Observations and comments on sexual identity, celibacy and ministry
As an association of U.S. Catholic Priests, we, along with our friends, have a mission of offering mutual support and a collegial voice through dialogue, contemplation and prophetic action on issues affecting church and society.
Our personal and collective experience, along with our unwavering commitment to Catholic teaching, lead us to offer the following observations regarding priesthood, sexual identity, celibacy and ministry.
• Sexual orientation is an identity, not a tendency. The process of maturing enables most persons to know, affirm, and accept the truth of their orientation.
• Finding the truth about oneself, especially the truth of one's sexual orientation, is a progressive and challenging process. For some it may be agonizing because of cultural, religious and familial biases.
• The notion that homosexually oriented persons, men or women, are less able to honor a celibate commitment than heterosexually oriented persons -- and therefore should not aspire to priesthood or religious life -- is questionable, discriminative, and, unless proven, unjust.
• Individuals who aspire to celibate priesthood in the Catholic Church, or have already been ordained as Catholic priests committed to celibacy, must intend and be true to that commitment. Violation of such a commitment is seriously sinful and unacceptable whether the violation is heterosexual or homosexual. An individual priest, unable consistently to honor that discipline and commitment, should honorably resign priesthood.
• A priest's sexual abuse of any person -- whether homosexually or heterosexually, with male or female, adult, youth, or child -- should rightly provoke zero tolerance and rightly be cause for expulsion, whatever that priest's record or rank. The same zero tolerance position applies equally to any person in religious life or lay ministry.
• Dialogue always seeks clarity and is not done in haste. In regard to published comments from Pope Francis, the word "fashionable" in regard to men and women who identify as homosexual in orientation is a term in need of clarification. Sexual orientation is not a choice or a whim, nor like a garment one puts on. It is an integral part of one’s humanity and capacity to relate to others. Homosexual clergy and religious who integrate their identity can be and should be healthy, honorable, and effective in ministry. Many surely are as evidenced by several witnesses in the recent New York Times article.
Rev. Bernard “Bob” Bonnot
Executive Director — AUSCP
February 18, 2019