Panel Discussion

11-18-2018Pastor's LetterFr. John Sims Baker

I am grateful to Bishop Spalding for organizing the panel discussions that were held in the diocese about the crisis of sexual abuse by priests, including the final one held here last week. I thought that much helpful information was provided to show the response of the Church to this crisis, especially in our own Diocese of Nashville. Care of victims and protection of children and of all the faithful are the absolute priorities.

There was one point made at the panel here that, although accurate, I think needed more clarification. There was a question about homosexuality and the priesthood. The answer was given (rather emphatically) that someone could have a same-sex attraction and also faithfully live a commitment to celibate chastity. This is accurate. The Church has provided more depth, however, to this question in a document from the Holy See with this mouthful of a title:
Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders.

Despite the long title, the document itself is brief and is very thoughtful. Here is a link, if you would like to read the whole document:

http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_20051104_istruzione_en.html

This is a quotation from the document stating a response with important limitations and clarifications:

"In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in
question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so called "gay culture"."

Of course, every priest is called and expected to live celibate chastity, whatever struggles he may experience. I think that this document provides a more nuanced and accurate answer.

Faithfully,

Fr. Baker

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