Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The new document

Well, it was bound to happen. So many people were after this document that it was inevitable that it would be leaked to the media before the Church could officially produce it.

That document is, of course, the Instruction concerning the criteria of vocational discernment regarding persons with homosexual tendencies, considering their admission to seminary and to Holy Orders. I might have more on the document itself later on, but I wanted to look at the media coverage first.

I did a search on Google News after Phil Lawler broke the story on CWNews.com that the document had been published by an Italian news agency named Adista. Here was the first headline to AP's story: "Vatican says active homosexuals unwelcome in priesthood." The next headline read: "Vatican: Sexually active gays unwelcome." Then the Aussies came out with this one: "Gays and supporters unwelcome: Vatican." The Baltimore Sun came in with this unique headline: "Vatican disallows active gays for priesthood."

What's wrong here? The problem is that word, "unwelcome." This is not a matter of welcoming or not, as if the priesthood was some sort of club that is generally open to all. This is a matter of whether or not the man is fit to become a priest or not. There are many men who are not able to become a priest -- those who are unbaptized, those who are married, those who are mentally unstable, those who have certain physical handicaps (like no hands). These conditions do not make them "unwelcome" to the priesthood; it makes them unfit for it. (Yes, I can say unfit without a bit of difficulty as I am married and therefore unfit for the priesthood. It's simply a fact of life.)

While the Sun is to be commended for their efforts at making a better headline, it's still not correct. Active "gays" have never been allowed, at least by the rules, into the priesthood. The AP story notes that a 1961 document from the same congregation makes that perfectly clear. It was a matter that certain seminary rectors and bishops made the allowances for them to enter the seminary, contrary to all the teachings, tradition and disciplines of the Church.

Later headlines messed it up, though in a different way. CBS said, "Active gays unwanted as priests." CathNews in Australia said, "Gays in priesthood document leaked." And then starting with Philly 'Burbs, the headline became: "Vatican rejects actively gay priests." All of these headlines are inaccurate. The document was on the admission of candidates to the seminary, not on those who are already ordained.

And then it changed to, "Vatican affirms gays banned from priesthood," which, of course, is also not true since there are active homosexuals as well as those who are celibate who are in the priesthood and are not going to be kicked out. And the document is about admitting candidates to the seminary, not about priests. (Didn't I already say that?)

Of course, it's also going to be almost humorous to watch the media slaughter the document and misinterpret it to the nth degree. I say "almost" because the vast majority of Catholics are going to believe what the secular press say about it -- which is certainly not humorous, but rather very scary indeed.

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