Monday, January 26, 2009

Homosexual Priests and Spiritual Paternity

By Ed Kohler

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, made a number of allegations about homosexuals and the Roman Catholic priesthood in a press interview October 30, 2008.

The Cardinal maintained that no one may be admitted to Holy Orders who has a deeply seated tendency to practice homosexuality. He labeled homosexuals defective human beings who lack the normal heterosexual tendency, deviates of a certain type, irregular males with a disordered psyche, all of which combine to create, if ordained, a type of wound on their priesthood and in forming relations with others.

The following conclusions may be drawn from the Cardinal's allegations:

1. Seminarians with this tendency must be weeded out, a pogrom initiated to expel them from the seminary.

2. The pogrom should also include homosexual priests and bishops because they too have the tendency.

3. Sacraments administered by homosexual priests are invalid because they lack "spiritual paternity" which is of the nature of the priesthood itself.

4. It is a legitimate pastoral concern to ask a priest if he is homosexual before confessing or scheduling a baptism, or a bishop before he administers confirmation or holy orders.

5 It would be more effective, however, to require homosexual priests to manifest their spiritual impotence by wearing a pin, similar perhaps to the Hitlerian triangle.

6. The Cardinal contradicts himself by asserting on the one hand that homosexuals may not be ordained and on the other hand to maintain as he did earlier (Nov., 2005) that their ordinations are valid.

7. The Cardinal's comments may reflect a deep seated homophobia.

8. Since his comments are not grounded in any of the generally accepted fields of human inquiry, the Cardinal should be removed from office.

9. In everyday parlance, the Cardinal is blowing smoke. The smoke, however, is malevolent and potentially lethal because the Cardinal's language squares perfectly with the first three of Gordon Allport's five steps of prejudice, Antilocution, Avoidance, Discrimination. If his remarks along with other proclamations emanating from the Vatican and local chancery offices lead to (4) Physical Attack and (5) Extermination, Cardinal Grocholewski, the Vatican, and local ecclesiastics will be culpable of additional acts of prejudice.

Ed Kohler was ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Paul in 1957 and married in 1972. He is at


  1. Does anyone have a link to what the Cardinal actually said?

  2. Hi Clayton,

    Paula Ruddy’s earlier PCV article on the same topic has a link to a Catholic News Service article that quotes the Cardinal.



  3. Thanks, Michael.

    I noticed that the CNS article simply excerpted quotes. Was just hoping to see the whole text of the Cardinal's remarks.

  4. Hi Clayton,

    Yes, that would be worth reading. If either of us comes across the whole text, let's be sure to let the other know.

    Given the Cardinal's quotes in the CNS article, do you feel you can adequately respond in this forum to the concept of "spiritual paternity"? I would be interested to hear your opinion.



  5. I'll respond more on the topic of spiritual paternity, and my thoughts on it, in a separate post on my blog eventually.

    The Cardinal's remarks are his own, and they seem to go beyond what the document says. In my opinion, he did a disservice to the document he was introducing by inserting his own commentary, thus conflating his personal opinions with magisterial teaching. Perhaps his own commentary reflects a development in the Church's own teaching, but we have no evidence, and speculation is unhelpful at best.

    In the comments box of the CNS article, I think Father Scott's words are instructive: "As always, the primary question is not simply being able to abstain, but whether or not the tendencies are “profoundly deep-rooted” (meaning that the person allows himself to be dominated by them, even in a celibate way). Good men who live with same-sex attraction who are not dominated by them psychologically will continue to be ordained by most religious communities and dioceses.
    Also, it is important to note that whatever Cardinal Groschelwski chooses to say in an interview, the only thing that matters is what the document itself says. He’s tried this before…putting his own spin on a document in an interview because he couldn’t get a document approved that was as rigid as he wanted it to be." (source)

  6. Hi Clayton,

    Interesting perspective. It seems you're suggesting that Cardinal Groschelwski is a bit of a "loose cannon." Of course, as true as this may be, the problem with this analysis is that it shifts focus from the actual teachings of the church on homosexuality - teachings that, regardless of the Cardinal's own "spin," remain for many Catholics problematic and untentable.

    Also, I wonder why the Cardinal hasn't been reprimanded for "putting his own spin" on the document - if, in fact, that's what he did. And why, given the intense media scrutiny of the Cardinal's words, didn't someone at the Vatican, someone who speaks for the "magisterial teaching," come forward and offer correction and/or clarification? That this hasn't happened signals to many that the Vatican agrees with what Cardinal Groschelwski said. Silence, after all, is often understood as consent.

    As for Fr. Scott's comment, problems and questions remain given that he uncritically buys into the language and concepts of the Vatican ("same-sex attractions," "deeply rooted") and not those of the science of human sexuality. Shouldn't insights from this science be utilized to inform the Church's theology of human sexuality?



    P.S. I look forward to reading your post on this matter on your blog.

  7. I wonder why the Cardinal hasn't been reprimanded for "putting his own spin" on the document - if, in fact, that's what he did.

    My opinion: there are a number of loose canons in the Curia to deal with right now, it seems. I base this on Sandro Magister's comment:

    "Bertone's personal devotion to Benedict XVI is beyond all doubt. Not so that of the other curia officials, who continue to have free rein. It is possible that some of them deliberately oppose this pontificate. It is certain that most of them simply do not understand it, do not measure up to it."

    Benedict XVI has dealt with them before. I think of the head of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who only served for a short time, before being removed from that role last year.

  8. Wow! All these Machiavellian machinations and individuals on their own power trips. Somehow I don't think this is the vision of community that Jesus modeled and envisioned for us.

    And I cannot help but wonder how the very organizational structure of the Church - with its emphasis on hierarchy, power, and, yes, secrecy - contributes to and enables such dysfunction.



  9. Hi, Clayton. In my article, posted January 13, the two documents Cardinal Grocholewski is referring to are linked and quoted. The 2008 document, Guidelines for the use of psychological testing in admitting seminarians to priesthood,requires that a candidate be rejected who is “unable to face realistically his areas of grave immaturity. . . Such areas of immaturity would include strong affective dependencies, notable lack of freedom in relations, excessive rigidity of character, lack of loyalty, uncertain sexual identity, deep-seated homosexual tendencies, etc.”
    Instead of calling for the assessment of the maturity of the individual homosexual man, the policy presumes that his deep-seated tendency has prevented his maturing. How is Cardinal Grocholewski spinning that?

    Besides citing homosexuality as a disqualifying factor, the statement ominously cites "lack of loyalty." There goes any hope for a priesthood of thinking people. Is it a way of life that is attractive to people who lack the ability to be loyal? I'd say probably not. If a person is dissenting, it may be that he has reason on his side. Paula

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  11. All these Machiavellian machinations and individuals on their own power trips. Somehow I don't think this is the vision of community that Jesus modeled and envisioned for us.

    Might be helpful to distinguish divine will from divine permission. Otherwise, how do you explain the presence of Judas among the Twelve?

  12. Of course it's possible that there was a genuine miscommunication, rather than an evil plot. But it's become commonplace to impute the worst motives of people for whom we have no natural sympathy.

  13. How does one explain Judas' presence among the Twelve?

    Well, at one time he was a trusted disciple of Jesus. I certainly don't believe it was God's will from the beginning that should be there so as to one day betray Jesus, or that Jesus knew from the get-go that Judas would betray him. That kind of fatalistic thinking denies the gift of free will.

    And remember, most biblical scholars see "the Twelve" as a literary devise - correlating with the Twelve Tribes of Israel. I don't buy into the (much later) idea that "the Twelve" were prototype Roman Catholic priests. The early church certainly didn't see them in that way.

    Bottom line for me: we're all "chosen," and we're all capable of screwing up.

    As to the Vatican document that this post is all about, I appreciate Paula's last question: How exactly is Cardinal Grocholewski "spinning" it?

    As Paula notes, the document itself conveys a pretty dysfunctional understanding of the homosexual orientation. The Cardinal can hardly make it worse.

    For those interested, Simon Rosser, a researcher in the field of human sexuality, will be giving a talk on "Understanding Sexual Orientation: A Researcher's Perspective" at the February 15 meeting of P-FLAG St. Paul/Minneapolis. For more info, check the PCV calendar on the right-hand sidebar. This is exactly the type of presentation that the folks at the Vatican need to experience.