Is the Church Nearing a Tipping Point on Homosexuality?

Is the Church Nearing a Tipping Point on Homosexuality?

The Catholic Church is “at a tipping point and it’s been a long time coming.  How this particular ‘kairos’ moment [i.e. ‘a propitious moment for decision or action’] is handled by those who are responsible for the Church’s government will impact the future of the Church and whether it has a future or whether it collapses onto itself.”

So says Mary McAleese – president of Ireland from 1997 to 2011 – about the issue of homosexuality, which is front and center in the news coverage of the World Meeting of Families, which begins this evening in Dublin.

Speaking at a press conference held in Dublin on Monday to launch a new report from a heterodox UK-based group intended to challenge Church teaching on homosexuality, McAleese called Catholic teaching on human sexuality a “skewed ideology” that is “just wrong”.  She noted that in “very recent weeks [Pope Francis], who said he would not touch doctrine, indeed reversed centuries of Church teaching on capital punishment,” and called upon the Pope to do the same regarding Church teaching on homosexuality.

While McAleese is clearly just wrong on the truth and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality and on the ability of this or any pope to change clearly defined moral teachings, she may be right that the Church is nearing a tipping point when it comes to the issue of homosexuality.

McAleese and others like her are increasingly impatient with Pope Francis for not moving more quickly to reverse Church teaching on the issue.  He famously said “Who am I to judge?” when it comes to homosexuality, but according to McAleese, Pope Francis’ Church “judges, and its teaching is judgmental.”

At the same time as liberals and modernists want Pope Francis to embrace the secular world’s teaching on homosexuality, the abuse scandal is causing more and more faithful Catholics to truly see homosexuality as a sin that must be eradicated from the clerical ranks of the Church.

In an article last week for First Things that received wide coverage, author Daniel C. Mattson noted the Vatican’s 2005 Instruction on the issue of homosexuality and the clergy, which stated:  “The Church … 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.’”  Mattson admitted to struggling with homosexual tendencies but, nonetheless, agreed with the Vatican’s conclusion that men like him should not be priests.

Moreover, Mattson makes the link between homosexuality and the abuse scandals that continue to rock the Church:  “What unites all of these scandals is homosexuality in our seminaries and the priesthood: the result of the Church ignoring its own clear directives. If it is serious about ending the sex scandals, the Church needs to admit it has a homosexual priest problem and stop ordaining men with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.”  His conclusion has been echoed in multiple articles and opinion pieces in the Catholic blogosphere.

The statistics on the scope of the problem are staggering.  In his year 2000 book, Father Donald B. Cozzens estimated that as many as 58 percent of priests had homosexual tendencies and that the percentage was even higher for younger priests.  As a result, he concluded that the “priesthood of the 21st century will likely be perceived as a predominantly gay profession.”  Eighteen years later, Cozzens’ prediction has proven prescient.

Both McAleese and Cozzens reject the suggestion that a man should be dismissed from the seminary or priesthood simply because he has homosexual tendencies.  Cozzens, however, admits that 90 percent of priest abusers have been men who target teenage boys.  Mattson also notes the “grave problem” of the high number of priests with homosexual tendencies “who don’t agree with the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and covertly (or overtly) undermine this teaching, both in the pulpit and in the confessional.”  If your priest does not accept the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, what other teachings has he rejected or will he reject and how confident can you be that he will teach and guide you with the mind of the Church on other moral issues?

So Pope Francis faces a dilemma.  If he curtails his efforts to have the Church radically change its teachings on and approach to homosexuality, he risks alienating his fellow travelers on the issue.  On the other hand, if he fails to address the issue of homosexuality in the seminaries and priesthood, he risks having anything he tries to do on the abuse issue be seen as insufficient by great numbers of faithful Catholics.  It is clear and obvious what he needs to do, but, perhaps not unsurprisingly in this time of diabolical disorientation, the early signs suggest he will not do it.

In a letter to the Church on the abuse scandals issued yesterday, Pope Francis gives no indication he sees homosexuality as part of the problem.  On Thursday of this week, despite petitions to rescind his invitation, the notorious Father James Martin, who is currently a consultant to the Vatican, will deliver his keynote address to the World Meeting of Families on the topic of “Showing Welcome and Respect in our Parishes for ‘LGBT’ People and their Families.”

Absent a dramatic change, Pope Francis and his Vatican seem bent on leading the Church into times of increasing turmoil on the issue of homosexuality and other moral issues.  The chastisement promised by Our Lady at Fatima more than 100 years ago may not be far off.

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