Thursday, June 16, 2005

Will the Shepherds Please Stand Up?

Yesterday's Washington Times raised the concern that the USCCB may be going short shrift on the matter of homosexuals entering the priesthood. In the draft of the 84-page fifth edition of the Program of Priestly Formation to be approved at the USCCB semi-annual meeting that begins today in Chicago, homosexuality is mentioned only once:

With regard to the admission of candidates with same-sex experiences and/or inclinations, the guidelines provided by the Holy See must be followed.
The kicker is that there are as of yet no binding guidelines available from the Vatican.

The trend is that since the US bishops' first Program of Priestly Formation was released in 1971, each revision has included an increasingly stronger and a more comprehensive formation of celibacy. The latest revision was issued in 1992. Last year, the expectations for the new edition were that this trend would continue, particularly in light of the sexual abuse scandal:

The scandal of clergy sexual abuse of minors and the frequent discussion of weak celibacy formation in the past as a factor will spur a more rigorous look at what should be required in every seminary in this area.
Last month it became known that the seminary admission requirements, to their credit, would be expanded significantly along these lines:

Any evidence of criminal sexual activity with a minor or an inclination toward such activity disqualifies the applicant from admission.

Any credible evidence in the candidate of a sexual attraction to children necessitates an immediate dismissal from the seminary.

However, considering that, as the WaTi has reported,

  1. 81% of the 10,667 priestly sexual-abuse cases investigated by the USCCB involved boys, with the largest share of those victims being 11 or older,
  2. Estimates of the ratio of seminarians who have homosexual attractions range from 25% to greater than 50%, and
  3. US dioceses have spent more than $1B on scandal-related costs,

not to mention the cultural damage done to the Church by the scandal, there is a strong case for "special instructions" needing to be have been developed to address the "intrinsically disorded" condition of homosexuals seeking to enter the priesthood.

Pope Benedict has given direct messages that the bishops need to take seriously their roles as shepherds of their flocks, including the laity, clergy and religious, and seminaries and schools subject to their authority, beginning May 7 with his homily during his installation Mass as Bishop of Rome and his address to the Bishops of Sri Lanka during their ad limina visit, as well as more recently during the ad limina visit of the Bishops of South Africa, June 10. In contrast, by waiting for an apostolic visit this fall and a set of [minimum] guidelines from the Vatican, rather than stepping forward as servant leaders, like the question of Holy Communion for pro-abortion politicians last summer, the USCCB as a body has taken a pass and kicked the problem up the chain.

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