The Tablet (the super-liberal British “Catholic” newspaper) has done a very good job of just posting, without comment, some of what seem to be the most interesting quotes from Peter Seewald’s latest published interview with Pope Benedict, Salt of the Earth:
I wanted to pluck two of the best passages. First, he had this to say about the ordination of men with homosexual tendencies:
Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation. Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don’t want to get married anyway. For, in the end, their attitude toward man and woman is somehow distorted, off centre, and, in any case, is not within the direction of creation of which we have spoken. The Congregation for Education issued a decision a few years ago to the effect that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation estranges them from the proper sense of paternity, from the intrinsic nature of priestly being… The greatest attention is needed here in order to prevent the intrusion of this kind of ambiguity and to head off a situation where the celibacy of priests would practically end up being identified with the tendency to homosexuality.
From the context and the internal logic of the quote, it’s clear that he’s not just referring to those men who self-identify as gay, or are actively homosexual, but to all men who simply are not heterosexual. I’ve mentioned this before, but the primary point of clerical celibacy is for a man to offer back to God the biggest gift he’s been given. Look at God’s blessing of Abraham in Genesis 22:15-18, to provide him descendants as numerous as the stars, in response to Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, out of faith in the resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19). In becoming priests, men sacrifice a physical lineage as numerous as the stars for a spiritual lineage. They go from being fathers in the physical sense to spiritual fathers, as Abraham did (Romans 9:8). Those who are approach the priesthood without even a desire for marriage or children, whether because of homosexuality or any other cause, are approaching the altar without a gift. They’re not sacrificing anything in swearing to celibacy. Rather, as Benedict notes, the celibate priesthood can offer an escape, an easy answer to the “Why are you thirty and unmarried?” question. Men who approach the office as a place to flee are dangerous as priests. Beyond this, a priest truly is a spiritual father, so a man without a desire for fatherhood objectively shouldn’t be a priest. Spiritual fatherhood is a responsibility larger, not smaller, than physical fatherhood.
A second area which he addressed that I was moved by was his description of the abuse crisis:
It is a great crisis, we have to say that. It was upsetting for all of us. Suddenly so much filth. It was really almost like the crater of a volcano, out of which suddenly a tremendous cloud of filth came, darkening and soiling everything, so that above all the priesthood suddenly seemed to be a place of shame and every priest was under the suspicion of being one like that too. Many priests declared that they no longer dared to extend a hand to a child, much less go to a summer camp with children. For me the affair was not entirely unexpected. In the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith I had already dealt with the American cases; I had also seen the situation emerge in Ireland. But on this scale it was nevertheless an unprecedented shock… Right now, in the midst of the scandals, we have experienced what it means to be very stunned by how wretched the Church is, by how much her members fail to follow Christ.
Wow. The infinite gap between the Head of the Body, Christ, and His Members, us, has rarely been described more vividly. And it’s a huge blessing just to know that we have a pope who recognizes the sheer gravity of how badly things have gone wrong. He clearly has an eye on both what the predator priests have done to children, and what they’ve done to the priesthood itself. This latter focus isn’t institutional self-interest, but a concern for souls. If you alienate the world from the priesthood and from the Church as a result of these bad priests, you really do endanger their salvation. So the crisis has always had these dual effects: destruction of innocence and the body, and endangerment of the soul. Someone Else drew the two together well in Luke 17:1-2, by the way.