The following is a statement of Francis DeBernardo, Executive Director, New Ways Ministry, in response to the news that Pope Francis has approved a document entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation” from the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy, which reaffirms Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 ban on gay men from entering the Catholic priesthood.
Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do by approving the newest Vatican instruction that reaffirms a 2005 ban on gay men becoming priests. Pope Francis’ famous “Who am I to judge?” statement in 2013 was made in response to a question about gay men in the priesthood, and that response indicated very plainly that he did not have a problem with a gay priest’s sexual orientation, as long as “he searches for the Lord and has good will.”
The newest document, entitled “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation,” contains three sections about gay men as candidates for the priesthood, and all of the messages are negative. The writers of the document seem to have closed their eyes to the fact that thousands upon thousands of gay men are already serving faithfully and effectively in the Catholic priesthood. Indeed, without gay men, the Church would not be able to operate. (Add to that the multitude of lesbian women who serve in diverse ministries in the Church, whose service allows so much good to happen.)
Bishops and many heads of men’s religious orders have ignored the 2005 document, realizing the gifts that many gay men bring to the priesthood and church ministry. It is likely that these and many other leaders will simply ignore the bad advice of this most recent document.
Had the document not been approved by Pope Francis, it could easily be dismissed as the work of over-zealous Vatican officials. But the pope’s approval of this text is a great disappointment to many people—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual supporters—who held out greater hopes for this pontiff who had done so much to open church discussion on matters of sexual orientation and gender identity. So much of the language about gay men is simply a restatement from the 2005 document issued by Pope Benedict XVI. In his three-and-a-half years as pontiff, Francis has shown that he has moved away from Benedict’s approach to issues of sexuality.
It’s not too late for the pope to retract this document. That would be a healing balm to many who are surely going to be pastorally hurt by this step, and many others who are sure to leave the Catholic Church because of it.
At the very least, Pope Francis owes it to the Church, the world, and, not least, the LGBT community to explain exactly where he stands, given the blatant contradiction between “Who am I to judge?” and this most recent document.
—Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, December 7. 2016