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What Are ‘Deep-Seated Homosexual Tendencies’ As An Impediment to Priesthood?

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

In my previous post, I said that Catholic seminaries should not be accepting men with same-sex attraction. The Vatican has spoken on this topic specifically in the 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. It’s important to consider the whole document, but for purposes of this particular question, let’s cut to the chase.

Is it okay for seminaries to accept men with same-sex attraction? No. It is not okay. Men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” are not to be accepted, and “deep-seated” refers to those tendencies which do not disappear as one matures into a role of spiritual fatherhood. There is even a time span given. Any homosexual tendency must be overcome within three years before ordination to the diaconate.

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter[8].

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[9], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called “gay culture”[10].

Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.

Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem – for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.

Some ask, “Isn’t the desire to become a priest enough?” The answer is no.

The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church – in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ – to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary[12], to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities[13].

Here is some of the reasoning given:

According to the constant Tradition of the Church, only a baptized person of the male sex[4] validly receives sacred Ordination. By means of the Sacrament of Orders, the Holy Spirit configures the candidate to Jesus Christ in a new and specific way:  the priest, in fact, sacramentally represents Christ, the head, shepherd and spouse of the Church[5]. Because of this configuration to Christ, the entire life of the sacred minister must be animated by the gift of his whole person to the Church and by an authentic pastoral charity[6].

The candidate to the ordained ministry, therefore, must reach affective maturity. Such maturity will allow him to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in him a true sense of spiritual fatherhood towards the Church community that will be entrusted to him[7].

Spiritual maturity is something ALL Catholics are called to. Maturing spiritually is important for everyone, so it is not “over the top” to expect our candidates for seminary to have attained a certain level of spiritual maturity. Also, spiritual maturity is not limited to our sexual attractions. It covers everything that has a spiritual component, including all of our passions, inclinations, virtues, etc.

Those well-versed in Catholic spirituality understand that the call to holiness is a journey that has many levels and that is sometimes likened to a ladder. Do a Google search of “catholic stages of holiness” (let me Google that for you) and the first two results are from Little Catholic Bubble by Leila Miller. Take a look at this one, for example, which is an answer to a doctrinal quiz.


Traditional Catholic spirituality speaks of three stages of holiness through which a Christian must pass on his way to perfection. Name the three stages of holiness, and give a brief explanation or characteristic of each one.

Click here to read the answer, which is an excellent, concise explanation of the stages of holiness that should be considered basic spiritual instruction for all of us.

Unfortunately, as Leila can tell you, some people make the mistake of trying to analyze where they are in these stages as if the stages can show you where you are on the proverbial “ladder” to sainthood. In truth, people on the path to sainthood can enter in and out of these three stages at various times, while continuing up the proverbial ladder. Another thing that many people do not realize is what is the most important thing in climbing the ladder. That is, keeping our eyes ever heavenward, and not allowing anything that is of the world, of temptation, or even of disorder, to distract us from the goal of union with Our Lord Jesus Christ. When we are distracted by these concerns, though we may not be in sin, we are held back from this union with Christ. This is just as true for same-sex attraction as it is for any other thing that takes our focus off the Lord.

Call to mind the Passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicity who were martyred at the hands of the Roman government for refusing to offer “Sacrifice” for the Emperor. Saint Perpetua’s First Vision was of the ladder to union with Jesus. The ladder is the Passion we all have a share in, and at the top of the ladder is union with Jesus in Heaven. The milk curd in St. Perpetua’s vision represents the Eucharist, in Heaven, and complete union with Christ. Along the way up the ladder, we meet with various things of the world which will tear at us as we try to ascend the ladder to closer and closer union with Jesus. The only way to ascend the ladder is to remain focused on Jesus and what He is calling us to — complete unity with Him. Walk with me, now, through this vision below, which was penned by St. Perpetua herself, and so it is written from her perspective.

The first part is concerning her state of spiritual openness to being able to receive a vision from Christ. St. Perpetua’s brother said to her that her state of “dignity” was such that she might ask for one.

“Then my brother said to me, ‘My dear sister, you are already in a position of great dignity, and are such that you may ask for a vision, and that it may be made known to you whether this is to result in a passion or an escape.’ And I, who knew that I was privileged to converse with the Lord, whose kindnesses I had found to be so great, boldly promised him, and said, ‘To-morrow I will tell you.’ And I asked, and this was what was shown me.

Here, now, St. Perpetua relates the vision that she asked for and was given.

I saw a golden ladder of marvellous height, reaching up even to heaven, and very narrow, so that persons could only ascend it one by one; and on the sides of the ladder was fixed every kind of iron weapon. There were there swords, lances, hooks, daggers; so that if any one went up carelessly, or not looking upwards, he would be torn to pieces and his flesh would cleave to the iron weapons. And under the ladder itself was crouching a dragon of wonderful size, who lay in wait for those who ascended, and frightened them from the ascent.

This applies to every Christian’s journey toward greater union with Jesus Christ. Many things there are that may tug at our flesh and impede us from ascending the ladder. Same-sex attraction is one of those things. In my case, the thing that tugs at me, personally, is my own impatience. Along with that failure, I have Bipolar Disorder, and as I read what the Church is saying on people with mental illness, I see that there is a place for me in heaven despite my issues with this disorder, provided that with every ounce of free will that I have, I remain focused on Jesus and on God’s will for me. I consider that it is similar for people with other issues that they are born with and that are disordered, including same-sex attraction.

Because the Church is aware that things like Bipolar Disorder and same-sex attraction constitute a continual trial for those who deal with them, both Bipolar Disorder and same-sex attraction, as well as other such issues in one’s life, are impediments to a religious vocation.

Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are also objectively disordered and, for those same people, often constitute a trial. Such persons must be accepted with respect and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. They are called to fulfil God’s will in their lives and to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter[8].

People with Bipolar Disorder and with same-sex attraction, bearing a continual “trial” are bearing the Passion within themselves. In this, they are virtually guaranteed to become saints, provided that they bear these trials with their eyes ever heavenward, as St. Perpetua described with the ladder. But because it is such a great trial — because it is such a heavy burden — it is not good for the sheep to suffer because their shepherd is so heavily burdened by such a cross. Also, the religious life itself is a cross of sacrifice to bear, and it is not good for the person who is dealing with such a heavy cross already, in the form of disorder, to have the added burdens of religious life to deal with on the path to sainthood.

We need priests who are not being tugged from the ladder by disorders such as Bipolar Disorder and same-sex attraction. We also need priests who can truly be fathers to us. Uncles and brothers and cousins are all wonderful, and there will be many uncles, brothers and cousins in Heaven, but what the Church requires for the priesthood is spiritual fathers. Only those capable of manifesting spiritual fatherhood should be admitted to seminary.

See also: The Ladder of Divine Ascent at Costing Everything.

Union with Jesus is worth every cross one may be called to bear. He is all, He is my beloved, and at the same time, He is the Beloved for everyone, no matter their station in life. Come to Him. You will never regret it. You will only regret not coming to Him sooner.

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