Silence on that hot Vatican scoop?

Every now and then, a story comes out in a niche magazine or alternative form of media that stops me dead in my tracks and makes me say, “Wow! What a scoop! What will the MSM do with that?”

Since this is a blog about the major media and religion news, I tend to wait until someone else picks up the story before I write about it. Recently we had one of those “Wow!” stories and I have been waiting and waiting and waiting and . . .

So I guess I better let GetReligion readers help me figure out what happened to the hot story that the one and only John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter broke not that long ago. You knew it was a big story, because Andrew Sullivan blasted away from the progressive side of the church aisle and Catholic World News was encouraged on the traditional end of the kneeler. The story?

Sources indicate that the long-awaited Vatican document on the admission of homosexuals to seminaries is now in the hands of Pope Benedict XVI. The document, which has been condensed from earlier versions, reasserts the response given by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 2002, in response to a dubium submitted by a bishop on whether a homosexual could be ordained: “A homosexual person, or one with a homosexual tendency, is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders.”

That reply was published in the November-December 2002 issue of Notitiae, the official publication of the congregation.

It is up to Benedict XVI to decide whether to issue the new document as it stands, to send it back for revision, or to shelve it on the basis that for now such a document is “inopportune.”

So did I miss the story somewhere else? Or did Allen nail it with a piece of enformed speculation lower in his report? You see, people tend to forget that sexuality issues in the Catholic world are not strictly a left vs. right affair. It is also a matter of public vs. private.

Privately, some hope Benedict will decide to put the document in a desk drawer for the time being, on the grounds that it will generate controversy and negative press without changing anything in terms of existing discipline.

As one bishop put it to me, the policy against ordaining homosexuals is already clear — the only interesting question is, what do you mean by a “homosexual”? At one end of the continuum, it could refer to anyone who once had a fleeting same-sex attraction; at another, it could be restricted to someone who is sexually active and openly part of a “gay pride” movement. Most people would exclude those extremes, but where is the line drawn in between?

Watch Allen for the updates. He is the insiders’ insider. It is hard to overemphasize how important this story is among Catholic politicos. I cannot believe that the MSM did not chase the work of a reporter as plugged in as Allen.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • jason

    It is impossible not to wonder what this new leader will decide on this big story. Perhaps he is a man of integrity, for whom the Biblical condemnation of homosexual practices means something, and he will let the statement stand and be enforced.

  • Dan Berger

    I think the question raised in the last quoted paragraph, “what do you mean by a ‘homosexual’?” is the crux.

    I tend to fall in line with Richard John Neuhaus, who points out that our business is to deal with breaches of church discipline, not to ask what temptations people are dealing with. That means that (a) any sexual activity outside sacramental marriage is sinful–including but not limited to homosexual activity–and (b) “one with a homosexual tendency is not fit to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders” is going a bit overboard.

  • Molly

    What happens to all the homosexuals already ordained?

  • SEV

    I thought the Catholic cathechism (2357-9) answers the question that homosexuality is the predominant sexual attraction to people of the same sex, and that homosexual people are called to a life of chastity. It further says that homosexual people are to be treated with respect, compassion, etc, and any sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. Given this, why is still a question? How is a chaste man (who experiences attraction to other men) less qualified to be a priest than a chaste man (who experience attraction to women)?

  • Christopher Fotos

    Excellent post–I was waiting for MSM coverage and further developments too.

    I’m with Dan, Molly and SEV on this. Not to mention Fr. Neuhaus.

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  • DL

    Never view articles in the National Catholic Reporter with faith that they represent anything near Catholic thought. Try the National Catholic Register to get a more authentic view.