus to a conscious, all-inclusive and effective devotion to God and those I am called to serve?

In the Archdiocese of Boston we have had sad reason to become more discerning about arrested development—whether of the sexual, anti-intellectual or power-hungry kind—and to look for a new appreciation of Gospel values. In 50 years of various lay ministries, priests I have known whose orientation Father Baker would “dis” have been among the most insightful, compassionate, justice-committed servers of the word and God’s people that one could want in an alter Christus. (Perhaps their very struggle has given them more of a Christ-like sensitivity to the hurting and the marginalized than their critics have sometimes evidenced.)

Are there sexually obsessed, predatory and exploitative con-men among homosexuals? Of course, as there are among heterosexuals. Are they the majority? No. While we’re winnowing—and getting help for—the pathologically immature, the clerical orientation we most need to challenge is the one that puts preserving image ahead of reforming reality, aspires to Roman preferment over pastoral service; and identifies more with structural accretions steeped in imperial and feudal inequities than with the caring ekklesia and communio to which Jesus still calls us.

May God re-orient us all. Or isn’t that what metanoia is about?

Stephen Schloesser, S.J. | 1/29/2007 - 12:49pm
Buried in the substantial disinformation throughout the Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (9/30), old chestnuts about allegedly effeminate affective manners and proper masculine behavior most alerted my historian’s antennae. As Carolyn Dean shows in her fine recent study of sexuality between 1918 and 1940 (The Frail Social Body: Pornography, Homosexuality, and Other Fantasies in Interwar France [2000]), the crushing evidence of World War I trenches forced postwar medical doctors to abandon their fin-de-siècle belief that a male’s feminine appearance indicated same sex attraction. As a consequence, anxiety ran rampant among cultural critics throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s: if effeminate men might be heterosexual while masculine men might actually be inverts, then appearances could no longer be relied upon. Anyone might be passing for straight, raising the specter that inversion was both more ubiquitous and protean than previously thought. (The example of the burly rugby-playing hero of Sept. 11’s Flight 93, Mark Bingham—a gay man—nicely illustrates the present-day anxieties over “prudent doubt” and “moral certitude.”) In several ways, Father Baker’s essay reflects the very latest in 19th-century thought: fascinating reading for the professional historian, but perhaps not more widely helpful.

(Rev.) Robert J. Thorsen | 1/29/2007 - 12:46pm
I must ask what in the world is a “biblically inspired Christian anthropology”? If it means, as the Rev. Andrew R. Baker suggests (9/30), that “the orientation of male to female and female to male” is “the divinely constituted one,” then it is another attempt at pseudo-science masking as scholarship. There are countless examples throughout the entire animal kingdom of same-sex attraction; its presence in our species is not unique. In all of creation there is struggle of one kind or another. That is at the heart of anything becoming anything. There never was a “perfect world.” Same-sex attraction is just another of the struggles. But it does not necessarily “tend toward a corrupt end.” Nor can it “never ‘image’ God and never contribute to the good of the person or society.” Such false conclusions only mutate from a false premise.

Francis DeBernardo | 1/29/2007 - 12:43pm
Their respective positions aside, the difference in rhetoric between the essays by the Rev. Andrew R. Baker and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton is striking (9/30). While Father Baker argues from law, theory and church documents, Bishop Gumbleton’s evidence comes from the lived experience of people with whom he has met and spoken. I cannot help but see the analogy with the leaders of Jesus’ day, who insisted on abstract interpretations of religious law, and Jesus himself, who saw that the simple law of love needed to be applied to the complexity of people’s lives.

Father Baker’s essay reveals the main problem with much of Curial thinking about homosexuality: an obsession with sexual behavior. He seems locked in a thought pattern that equates orientation with behavior. In church teaching, the distinction between orientation and behavior has been made clear many times (with no sinful stigma attached to orientation); yet when it comes to developing policy about homosexuality, some church leaders cannot seem to break out of the formula that equates a homosexual orientation with not just ordinary sexual activity, but rampant sexual activity. It is no wonder that gay/lesbian people feel that church officials “don’t get it,” when those in such positions as Father Baker’s seem to know nothing about the reality of gay/lesbian lives.

Sexual orientation involves more than desire for physical contact; it also includes the need for affection, intimacy, companionship and love. Father Baker’s insistence on referring to a homosexual orientation as “same-sex attraction” reveals his perspective of seeing the phenomenon only in terms of sexual desire. Moreover, Father Baker’s use of the acronym “S.S.A.” for “same-sex attraction” pathologizes a term that the overwhelming majority of medical and psychological authorities do not. Given Father Baker’s obvious lack of scientific knowledge about homosexuality, I can see that he would use such an acronym to bolster his argument: it offers a scientific-sounding legitimacy to a controversial concept accepted by very few. However, I do not see why America’s editors would let such a dubious term be used without any explanation of its controversial nature, or at least its background and origin.

Father Baker’s concern that gay seminarians would not resist sexual temptation in an all-male environment is ludicrous. Do we worry about heterosexual priests who are serving in convents of religious women, or for that matter, anywhere in our church, so heavily populated and staffed by women as it is? Since he offers no empirical evidence that gay men cannot live celibate lives, I cannot help but think his claims are the result of an overactive imagination about how gay men live.

In the 1997 statement, Always Our Children, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family Life asserts: “Homosexual persons living chaste lives should have opportunities to lead and serve the community.” Statements made over the past year about gay priests and seminarians lead many to believe that some U.S. bishops have already violated their own recommendation.

Targeting gay priests and seminarians has been a smoke screen used by church leaders to deflect attention away from the real cause of the clergy sex abuse crisis: their own lack of responsibility and accountability in dealing with individual priests who have abused. Why can’t bishops judge gay candidates for priesthood in the same way they judge heterosexual ones: on a case by case basis? The rush to scapegoating indicates that some other, highly homophobic, agenda is present in this type of response to our church’s tragic crisis.

(Rev.) Allan J. McDonald | 1/29/2007 - 12:39pm
The Rev. Andrew R. Baker and Bishop Thomas Gumbleton both offer valid and pious insights from their varied perspectives concerning homosexuality and the priesthood (9/30).

Father Baker emphasizes the sacrificial aspect of celibacy as foregoing heterosexual intercourse and family life in marriage in order to become a spiritual husband and father to Christ’s bride, the church. Bishop Gumbleton chooses to describe celibacy not so much in sacrificial terms but as a valid way of loving chastely. One’s orientation or spousal character matters little without the ability to live and love chastely.

In grinding their axes, however, both men seem to sidestep the most critical aspect of the current crisis facing the church—the ability, desire and moral fortitude necessary for being faithful to the promise or vow of celibacy. Questions that have not been answered squarely have to be raised and answered. What percentage of Catholic priests (heterosexual or homosexual) are actually celibate? Is it more likely that a homosexual will fail in celibacy compared with a heterosexual? Does celibacy contribute to arrested emotional, psychological and sexual development, whether one is homosexual or heterosexual? Does openness about one’s homosexuality in the seminary or priesthood prevent heterosexual young men from considering priesthood, thereby causing heterosexuals to become a minority in the priesthood? What psychological, spiritual, moral and ascetic qualities are necessary to live a successful chaste, celibate life regardless of orientation?

I would like to see well-written and documented articles on these questions rather than reactionary pious dribble that pits two extremes against each another.

Richard Riccioli, O.F.M.Conv. | 1/29/2007 - 12:38pm
It would be understandable for a gay person to fall prey to “serious problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression” after reading “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (9/30).

Besides the use of inflammatory words such as “aberration,” “corrupt” and “duplicitous,” the article is less than convincing because of its sloppy interchanging of the philosophical, moral and psychological meanings of the word “disorder.” The main point of the article, that gay people can be chaste but not celibate, betrays a warped sense of sexuality that is beyond belief. Ultimately it is insulting and hurtful to gay religious and clergy and to those who aspire to serve the Lord and our church.

Thank God for the compassionate, humble and insightful approach of most of our bishops.

Roland Calvert, O.S.F.S. | 1/29/2007 - 12:37pm
I do not remember another article in America more surreal or more devoid of logic than the Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (9/30). Until writers dialogue with actual gay people and have some understanding of the lived journeys of gays, they will continue to write nonsense like this.

It would be impossible to express fully in a short letter how disordered Father Baker’s reasoning is. The most risible argument is about the inability of gay priests to have a relationship to the church that resembles Christ’s, since the church is a bride. This one ranks with the brilliant argument that women lack the proper genitals, cannot image Christ and therefore should not be ordained. Many in the Curia apparently need some education about figurative language and how metaphors work.

Why did America publish Father Baker’s article? The only good reason I can think of is that you wanted to expose the intellectual and pastoral bankruptcy of those who are trying to scapegoat gay priests in the current crisis. If that was your intention, you succeeded admirably. And, of course, Father Baker made Bishop Gumbleton seem even more sensitive and perspicacious than he already is.

William E. Dilday | 1/29/2007 - 12:36pm
The Rev. Andrew R. Baker’s argument (9/30) that an all-male seminary environment impedes gay seminarians from living celibately is based on a misguided notion of homosexuality.

Such a view assumes that gay men are willing to engage in sex with any man who is close by. There is no scientific or social scientific report that supports such a view. Father Baker’s view reveals more about his own ignorance of homosexuality and an overactive imagination about the sexual behavior of gay men, and it is regrettable that America would provide him with such a forum.

(Rev.) Mark Woodruff | 1/29/2007 - 12:35pm
In “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (9/30), the Rev. Andrew R. Baker argues against the ordination of homosexuals. Sadly, the author appears to define celibacy as nothing more than avoiding sexual intercourse with a spouse.

For him, a heterosexual seminarian is a worthy candidate for ordination because he sacrifices intercourse with a wife as a gift to the church. The homosexual seminarian, on the other hand, sacrifices nothing. Not oriented to sexual intercourse with a wife, he merely keeps the Sixth Commandment—“no sacrifice here.”

I think Father Baker takes far too narrow—indeed, far too genital—a view of celibacy.

Among other things, celibacy calls a priest to sacrifice the right to an exclusive, deeply intimate, romantic involvement with another. (I mean something more than a good friendship.) Such involvements do not have to be sexual.

Would a priest be truly celibate if he maintained an exclusive, romantic yet nonsexual relationship with another person? Of course not. In this situation, gay and straight seminarians are about equal in what they are called on to sacrifice.

The greatest struggle in being a celibate priest is not living without sexual intercourse. Many people live without it—singles, for example, and married people who forgo it because of health or age or other considerations. The real struggle arises from living daily without an exclusive, intimate, romantic relationship with another person (male or female). For me, a relationship would be a comfort, especially on days when I am tired from overwork and need someone close. Yet the church has asked men of the Latin Rite to forgo these kinds of relationships so they may relate in a profound way with all the people of God. The chief concern bishops and seminary rectors should have is whether a man, gay or straight, is able to live without romantic involvements.

(Rev.) Robert J. Smith | 1/29/2007 - 12:34pm
I write to disagree respectfully yet strongly with the position taken by the Rev. Andrew R. Baker in America’s issue of Sept. 30, opposing the ordination of men who happen to be homosexual in their orientation. Though all of the important points he has raised merit substantive discussion, I focus here on two of those points only.

First, I must take issue with Father Baker’s presentation of the way in which the phenomenon of homosexual orientation or same sex attraction might be most adequately understood. While not overlooking the insights contained in that presentation, I am dismayed by the fact that no mention at all is made of the great amount of scholarly work that has been done in the field of the empirical and human sciences regarding this phenomenon. Studies that I have undertaken in connection with my work in moral theology have brought to my attention the general consensus among scientists and psychologists that sexual orientation is a complex human reality, admitting of no single explanation. I have found a similar consensus that same sex orientation is not an abnormality nor an aberration, but rather a variation in human makeup that appears with statistical frequency and that, in many instances, does not in and of itself affect an individual in a deleterious way. Adding to my dismay is the fact that in mentioning “some experts” who believe that same sex attraction “can be treated and even prevented with some degree of success,” Father Baker does not acknowledge that this is an opinion held by few.

Second, I must object to what appears to be Father Baker’s assumption that men who happen to be same sex in their orientation will inevitably exhibit some or all of what he lists as “significant negative aspects” arguing against their suitability for holy orders. In general, I find those aspects alarmingly stereotypical and the discussion of them lacking in essential nuance. Moreover, while the church, in speaking to or of homosexual persons, has insisted repeatedly that human beings must never be reduced to their sexual orientation, this list could, even while greatly inaccurate, be read as doing just that.

My thanks to Father Baker for his thoughts and insights on this most important topic and to you, America, for the publication of both Father Baker’s and Bishop Gumbleton’s articles.

Timothy M. Powers | 1/29/2007 - 1:28pm
The articles in your 9/30 issue prompt this reflection. I would like to propose that men with Different-Sex Attraction (D.S.A.) and Functioning Sex Organs (F.S.O.) should not be ordained. If men with D.S.A. have F.S.O., and the purpose of sex is procreation, then men with D.S.A. and F.S.O. should be morally required to procreate in order to make more Catholics.

Really, could we please stop being ridiculous and get back to the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and building up the reign of God?

Vincent Hevern, S.J. | 1/29/2007 - 12:27pm
The Rev. Andrew Baker’s well-meaning but inchoate assemblage of prejudicial, pseudoscientific and somewhat bizarre spiritual notions regarding “same sex attraction” and the lack of suitability for priestly ordination of chaste homosexuals (9/30) left me amazed. His odd catalog of “prudential doubts” seemed almost a parody in its pandering to those old images of gays as “effeminate,” lacking “proper masculine behavior,” and tempted against chastity by the “ever-present” and “overwhelming” mass of same-sex seminarian classmates. Missing was any sense that (ironically) the sorts of fears and temptations he ascribes to “disordered” gay men are felt as well by their straight brothers, such as the need to minister to female parishioners prudently, avoiding insensitive clerical cliques, care in proclaiming the church’s teaching regarding artificial contraception within marriage and so on.

I am, finally, surprised that he seems to ignore the efficacy of the sacraments, prayer and spiritual ascesis in supporting the gay seminarian or priest in his journey toward deeper union with Christ in sacerdotal service within the church.

John Lasseigne, OMI | 10/16/2002 - 11:16pm
Andrew Baker fails to convince me that gays should be automatically excluded from the priesthood (9/30). Heterosexual priests, too, have been known to break vows, dissent from church teaching, and resign from ministry. Who’s to say which group of priests is more likely to engage in this kind of behavior? Although I suppose the answer to the question is anybody’s guess, I have heard a few priests conjecture that Baker’s description fits better the heterosexuals in our ranks.

Fr. Leo Sprietsma OFM | 10/4/2002 - 6:04pm
As regarding Fr. Baker's reasoning for not ordaining homosexual persons to the priesthood, I have generally found it a good 'rule of thumb' that the more a person has to resort to 'mystical' and 'pious' reasoning, the weaker is their basic argument.

The whole 'basic premise' seems to rest on an interpretation of the two myths of Creation found in Genesis, and mixes the two together.

Fundamentally it is something of the old "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" sort of argumentation, with a 'nuptial meaning of the body' thrown in.

The Genesis myth form does not really support this sort of argumentation.

Otherwise we would need to get into all sorts of strange speculation: that Cain must have married his sister (even though none are mentioned; and the story of Cain suddenly presumes other people being around)

Jeremiah Alberg | 10/3/2002 - 2:43am
I would like to call into question your judgment in publishing the point/counterpoint articles on the ordination of gay men. I doubt that either article changed anyone's mind. The format implies that debate is the way of making progress in this issue. I felt a bit like I was reading a debate on slavery held in 1870 America. The moral space for this kind of debate no longer exists. The debate itself struck me as 'obscene'. My conviction is that gay men, at their best, are not afflicted with anything, not even afflicted by people, like Fr. Baker, who think that they are afflicted. Gay men do not have any disorder that needs to be cured, beyond the disorder that all of us are born into of shoring up our goodness by denouncing some desire as evil. As the Church, we need to create a space where people can tell the story of their relationship to God. To publish the article of Fr. Baker as something about which we should think and to which we should respond is to take the wrong approach. We must concern ourselves with giving these men a safe place to speak. Msgr. Baker will joing this in God's good time.

Jeffrey A Hovden | 9/28/2002 - 4:03pm
I just read Father Baker's irresponsible article on why homosexual men must not be ordained. Given his mindset and his arguments, I suppose we'll see a companion piece next issue on why black men must not be ordained. After all, black slaves in this country repeatedly violated St Paul's theology by rebelling against their masters. There would surely be a 'definite prudent doubt' that any African American man today would have acknowledged this violation of New Testament theology. (At the very least, bishops would have to clearly discern that a particular African American had worked through this issue.) And black men would enter seminaries with lingering issues of 'deception and repression, either consious or unconscious which were learned in trying to deal with their [race] in a largely [white] environment.' And they'll confuse 'young . . . men in the growth of their understanding of manhood', because African Americans will not project a John Wayne iconography, which is the only 'proper masculine behaviour'. And they'll form 'cliques'. In conclusion, 'the best and safest course of action' would be to exclude blacks from the priesthood, which could grievously compromise the work of the Spirit in our seminaries.

Father Baker's malignant nonsense is most clearly expressed when he suggests only heterosexuals can be 'celibate'. Celibacy surely is a positive charism for human beings, not a negative 'foregoing the good of marriage and family life'. If that's where Father Baker is with his celibacy, perhaps the point is his personal state of growth; it is irrelevant to the call of homosexual men to the priesthood. Father Baker apparently has his church. Thank God it is not The Church.

Fr. Roland Calvert, OSFS | 9/30/2002 - 10:37am
I do not remember a previous article in AMERICA more surreal or more devoid of logic than Andrew Baker's "Ordination and Same Sex Attraction." Until writers dialog with actual gay people and have some understanding of the lived journeys of gays, they will continue to write nonsense like this. It would be impossible to express fully in a short letter how disorder-ed Baker's reasoning is. The most risible argument is the alleged inability of gay priests to have a relationship to the church resembling Christ's since the church is a bride. This one ranks with the brilliant argument that women lack the proper genitals, can't image Christ, and, therefore shouldn't be ordained. Many in the Curia apparently need some education about figurative lang-uage and how metaphors work. Why did you publish this article? The only good reason I can think of is that AMERICA wanted to expose the intellectual and pastoral bankruptcy of those who are trying to scapegoat gay priests in the current crisis. If that was your intention, you succeeded well. And, of course, Baker makes Bishop Gumbleton seem even more sensitive and perspicacious than he already is!

Jerry Betz | 9/21/2002 - 3:16am
I have just two questions: (1) Is there something in the water in Rome that causes those people to think and act as they do? (2) Why in the world would AMERICA publish such a ridiculous article?

John Hill | 10/12/2002 - 1:59pm
I am sorry to say that I did not find either of the two articles/editorials debating the ordination of gays in the September 30, 2002, issue of America to meet your normal standard for intelligent discourse. Both articles only touch upon the reason for this debate, that most - not all - of the victims of the recent sexual abuse scandal were boys. There is the implicit assumption that the criminals/perpetrators were homosexual priest (or psychologically undeveloped homosexual priest). Has this assumption been established as fact? I wish there was first, a presentation or discussion of data that shows that these priest meet the definition of homosexuals (an exclusive or predominant tendency) referenced in Msgr. Baker's article. Were the victims chosen by sex or by availability and opportunity? I understand it is demonstrated in many prisons that heterosexuals do engage in homosexual acts. Also, I believe that any discussions or generalizations should separate the guilty into three groups, pedophiles, priest who prey on adolescents and young adults, and priest who have inappropriate relations with young adults and adults.

Although I was disappointed in both articles, I have disagreements with several points raised by Msgr. Baker. First, his reference to Canon Law regards the suitability of individual candidates, not a group. This may not be an issue to the author but the Catechism states, "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals] regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, ....." Is the discrimination of gays in the priesthood just in light of the recent scandals? Msgr. Baker goes on to argue that there are defects in the homosexual condition that, as a group, prevent gay men from being suitable priests. He then proceeds to list unsupported hetero-centric beliefs and unsubstantiated homophobic prejudisms. I find his last argument that homosexuals cannot be priest because they cannot have a proper spousal relationship with the Church, confuses reality with analogy. If not analogy, then how should one read, " He (the priest) exercises a spiritual fatherhood and lives a supernatural spousal relationship ..." Is Msgr. Baker arguing that homosexuals are defective because they cannot properly emulate fathers marrying their daughter?

Personally, I do not advocate for gay priest. I do not believe that the difficulties of gayness give the priest any more compassion and sensitivity (Gumbleton) than it does deception and repression (Baker). I just don't think a priest's sexual orientation should be an issue when he has vowed to be celibate. However, if most of the Church's sexual abuse cases are by homosexual priest that do not make up the majority of the priesthood, then the Church has a problem weeding out the bad homosexual candidates. If this is an issue that cannot be addressed, then the Church should consider if it can justly discriminate. This should be the last choice, not the first choice.

Deacon Joseph Keenan | 10/1/2002 - 9:18pm
Father Andrew Baker's article opposing the ordination of gay men relies rather heavily on a strange line of reasoning. He says that celibacy "sacrifices good inclinations toward spouse and family for the sake of the kingdom". I have no arguement with that. He then goes on to suggest that the gay man's celibacy is of less value because he is sacrificing something that he would otherwise be prohibited from doing in the first place and it is therefore not truly meritorious or virtuous. Even if such were true, how should it then disqualify him from ordination? Is the Father saying that the struggle of celibacy is the essence of the priesthood? Should, then, an impotent man be barred from the priesthood?

By extension to his principle, a person whose doctor orders him to stop eating meat cannot be a Catholic because he is only doing on Fridays of Lent what he is bound to do anyway. There's no merit or virtue in that!

If there is an arguement to be made against gay ordination, it must be based on a firmer foundation than that articulated by Father Baker. Can't "America" find someone to argue that point in a future issue?

Gene Szarek, C.R. | 9/27/2002 - 10:37am
One terrible problem with Fr. Baker's analysis is his reduction of the beautiful papal analogy of a spousal relationship of the priest and the Church to a merely biological and genital one. Even heterosexual clergy would probably deny viewing their relationship to the Church this way. For that matter, it would seem ludicrous to describe Christ's relationship to the Church as sexual, rather than profoundly personal and spiritual.

Once he begins his "logic" with the body and not the person, there isn't anywhere his conclusions merit going.

John R. Donahue, S.J. | 9/25/2002 - 8:42am
Given the quality of Father Baker's expostion of 1 Tim. 5:22, "Do not lay hands . . .," I can hardly wait for his discussion of 1 Tim. 3:2, "Therefore a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once."

Mark Makowski | 9/23/2002 - 3:02pm
Yeah! We're back to pre-Vatican II!

Not only have you erred in judging all homosexuals as a disorder, you have alienated all your fellow homosexual cardinals, arch and regular bishops, not to forget monsignors and current priests....the list does go on....

You're writing comes from lack of experience and lack of knowledge of Canon Law, the Scriptures, etc...it's amazing that Prudent Judgment did not deter you from ordination due to your stupidity.

Eric Stoltz | 9/22/2002 - 2:30pm
In his article “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (Sept. 30, 2002), Rev. Andrew Baker weaves a tortuous rationale for various putative attributes of gay men that in his mind contribute to “prudent doubt” as to the candidate’s suitability for ordination.

He cites the possibility of substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression. He says they may be prone to lie and deceive. He says there is a risk they may struggle with church teaching, might find chastity difficult, may form cliques. Aside from the troubling question of why someone would assume the presence all these personality defects in a fellow Christian merely because he is a member of a group marginalized by society, the fact remains that Fr. Baker admits “prudent doubt” must be “founded upon facts that are objective and duly verified.” Is it the practice of the Congregation for Bishops to consider subjunctive statements (“may,” “could,” “if,” “might”) as objective and duly verified facts? Or is it merely that gay candidates for orders are assumed to be guilty of all these defects unless they can prove their innocence?

Fr. Baker’s discussion of celibacy reflects the frantic search being undertaken by the Roman Curia to identify ever-new reasons for discrimination and exclusion of gay and lesbian Catholics from church life. His argument can be summarized thusly: The promise of celibacy requires the giving up of marriage. Gay men cannot be married, so they are not giving up anything. Therefore, ipso facto, they cannot make a promise of celibacy, so they cannot be ordained.

Whew! How’s that for a theological contortion? Let me try that reasoning on the promise of obedience. Obedience requires one to give up his own preferences and opinions for the good of the church. Some people are by nature sycophants who have no opinions of their own and will adopt any position that will aid them in their quest for a purple beanie, so they are not giving up anything. Therefore, ipso facto, they cannot make a promise of obedience and should not be ordained.

Consistency has never been a curial concern. But it does seem that the case for “prudent doubt” about the intellectual honesty of some curial bureaucrats is weightier than the cases they seek to build against others.

Jeffrey A Hovden | 9/28/2002 - 4:03pm
I just read Father Baker's irresponsible article on why homosexual men must not be ordained. Given his mindset and his arguments, I suppose we'll see a companion piece next issue on why black men must not be ordained. After all, black slaves in this country repeatedly violated St Paul's theology by rebelling against their masters. There would surely be a 'definite prudent doubt' that any African American man today would have acknowledged this violation of New Testament theology. (At the very least, bishops would have to clearly discern that a particular African American had worked through this issue.) And black men would enter seminaries with lingering issues of 'deception and repression, either consious or unconscious which were learned in trying to deal with their [race] in a largely [white] environment.' And they'll confuse 'young . . . men in the growth of their understanding of manhood', because African Americans will not project a John Wayne iconography, which is the only 'proper masculine behaviour'. And they'll form 'cliques'. In conclusion, 'the best and safest course of action' would be to exclude blacks from the priesthood, which could grievously compromise the work of the Spirit in our seminaries.

Father Baker's malignant nonsense is most clearly expressed when he suggests only heterosexuals can be 'celibate'. Celibacy surely is a positive charism for human beings, not a negative 'foregoing the good of marriage and family life'. If that's where Father Baker is with his celibacy, perhaps the point is his personal state of growth; it is irrelevant to the call of homosexual men to the priesthood. Father Baker apparently has his church. Thank God it is not The Church.

Fr. Roland Calvert, OSFS | 9/30/2002 - 10:37am
I do not remember a previous article in AMERICA more surreal or more devoid of logic than Andrew Baker's "Ordination and Same Sex Attraction." Until writers dialog with actual gay people and have some understanding of the lived journeys of gays, they will continue to write nonsense like this. It would be impossible to express fully in a short letter how disorder-ed Baker's reasoning is. The most risible argument is the alleged inability of gay priests to have a relationship to the church resembling Christ's since the church is a bride. This one ranks with the brilliant argument that women lack the proper genitals, can't image Christ, and, therefore shouldn't be ordained. Many in the Curia apparently need some education about figurative lang-uage and how metaphors work. Why did you publish this article? The only good reason I can think of is that AMERICA wanted to expose the intellectual and pastoral bankruptcy of those who are trying to scapegoat gay priests in the current crisis. If that was your intention, you succeeded well. And, of course, Baker makes Bishop Gumbleton seem even more sensitive and perspicacious than he already is!

Jerry Betz | 9/21/2002 - 3:16am
I have just two questions: (1) Is there something in the water in Rome that causes those people to think and act as they do? (2) Why in the world would AMERICA publish such a ridiculous article?

John Hill | 10/12/2002 - 1:59pm
I am sorry to say that I did not find either of the two articles/editorials debating the ordination of gays in the September 30, 2002, issue of America to meet your normal standard for intelligent discourse. Both articles only touch upon the reason for this debate, that most - not all - of the victims of the recent sexual abuse scandal were boys. There is the implicit assumption that the criminals/perpetrators were homosexual priest (or psychologically undeveloped homosexual priest). Has this assumption been established as fact? I wish there was first, a presentation or discussion of data that shows that these priest meet the definition of homosexuals (an exclusive or predominant tendency) referenced in Msgr. Baker's article. Were the victims chosen by sex or by availability and opportunity? I understand it is demonstrated in many prisons that heterosexuals do engage in homosexual acts. Also, I believe that any discussions or generalizations should separate the guilty into three groups, pedophiles, priest who prey on adolescents and young adults, and priest who have inappropriate relations with young adults and adults.

Although I was disappointed in both articles, I have disagreements with several points raised by Msgr. Baker. First, his reference to Canon Law regards the suitability of individual candidates, not a group. This may not be an issue to the author but the Catechism states, "Every sign of unjust discrimination in their [homosexuals] regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, ....." Is the discrimination of gays in the priesthood just in light of the recent scandals? Msgr. Baker goes on to argue that there are defects in the homosexual condition that, as a group, prevent gay men from being suitable priests. He then proceeds to list unsupported hetero-centric beliefs and unsubstantiated homophobic prejudisms. I find his last argument that homosexuals cannot be priest because they cannot have a proper spousal relationship with the Church, confuses reality with analogy. If not analogy, then how should one read, " He (the priest) exercises a spiritual fatherhood and lives a supernatural spousal relationship ..." Is Msgr. Baker arguing that homosexuals are defective because they cannot properly emulate fathers marrying their daughter?

Personally, I do not advocate for gay priest. I do not believe that the difficulties of gayness give the priest any more compassion and sensitivity (Gumbleton) than it does deception and repression (Baker). I just don't think a priest's sexual orientation should be an issue when he has vowed to be celibate. However, if most of the Church's sexual abuse cases are by homosexual priest that do not make up the majority of the priesthood, then the Church has a problem weeding out the bad homosexual candidates. If this is an issue that cannot be addressed, then the Church should consider if it can justly discriminate. This should be the last choice, not the first choice.

Deacon Joseph Keenan | 10/1/2002 - 9:18pm
Father Andrew Baker's article opposing the ordination of gay men relies rather heavily on a strange line of reasoning. He says that celibacy "sacrifices good inclinations toward spouse and family for the sake of the kingdom". I have no arguement with that. He then goes on to suggest that the gay man's celibacy is of less value because he is sacrificing something that he would otherwise be prohibited from doing in the first place and it is therefore not truly meritorious or virtuous. Even if such were true, how should it then disqualify him from ordination? Is the Father saying that the struggle of celibacy is the essence of the priesthood? Should, then, an impotent man be barred from the priesthood?

By extension to his principle, a person whose doctor orders him to stop eating meat cannot be a Catholic because he is only doing on Fridays of Lent what he is bound to do anyway. There's no merit or virtue in that!

If there is an arguement to be made against gay ordination, it must be based on a firmer foundation than that articulated by Father Baker. Can't "America" find someone to argue that point in a future issue?

Gene Szarek, C.R. | 9/27/2002 - 10:37am
One terrible problem with Fr. Baker's analysis is his reduction of the beautiful papal analogy of a spousal relationship of the priest and the Church to a merely biological and genital one. Even heterosexual clergy would probably deny viewing their relationship to the Church this way. For that matter, it would seem ludicrous to describe Christ's relationship to the Church as sexual, rather than profoundly personal and spiritual.

Once he begins his "logic" with the body and not the person, there isn't anywhere his conclusions merit going.

John R. Donahue, S.J. | 9/25/2002 - 8:42am
Given the quality of Father Baker's expostion of 1 Tim. 5:22, "Do not lay hands . . .," I can hardly wait for his discussion of 1 Tim. 3:2, "Therefore a bishop must be irreproachable, married only once."

Mark Makowski | 9/23/2002 - 3:02pm
Yeah! We're back to pre-Vatican II!

Not only have you erred in judging all homosexuals as a disorder, you have alienated all your fellow homosexual cardinals, arch and regular bishops, not to forget monsignors and current priests....the list does go on....

You're writing comes from lack of experience and lack of knowledge of Canon Law, the Scriptures, etc...it's amazing that Prudent Judgment did not deter you from ordination due to your stupidity.

Eric Stoltz | 9/22/2002 - 2:30pm
In his article “Ordination and Same Sex Attraction” (Sept. 30, 2002), Rev. Andrew Baker weaves a tortuous rationale for various putative attributes of gay men that in his mind contribute to “prudent doubt” as to the candidate’s suitability for ordination.

He cites the possibility of substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression. He says they may be prone to lie and deceive. He says there is a risk they may struggle with church teaching, might find chastity difficult, may form cliques. Aside from the troubling question of why someone would assume the presence all these personality defects in a fellow Christian merely because he is a member of a group marginalized by society, the fact remains that Fr. Baker admits “prudent doubt” must be “founded upon facts that are objective and duly verified.” Is it the practice of the Congregation for Bishops to consider subjunctive statements (“may,” “could,” “if,” “might”) as objective and duly verified facts? Or is it merely that gay candidates for orders are assumed to be guilty of all these defects unless they can prove their innocence?

Fr. Baker’s discussion of celibacy reflects the frantic search being undertaken by the Roman Curia to identify ever-new reasons for discrimination and exclusion of gay and lesbian Catholics from church life. His argument can be summarized thusly: The promise of celibacy requires the giving up of marriage. Gay men cannot be married, so they are not giving up anything. Therefore, ipso facto, they cannot make a promise of celibacy, so they cannot be ordained.

Whew! How’s that for a theological contortion? Let me try that reasoning on the promise of obedience. Obedience requires one to give up his own preferences and opinions for the good of the church. Some people are by nature sycophants who have no opinions of their own and will adopt any position that will aid them in their quest for a purple beanie, so they are not giving up anything. Therefore, ipso facto, they cannot make a promise of obedience and should not be ordained.

Consistency has never been a curial concern. But it does seem that the case for “prudent doubt” about the intellectual honesty of some curial bureaucrats is weightier than the cases they seek to build against others.