Everyone outside of the Church seems to be celebrating Pope Francis’s “change in teaching” on homosexuality. This post is to show that what Pope Francis said is not anything new.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly says, in paragraph 2358, that people with same sex attraction must be “accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity,” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination should be avoided.” So Pope Francis, in not judging, is doing what Jesus and the Church tells us to do.
In 2005, the Vatican issued the document Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in View of Their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders which says:
It is necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, 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”.
Different however would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only expression of a transitory problem…Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.
This means that men with very strong homosexual tendencies cannot be admitted to the Priesthood. In the same way, a man with very strong pornography tendencies will not be admitted to the Priesthood. As a requirement for Priesthood, all men must show a high degree of Sexual Integration where they have overcome their temptations of lust and have developed the freedom to authentically love.
When the Church talks about the “gay culture”, She is referring to people who promote the idea of gay marriage, which is a direct violation of Church teaching. Pope Francis referred to these type of people as “being part of the lobby.” The Church will not ordain any man who is not in Communion with the Church on any issue. Priests are representatives of the Church and must adhere to all Her teachings; as should every Catholic.
When Pope Francis says “the problem isn’t the orientation. The problem is making a lobby,” he is repeating that the real issue is when a man openly dissents from Church teaching. That’s when a man cannot be ordained.
Father Brett A. Brennan put it this way in his book To Save a Thousand Souls (which was published in 2010):
The Vatican Instruction indicates that a practicing homosexual or a man with deep-seated homosexual tendencies ought never to be ordained a priest. The Church cannot allow ordination of men who are active homosexuals or who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies.
But a man can be accepted for study if he has a significantly lesser degree of same-sex attraction which he has completely disclosed. He should completely and enthusiastically embrace the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. He should be growing in affective maturity and must have clearly overcome the transitory same-sex attraction, living chastely for at least three years before his diaconate ordination.
So yes, a man with Same Sex Attraction can become a Priest, but it’s a case by case basis. There is no solid answer.
What Pope Francis said is far from a “reversal” of Church Teaching, or a “new sign of openness”. The Church always has and always will welcome anyone, no matter race, gender, or sexuality, who is seeking Truth and seeking to do God’s will.