A number of people have contact me regarding the “manifesto” published by 19 Quebec priests in the Montreal newspaper La Presse, condemning the Catholic Church for its teaching on same-sex marriage and its policy regarding the admission (or not) of homosexual persons to seminary. “What do think, Fr. Tom?”
For starters, do I really have to say what I think? I mean, have I been with you all this time and still you do not know me? :-) I do my best to think with the mind of the Church (sentire cum ecclesia), to wit:
Chastity and homosexuality
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,140 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”141 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
The above quotes are taken from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Now, with regards to my thoughts on how the bishops should react, I again apply the same principle:
Can. 1369 A person who in a public show or speech, in published writing, or in other uses of the instruments of social communication utters blasphemy, gravely injures good morals, expresses insults, or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty.
This is taken from the Code of Canon Law. And before people get all upset because the bishops are not leaping to excommunicate these 19 priests, or who get all upset because I am not myself calling for the immediate excommunication of these priests, please read my comments on the use of ecclesiastical penalties, my reflections on frustration, and this other extract from the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 1344.1 Even if the law uses preceptive words, the judge can, according to his own conscience and prudence defer the imposition of the penalty to a more opportune time if it is foreseen that greater evils will result from an offerly hasty punishment of the offender. (minor editing for the sake of clarity — Fr. Tom)
Now all the English-language media articles on this story that I have seen deal with this issue second-hand, as they do not actually contain the text of the manifesto (which was published in French). Well I have read this manifesto, and I can certify that it is about as deep as a birdbath (intellectually speaking, of course). And the signing of the document by 19 priests is not all that impressive, when we consider this is 19 priests *from all across Quebec*. Honestly, if this is the best they can do, those of us who are a bit more “orthodox” in our thinking on this topic really have nothing to worry about.
Still, I suppose some sort of response is in order, if only to help guide those who might be led astray by the line of thought of my brother priests. I’d say a good first step would be to publish a really good fisking of the manifesto (something that should be about as difficult as shooting fish in a barrel). Then, it might be nice for a coaltion of, say, 5 times as many priests to publish a manifesto of their own, not as an angry response to the first group, but simply to put forward a joyful and hopeful presentation of the Catholic faith on these questions. Apart from that, lots of prayer and fasting is in order for these brother priests, in the spirit of Christ on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Clearly.