From Rome: More trial balloons

balloons2As I said not that long ago, we remain at the trial balloon stage in the ongoing drama of the Vatican and gay seminarians. Over and over we have seen MSM reports that Rome was poised to release the long-awaited Congregation for Catholic Education document that is supposed to “ban” — or maybe not, or maybe just a little bit — the admission of homosexuals from seminaries.

Once again, the omnipresent John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter has the anti-scoop. His source says that the almost certainly weakened set of directives is due out late this month.

A news report late this week suggesting the document would come out on Friday turned out to be a false alarm, but it does indicate the sense of heightened expectations surrounding its eventual publication. Over recent weeks, a spate of leaks have surfaced about the document, some suggesting a rigid stance against the admission of homosexuals, others pointing to a set of criteria that could leave room for more flexible judgment calls in individual cases. To some extent, these seemingly conflicting reports may boil down to what parts of the document one chooses to emphasize — and, perhaps, what particular “spin” a given source wishes to apply.

And so forth and so on, world without end.

Trust me when I say that this thing is still in flux. There is no way that the most progressive Catholic elements of American (and European) life — which would be the world of academia and the national and regional bureaucracies — are going to accept a policy with steel in it.

Instead, look for more tough talk about celibacy. Why? Talking about celibacy sounds conservative (and it is, in a way), but it leaves the status quo alone — which is good for the many gay Catholics (on the left and right) who are already ordained and in positions of power. Here is how I put it the other day:

Why talk so much about celibacy? That’s simple. If you cannot (a) afford, for statistical reasons, to seriously cut the number of gay priests serving at altars and you (b) also know that it is next to impossible to strictly define what it means for someone to be gay, once actively gay, possibly gay, militantly gay or even formerly tempted to be gay, then you (c) focus harder on getting all of your priests (you too, straight guys in overwhelmingly female parishes) to do a better job of keeping their vows.

More ballons ahead? Don’t be surprised if this story hangs around for a long time.

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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.


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