New Ways Ministry Responds to Pope Francis’ Ban on Gay Men from the Priesthood

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


35 thoughts on “New Ways Ministry Responds to Pope Francis’ Ban on Gay Men from the Priesthood

  1. Tom Bower December 7, 2016 / 4:44 pm

    It is now time to out all of Francis’ fellow bishops. All bishops should have to sign a statement that they are heterosexual just as teachers are required to sign similar morals statements. If they can’t meet the requirements to be priest they should retire from their positions. The same should then be required of all priests and religious.

    The members of the Church need to understand that words have meaning. I hope Francis will follow up with strong support for non-use of contraceptives by heterosexual members of the Church. Joy should always be shared.

    • Albertus December 7, 2016 / 8:14 pm

      Amen to all of the above!

  2. Chris December 7, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    If the language from Pope Benedict’s 2005 document is interpreted correctly, this is by no means ban on gay priests, as the interpretation of many bishops and religious superiors since 2005 confirms.

    God Bless

    • Mike December 7, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      Chris, did you read the 2016 Document in question? Take a look at section #199-200 with accompanying footnote documentation. I don’t know how you can interpret it as anything but a ban on gay, celibate priests. Sadly only transitioning persons to a heterosexual identity seems to be the “loop-hole” for your interpretation, and unfortunately that is not a correct argument from the text. The text is definitively exclusionary. Sad, sad. sad.

    • Albertus December 7, 2016 / 8:16 pm

      Benedict’s document banning men with homosexual tendencies from being ordained is unforutanately very clear, and has been clarified since then several times. Any positive interpretation is harmful wishful thinking.

    • Chris December 7, 2016 / 8:57 pm

      Yes I have read the document and the relevant part is:

      “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’”.

      “Practice homosexuality” means sexually active which also excludes sexually active heterosexual candidates.

      “Present” means exhibit behavior which is clearly observable by others and it has to be “deep seated” ie of the form leading to “practicing”.

      The so-called gay culture seems to refer to a promiscuous sexual culture, which would also exclude heterosexual candidates.

      I do see anything to worry about here, if the document is interpreted according to the rules for interpreting canon law which require that punitive law be interpreted very restrictively ie ONLY applying to persons which CLEARLY meet ALL the conditions.

      The problem is not the law but they way it can be misinterpreted to exclude gay candidates, which would be an abuse of law.

      Many Blessings

      • Wilhelm Wonka December 7, 2016 / 10:43 pm

        The phrasing you’ve interpreted benignly is ambiguous and could be understood in more arbitrary and less benign ways, including a blanket ban on ALL gay candidates for the priesthood. Can you imagine, for instance, Archbishop Charles Chaput’s take on the same expressions?

        The phrase “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” is, besides being ambiguous, illogical and ludicrous. Are there such things as shallow (or shifting) homosexual tendencies? This is what “deep-seated…” suggests. In fact, the document does refer to transitory homosexual attraction (traditionally, and quaintly, known as “a phase”) and says potential candidates who present with this may be admitted to seminary if they transition to heterosexuality.

        This is homophobic nonsense masquering as wisdom. In terms of scientific fact, it’s on a par with so-called “Reparative Therapy”. As such it can lead only to unjust discrimination, the kind the Catechism of the Catholic Church says should be avoided.

        As Oliver Hardy might say: “Francis, this is another fine mess you’ve got us into.”

      • Albertus December 8, 2016 / 6:53 am

        The ban is on those who OR engage or have ever engaged in same-sex relations, OR have deep-seated homosexual inclinations (this is Church-speach for ”homosexual orientation”), OR support the gay culture (whether gay or straight themselves). In the Latin the word ”present” is not there: the latin refers simply to those men who have homosexual inclinations. Obiously , a gay man has deep-rooted homosexual tendencies, as a straight man has ddep-rooted heterosexual tendencies. The fact is that BIshops who still ordain gay men do so not because they interpret the documents in question in a benign way, but because the choose to ignore the documents. THe Dutch and Belgian Bishops in 2005, for example, announced that they would continute to ordain worthy gay men INSPITE of the Vatican ban.

      • Wilhelm Wonka December 8, 2016 / 8:38 am

        Albertus, while some bishops may have ordained “worthy” gay men despite the prohibitions in the 2005 document, others have used its loophole (of assumed transitory homosexual tendency) to admit gay candidates to seminary. The loophole provides the ground for benign interpretation of Vatican guidelines, and it is replicated in the latest document.

        The Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, illustrates the point. He accepted an openly gay man for seminary training on the ground that his homosexuality was not “deep-seated”, in other words, that he had overcome his homosexual tendency. That candidate, a deacon, is now in Rome to complete his training. (As an aside, the candidate was embroiled in a gay- cabal scandal while a seminarian at St Patrick’s Pontifical University, in the Republic of Ireland.)

        Archbishop Martin did not ignore the 2005 document, but used it as justification for his decision.

    • Chris December 8, 2016 / 2:09 pm

      When the 2005 document was released, the rector of our seminary announced that it did not mean that homosexual candidates would be barred from ordination. That seems to be the local interpretation here in New Zealand.

      • Wilhelm Wonka December 8, 2016 / 6:16 pm

        Thanks, Chris.

        As is often the case with Vatican guidelines, there is textual and sub-textual meaning, the latter to be applied at the discretion of local Ordinaries. This can create a wide margin of difference (not to mention confusion) around the world in how guidelines are understandood and applied in local situations. It can lead to inconsistency in the treatment of some in the Church, including gay potential candidates for priesthood. The Vatican is astute enough to know that flexibility is key to harmony among culturally disparate local churches.

        From the Vatican’s perspective, if there is scandal surrounding the implementation of official guidelines, it can and will always point to textual (or official) meanings of these. This way local Ordinaries, and not the Vatican, can be hung out to dry should the scandal make news headlines. Which is precisely what happened in Ireland after the Irish Church was rocked by a rapid succession of allegations concerning children raped or sodomized by Catholic priests. Pope Benedict, in an attempt to pacify the growing distrust between clergy and laity in Ireland, eventually issued a letter to Irish Catholics, in which he excoriated the culture of “excessive deference” that surrounded Irish clergy, especially the bishops. Benedict never once pointed a finger of blame at the Vatican itself, even though the Vatican was principally responsible, through directive, for the failure of Irish clergy to report these atrocious allegations to police.

  3. guatenow December 7, 2016 / 5:00 pm

    Very difficult to understand this coming from Francis…if all gay priests left, the church might as well shut its’ doors. the same for lesbian Sisters…more communities with fewer members and more Motherhouses closed.

    Wonder who was able to bend his ear and heart to this degree? Alice


  4. Bishop Carlos A Florido. osf December 7, 2016 / 5:16 pm

    How about all the gay clergy that presently are ordained? Ridiculous

  5. Pierre Bergeron December 7, 2016 / 5:46 pm

    Very Sad.

  6. Edward Poliandro December 7, 2016 / 5:47 pm

    Thank you , Frank for your courageous voice and being so timely.This will invite LGBT haters to be justified in their spiritual violence towards us. I am outraged but deeply disappointed in him. Maybe this time, it will motivate me to write him. Again , many thanks! Ed

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. anne underwood December 7, 2016 / 5:54 pm

    Oh Frank. I’m stunned, appalled and so sad. Haven’t entered a church since 2013 but I follow ur blogs faithfully and cherish your spirit greatly. In solidarity & love from Maine, Anne

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. kathleen perez December 7, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    What happened to your position of “Who am I to judge”? With Trump as president elect, you will only add to the level of hate permeating in our society. Do you want that as your legacy? How will you explain this position when you meet. St. Peter at the pearly gate?

  9. BDeC December 7, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    So much of the thinking behind these documents is “intrinsically disordered.”

  10. Bravo, Francis! I want to read the actual document before saying more. I also am so glad that New Ways Ministry is hosting its symposium in April. This should provide a great impetus for many to attend. Paul Morrissey, OSA, author of The Black Wall of Silence.

  11. Marie December 7, 2016 / 8:06 pm

    I literally don’t understand this. According to the Church, hay men should be living lives of celibacy. Why would you then close the door to the priesthood on them where their celibacy could at least be in service of the community?

    How does this fit with the often spouted ideas of loving the sinner? If all priests are required to be celibate, why would who they are attracted to matter? Thiso goes against the whole idea of all persons having equal dignity.

    Pretty shocking really.

  12. Albertus December 7, 2016 / 8:13 pm

    For me, as a priest who is also gay, this most recent papally approved document adds even more insult and hurt to the wound already caused by Benedict XVI’s ban on gay priests in 2005 and JP II’s notoriously anti-gay document of 1986. I have been thinking and writing for years, that gay catholic organisations should first of all seek the repeal of the 2005 ban on gay priests before going off in so many other directions. No spokesman for gay catholics did anything to raise the question of repealing the ban on gay priests and deacons. Unfortunately, now we are stuck with two gay bans within eleven years. It is now highly unlikely that the next Pope will dare undo two bans of his recent predecessors. Very sad. I wish that i had never been ordained. I am full of anger at this moment and so shall stop here.

    • Chris December 7, 2016 / 8:49 pm


      The 2005 document was never a ban on gay priests and has never been interpreted as such a ban except by the extreme anti-gay brigade. The rules of Church law require such law be interpreted very stringently ie as only excluding candidates who certainly meet all restrictions; which are in fact rather few.

      Thank you for your ministry.

      Many Blessings and prayers

  13. Steven December 7, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    The upholding of the ban on celibate gay men serving as priests just re-opens old wounds for me. I can’t tell you how hurt I was when the ban was first announced. I was 50 at the time and had been faithful to the church teachings on sexuality my entire life.Yet I was still considered unworthy, It was the start of the process by which I left the Church. Went through lots of tears and counseling but for me, it was essential to survival.

    • Anchashino December 8, 2016 / 12:05 am

      As a professed religious brother of 27 years, in 1986 I was infuriated with the unchristian stance. I no longer wanted to be seen as a representative of this church and got dispensed. I still serve the church as a layman albeit closited to parishioners.

  14. Wilhelm Wonka December 7, 2016 / 8:59 pm

    Francis gives with one hand and takes away with the other. At least, this is how he appears to be conducting his papacy towards the LGBT global community. But the truth is Francis never conceded (or promised to concede) anything doctrinal against LGBT people; he just sounded as if he might. It was his tone towards us, more pastoral and conciliatory-sounding than that of his two immediate predecessors, that raised such high hope.

    It is time to face reality about Francis, however unwelcome it may be. He sees nothing remotely redemptive in even loving, committed, LGBT relationships. In fact, the language of this latest document (which he apparently supports) harks back to the infamous, so-called “philosophical ” phrasing of Josef Ratzinger, which describes homosexual orientation as “objectively disordered”. Realistically, what other conclusion is there when the document states that gay potential candidates for the priesthood “find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women”.

    This is the kind of visceral, dehumanizing, homophobic language that can incite not only verbal but physical violence against LGBT people. Is this what Francis wants? Has he forgotten so soon the mass killings earlier this year in Orlando, Florida? Does he fail to understand the incendiary correlation between homophobic words and the kind of homophobic violence that can, contemptuously and sociopathically, brutally take the lives of forty-nine innocent people in a nightclub?

    Words can kill: the mind, the spirit, the flesh. Careless words. Inflammatory words. Ultimately useless words. And for every useless word uttered, the Gospel tells us, there will eventually be a reckoning.

    • Friends December 8, 2016 / 5:01 am

      Yes, all of this from our much-esteemed Pope Francis…and now also the petulant, self-absorbed and narcissistic Trump about to take command of the nuclear arsenal of the most powerful nation on the planet. There are credible predictions of huge riots in many American cities on the day of his inauguration. Pray hard, folks. “The End Times” is sadly starting to assume a new and ominous meaning.

  15. freecatholic808 December 7, 2016 / 9:55 pm

    Reblogged this on Dawn Morais and commented:
    And once again the Catholic Church affirms its attachment to prejudice and discrimination. The institutional church keeps sending signals to people in the pews that even the light of Pope Francis cannot dispel the darkness of bad theology and a regressive patriarchal leadership that continues to subvert the welcome that Jesus extended to all even in the face of the cultural taboos of His time. Until the church disavows the odious Doctrine of Discovery that continues to make possible the oppression and exploitation of native peoples, and until it recognizes women and LGBT people as human beings endowed with all the gifts of the Creator, it cannot claim to be true followers of Jesus. Imagine Jesus signing a document to exclude anyone . . .This is the stuff of a bureaucracy in love with itself. If God is Love, this announcement by the church is not an uplifting example of a community radiating the Divine by the warmth of its welcome to all.

  16. miriamtf December 7, 2016 / 10:33 pm

    Thanks and God’s blessings to you all at New Ways. I rely heavily on you all for this news and perspective. I’ve never stated before but thought many times that the conversations between Francis and Benedict affect the words of Francis more than previously thought. I wonder if Francis will become less and less spontaneous and more and more consultative.

  17. MARIA FORMOSO/ JOAN O'BRIEN December 7, 2016 / 11:02 pm



  18. Cynthia Murray-Beliveau December 7, 2016 / 11:13 pm

    Thank you, Frank, for your kind and thoughtful response to these latest hurtful and unnecessary words of Francis. to quote FREECATHOLIC 808, above, “regressive patriarchal leadership continues to subvert the welcome that Jesus extended to all, even in the face of the cultural taboos of his time”. God never created anyone or anything that s/he didn’t already love. Would that we all, and our Church, could learn to love the way the Christ taught us.

  19. DJR December 7, 2016 / 11:56 pm

    “Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do…”

    Good luck with that. If one thing has been made amply clear for the last 3+ years, it is that Pope Francis does not feel compelled to explain things to others.

  20. Gwen Mayer December 8, 2016 / 2:29 am

    I have never understood how those who profess a religious affiliation that their God loves EVERYONE and EVERTHING can then discriminate against women, the LGBT community or those of different faiths, hues, hair texture, and can mistreat animals, the environment, etc. Such hypocrisy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s