Confronting the Gay Priest Problem

Recently, a priest who was prominent in the pastoral care of those with sex addictions received his fifteen minutes of fame when he revealed to his congregation at a Sunday Mass and to the National Catholic Reporter that he was “gay.”  According to news reports, his self-congratulation was met with thunderous applause. In a television interview, he proclaimed there is “nothing wrong with being gay.”

The game plan of a gay priest “coming out” was quite predictable and is politically effective. In revealing his homosexuality, the Midwestern priest was careful to assemble a string of ambiguous assertions that cannot be immediately assailed on grounds of orthodoxy, but when bundled together are morally subversive.  Here is the template:

  • Claim that sexual transparency is a matter of personal integrity.
  • Remind the public that you are a Catholic priest in good standing.
  • Proudly proclaim that you are “gay.”
  • Cultivate the adulation of your congregation by claiming victim status and the freedom that comes from such an honest revelation.
  • As a pre-emptive strike against disciplinary actions by ecclesiastical authorities claim that your self-revelation is truly courageous.
  • Feign humility and presume you have become a necessary role model for others.
  • Remind us that you and all gays (and members of the alphabet soup of sexual perversion) are created in the image of God (implying our sinful neglect).
  • Commit to celibacy (i.e., not to marry), but carefully avoid the term “Christian chastity.”

Each of these assertions, standing alone, would likely withstand ecclesiastical censure.  But when woven together, the gay agenda promoting the acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle within the Church comes into a clear focus.

The priest’s bishop also responded according to a predictable contemporary ecclesiastical template: “We support [the priest] in his own personal journey and telling his story of coming to understand and live with his sexual orientation. As the Church teaches, those with same-sex attraction must be treated with understanding and compassion.”

The bishop probably succeeded in preventing a media firestorm. He also effectively allowed the priest to rise in stature as a gay freedom fighter. The studied moral ambiguity of the clerical gay activist proved to be an effective political buzz saw. The full and beautiful teachings of Christ on human sexuality, however, were further undermined.

Faithful and orthodox Catholics are at a political disadvantage in our gay-friendly culture.  We realize that same-sex inclinations – as with all seriously sinful inclinations – cause great suffering and, unrestrained, can become a true slavery that endangers others including adolescents and even young children. But our opposition to the gay agenda is often crudely characterized as hateful and unreasonable.  So a brief sketch of natural law in Catholic sexual morality may be helpful.

Male and female sex organs differ and have a unique reproductive function. The body of every human being contains a self-sufficient digestive or respiratory system. But it only contains half of a reproductive system and must be paired with a half-system belonging to a person of the opposite sex in order to carry out its function. These are undeniable biological facts.

“To engage in sex” is a relational term that implies male and female complementarity.  Only a male and a female truly “engage in sex.”  In contrast, same-sex “relations” involve the exercise of one’s sexual power, but not according to its self-evident nature.  Sodomy is not really relational “sex.”  It is merely a masturbatory use of sexual powers.  Similarly, there is no such thing as “sexual relations” with a “sex robot” (alas, an emerging technology).

When a priest claims to be “gay and proud,” he is revealing that he has assented to his same-sex attraction. Free and deliberate thoughts have moral implications, as Jesus asserted: “But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28)   The difference between internal assent and external action is only a matter of a sinful opportunity. An unabashed and proud “gay” priest has already committed sodomy in his heart.

So how might an ecclesiastical superior defend Church teaching if one of his priests (or religious) claims a special dignity by “coming out” as gay?  The superior should invoke immutable Christian moral principles in dealing with a self-described gay priest:

  • Acknowledge that he is afflicted with “same-sex attraction” (SSA).
  • Admit that SSA is an inclination toward mortal sin that if not restrained will lead him and others to eternal damnation.
  • Identify and renounce any physical expression of SSA.
  • Properly define celibacy to include Christian chastity that precludes all sexual activity in thought, word or deed.
  • Invoke Scriptural references condemning sodomy (cf. Genesis and Saint Paul).
  • Renounce the use of the word “gay” because it is a political term that has its roots in the homosexual subculture.
  • Apologize for encouraging others to publicly reveal their mortally sinful inclinations. (The Eighth Commandment protects natural secrets.)

After a careful inquiry, the superior should release a public statement of clarification, prohibiting the priest from his homosexual activism and taking further personnel action according to the demands of Catholic morality and Canon Law.

Would a media firestorm ensue? Probably. But the superior would courageously confirm that the studied ambiguity of the gay agenda promoted by the priest is a lie.

During the rite of ordination for priests, the bishop says, “May God who has begun the good work in you bring it to fulfillment.”  Priests – and everyone – are in a constant state of change, for the better or for the worse. Fulfilling the duties of Holy Orders or any Christian vocation with true moral integrity is a lifelong task.

If we are going to find our true and final happiness in Christ, we must not only recognize and understand our sinful inclinations, but make firm and constant efforts to overcome them. “Celebrating” those inclinations simply makes no sense – whether the inclination is same-sex attraction or any other deviation from God’s plan for us.

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Rev. Jerry J. Pokorsky

Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.

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