By Gerard Veldhoven
Much has been discussed and written concerning gay priests in the Roman Catholic Church, and that church’s anti-gay stance. Pope Francis has been less-than-straightforward about the issue with comments that have been, and remain contradictory.
As in other facets of life, being gay, lesbian or bisexual has figured prominently in society’s negative attitude, and consequently, discrimination has been, and continues to be, a storm against certain nature’s beings.
In The Netherlands, an association of gay priests, named, The Working Group of Catholic Gay Pastors, has been active working towards and committed to the well-being of gays within the church and broader society. The 45 members work in unison with colleagues in Flanders, Northern Belgium.
The open letter to the pope pertains to the upsetting reports that Francis and his church continue to ban gay men from the priesthood. The following are contained in the letter to Rome that are of great concern to the priests. They point to the fact that there are countless priests in the church who are in fact gay. Further, they insist that these men function equally to heterosexual clergy. The Vatican document, Il dono della vocazione presbiterale, which was published in 2016, and prevents gay men from becoming priests, has of course been approved by the present pope as well. The document insists that these men are unfit because of their sexual orientation. So, this actually disqualifies those priests who serve the church and therefore the question arises, what happens next?
Another statement by the group follows: “We believe that suitability for priesthood does not depend on whether you are homosexual or heterosexual, but rather on whether you are able to deal well with your own sexuality as a seminarian or a priest.” They also state: “We have the distinct impression that the Vatican and the Congregation of the Clergy and perhaps even yourself, tend to suggest that those priests who are openly gay are the ones responsible for the sexual abuse of children and minors. We disagree with this. We believe that the current major crisis with respect to this context is primarily the result of disapproval, suppression, denial and the poor integration of sexuality, and especially homosexuality, on the part of individual priests within the church, as a whole.”
The priests insist that the Roman Catholic Church has spoken and written about gay clergy has not been welcomed positively in The Netherlands and elsewhere, and indeed we see here the necessity for priests to defend themselves against the tyranny of the church. Pope Francis himself has made countless contradictory statements regarding gay men in the priesthood. He maintains he does not judge, but in reality he supports the ban on gay priests.
As mentioned previously, regarding his fight with the Argentina government when same-sex marriage became law in that country, he was adamant, and had some choice words in his opposition. Perhaps Francis agrees with the majority of his Cardinals and Bishops, who out-rightly reject gays. Contrary to this, he is called upon to lead, therefore responsible for embracing all within his church. Will this pope stand for equality, or does he plan to continue on the path of separation of his flock?
The shallowness of his comments indicate that he either cannot, or indeed will not, accept equality for all, which is a human right for everyone on this planet. One would think that Christianity is a religion of love, an organization that is willing to reject discrimination and turn to embrace those it deems to be less significant and indeed sinful on the basis of sexual orientation. One cannot accept gays and deny them the right to love the person of choice.
The priests are calling for elimination of the ban. As in other matters, Pope Francis will most certainly, and unfortunately, refuse to pay heed to the request.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a Pictou County resident and long-time gay rights activist.