Failure to recognise the roots of past scandals means Church teaching will continue to be undermined

It did not take very long at all for scandal to rear its ugly head once again in our National Seminary, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Hitting the headlines in summer 2016 on account of a homosexual subculture within the seminary community, with some seminarians having profiles on a gay dating app, prompting the Archbishop of Dublin to move his seminarians to Rome, now two senior figures in the college are reportedly saying that gay celibate men are welcome in the priesthood. Changes to the seminary structures in light of the scandal of 2016 were minimal, except for the appointment of a new Rector, Fr. Tomás Surlis, a priest of the Diocese of Achonry.

Openness to Allowing Homosexual Men to be Ordained as Priests:
In an article in the Irish Times on 11th November, the Rector of the seminary, Fr. Tomás Surlis and the Dean of Theology (and Professor of Systematic Theology), Fr. Declan Marmion, S.M., are quoted by Mr. Patsy McGarry as having expressed their openness to allowing homosexual men to be ordained as priests. In one sense, this is not surprising because it seems that the authorities have not made efforts to deal with the issue of active homosexual seminarians – we know that a number of men who were later found to have had profiles on the gay dating app, Grindr, were ordained to the priesthood and diaconate. At least one of these men was ordained a priest even after the scandal of 2016. So, only three years ago the seminary was embroiled in a homosexual scandal and now the Dean of Theology and the Rector say that homosexual men are welcome in the priesthood. How, one may well ask, can this be seen as a credible response to the crisis of 2016 or, indeed, to the ongoing dearth of men entering the seminary?

The Church’s teaching on homosexuality is, most likely, not news to Catholic Voice readers, but it bears repeating since the men charged with training men for the priesthood seem to overlook it so readily. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, referring firstly to homosexual acts, states:

Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. 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 (CCC 2357).

With regard to deep-seated homosexual tendencies, the Catechism describes the inclination as “objectively disordered” (CCC 2358). Catholics, however, are exhorted to treat persons with homosexual tendencies with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”. It ought to be noted that both Fr. Surlis and Fr. Marmion are saying that celibate gay men are welcome in the priesthood. However, it seems that this is a very narrow view of the requirement of celibacy, because celibacy is not merely about not engaging in sexual activity, although it is clearly an element. The fact that all people are called to chastity means that those who are unmarried should not be engaging in sexual activity – this indicates that celibacy has a deeper significance than simply refraining from sex. Celibacy is also the renunciation of marriage and of natural fatherhood. It is a true sacrifice, as Pope St. Paul VI beautifully wrote in his encyclical on priestly celibacy, Sacerdotalis Caelibatus:

…this sacrifice of the human love experienced by most men in family life and given up by the priest for the love of Christ, is really a singular tribute paid to that great love. For it is universally recognised that man has always offered to God that which is worthy of both the giver and the receiver. (SC 50)

How is celibacy a sacrifice for a man who, on account of his same-sex attractions cannot truly renounce marriage or fatherhood?

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