Friday, 24 September 2010


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Every bishop possesses the sacred duty of discerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders. St. Paul’s advice to Timothy is fitting for all bishops, especially today: “Do not lay hands too readily on anyone” (1 Tim. 5: 22). The church’s life and the way it manifests itself as the sacrament of salvation for the entire world leans inextricably on the shoulders of her priests. The supernatural “health,” one could say, of the church depends heavily on the fitness of candidates for ordination.

In the aftermath of the scandal of clerical sexual abuse of minors, the church and society have focused partly on the role of homosexuality. The question has arisen as to whether or not it is advisable for a bishop to admit a man with predominantly homosexual tendencies, or what some call “same sex attraction” (S.S.A.), to the seminary and/or present him for holy orders.

Thanks to a recent Circular Letter in 1997 from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments concerning the suitability of candidates for holy orders, some guidance and assistance from the Holy See have already been given in order to tackle the thorny and difficult issue of suitability.

The letter says that a vocation is based on “a moral certitude that is founded upon positive reasons regarding the suitability of the candidate.” Next, it mentions the fundamental reason not to admit a candidate to holy orders. The document says: “Admission may not take place if there exists a prudent doubt regarding the candidate’s suitability (Canon 1052 §3 with Canon 1030). By ‘prudent doubt’ is meant a doubt founded upon facts that are objective and duly verified.” Later, the congregation advises that it would seem “more appropriate to dismiss a doubtful candidate” than to lament the sadness and scandal of a cleric abandoning the ministry.

In other words, the congregation seems to suggest that even if there is only a “prudent doubt,” based on objective facts, about the suitability of any candidate, the best and safest course of action is not to admit him to holy orders. The church does not ask for certitude that a man does not have a vocation but simply that a doubt has arisen through a prudent examination of evidence. Even though there may be a lack of certitude but a definite prudent doubt, a proper ecclesiastical authority should judge the candidate to be unsuitable.

What about a candidate with S.S.A.? Does it introduce a prudent doubt about suitability resulting in not admitting an applicant to a formation program or not issuing the call to holy orders?

In order to determine the existence of a “prudent doubt,” it would be helpful to clarify the meaning of the term “homosexuality.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes it as “an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.” Some may experience a wide range of intensity or different types of attractions to persons of the same sex, as some experts propose. Although, in the context of determining suitability for ordination, it would seem appropriate to limit the definition of the term “homosexuality” to describe those with exclusive or predominant tendencies, because a “prudent doubt” can be better verified objectively based on the clear presence of the disorder. With this clear information, a bishop can then make his decision concerning suitability.

Some have described S.S.A. as a sexual “orientation.” At first glance, this description may seem to have some merit. The sexual attraction of someone with S.S.A. is “toward” persons of the same sex, and this “tending toward” could easily be described as an “orientation.” However, to classify homosexuality as an “orientation” may obfuscate the serious disorder that exists and the distortion that has been introduced into a biblically inspired Christian anthropology.

Genesis speaks of God creating an image of himself by making man “male and female.” In this dual and complementary relationship of persons, man finds within himself or can, in a certain sense, “read” in his body and in the body of a person of the opposite sex, a tendency to “leave his father and mother” and “cling” to the other (Gen. 2: 24). The sexual orientation, the “tending toward” another of the opposite sex, is “written” in man’s created constitution. It is part of what Pope John Paul II calls the “nuptial meaning of the body.” Any other tendency to “cling” to another (be it to persons of the same sex, children, beasts, objects) is an aberration of the divine economy in which God reveals himself by creating an image of himself in the orientation of male to female and female to male.

The “orientation” of those who have another attraction, other than the divinely constituted one, is not a true “orientation.” It would be better described as a “disorientation.” It is fundamentally flawed in its disordered attraction because it can never “image” God and never contribute to the good of the person or society. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that the disorientation of homosexuality is “objectively disordered.” Homosexuality may be an inclination, tendency or condition but it is fundamentally “dis-orienting” in that it tends toward a corrupt end. The attraction as such is not a sin. Only when one chooses to pursue the attraction in thought or deed does the disordered inclination become a disordered, and therefore sinful, choice.

Nevertheless, homosexual tendencies are aberrations that can and should be addressed by both the individual and by competent experts with the aid of behavioral sciences as well as by spiritual means, including prayer, the sacraments and spiritual direction. According to some experts, S.S.A. can be treated and even prevented with some degree of success. But does it introduce a “prudent doubt” when determining suitability for ordination?

There are a number of significant negative aspects to S.S.A. that contribute to a “prudent doubt” with regard to the suitability of a candidate for holy orders.

First and foremost among them is the possible simultaneous manifestation of other serious problems such as substance abuse, sexual addiction and depression. With more than one serious disorder, a candidate may find it difficult to respond to the demands of formation, and the seminary or religious house may struggle to accommodate the extra needs involved in the healing process of the individual.

Likewise, there is an increased possibility that persons with S.S.A. may be more familiar with certain patterns and techniques of deception and repression, either conscious or subconscious, which were learned in trying to deal with their tendencies in a largely heterosexual environment. After years of hiding or of being confused about their abnormal attractions, it is possible that duplicitous or pretentious behaviors could appear. These kinds of personal defects make the moral formation of the candidate much more difficult and can negatively affect the formation of the other candidates.

Another aspect that would contribute to a “prudent doubt” concerning a candidate with S.S.A. is a question about his adherence to church teaching. There are many men and women with S.S.A. who uphold and defend the church’s teaching on homosexuality. But if someone with S.S.A. is insecure about dealing straightforwardly with his disordered attractions or has some doubts about their disordered character, he may tend to possess a distorted and erroneous view of human sexuality. Thus, there exists the risk that such an individual will struggle with or even deny the clear teaching of the church regarding his disordered inclinations and any acts that might flow from these tendencies.

Part of the distortion of S.S.A. is the tendency to view the other person of the same sex as a possible sexual “partner” or even to reduce the other (also a temptation for heterosexuals) to a sexual object. In such a clearly male environment as the seminary and the priesthood, the temptation is ever-present for those with the disorder. This temptation could present very difficult circumstances and the overwhelming presentation of the object of their attraction (men), which is naturally part of an all-male and intensely close community, could make their efforts to live chastely or to be healed of their disorder very difficult.

Furthermore, as has been the unfortunate experience in some seminaries and dioceses, cliques may form based on the disordered attractions. This could hamper the healing process that might be possible for some, because the effeminate affective manners and a certain “acceptability” of the disorder are often promoted in such groups. Also these cliques can confuse young heterosexual men in the growth of their understanding of manhood and in developing skills and virtues to live a celibate life, because they can often see modeled in members of these cliques a disordered view of human sexuality and of proper masculine behavior.

Another question for determining suitability for a candidate with S.S.A. is whether the individual can live celibacy. Celibacy is a vocational choice to which one is bound by a vow or promise to live chastely for the sake of the kingdom of God by foregoing the good of marriage and family life. It is a sign of one’s identification with Christ, one’s availability for service to the church and of the spousal union between Christ and the church in the kingdom of God.

People with homosexual tendencies can live certain aspects of celibacy, but their commitment is significantly different from that of heterosexuals because it compromises two fundamental dimensions of celibacy.

On the one hand, celibacy involves a sacrifice of a good for a greater good. It sacrifices ordered and good inclinations toward spouse and family for the sake of the kingdom. For someone with S.S.A., an act of binding oneself by a vow or promise to abstain from something that one is already bound to avoid by the natural law (attractions toward someone of the same sex) seems superfluous. To avoid doing something (heterosexual acts) that one does not have an inclination to do is not a sacrifice. The struggle to live chastely may be extremely difficult for someone with homosexual tendencies, and these struggles would truly be meritorious and virtuous as acts of chastity, but not necessarily of celibacy.

Likewise, the spousal dimension of celibacy seems unclear for those with S.S.A.. Celibacy is a way of living the spousal character of Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. Through the celibate life, the priest redirects his sexual attraction to the opposite sex toward another “body,” the church, which is a “bride” in a complementary spousal relationship. He exercises a spiritual fatherhood and lives a supernatural spousal relationship as a sign to the church of Christ’s love for her. Someone afflicted with S.S.A. cannot redirect his inclination toward a complementary “other” in a spousal relationship, because homosexuality has disordered his sexual attraction toward the opposite sex. It then becomes difficult to be genuinely a sign of Christ’s spousal love for the church.

If it can be said that a man with homosexual tendencies can live a celibate life, at the very least it is lacking some important elements due to S.S.A., and it could be another reason to conclude that there exists a prudent doubt as to his suitability for holy orders.

It would seem that if there are firmly established facts, both from an objective psychological evaluation and an examination in the external forum of past and present behavior and choices, that a man does indeed suffer from S.S.A. as an “exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex” (Catechism, No. 2357), then he should not be admitted to holy orders, and his presence in the seminary would not only give him false hope but it may, in fact, hinder the needed therapy and healing that might come from appropriate psychological and spiritual care. It may be that a man could be healed of such a disorder and then he could be considered for admission to the seminary and possibly to Holy Orders, but not while being afflicted with the disorder.

The Pauline exhortation not to “lay hands too readily on anyone” is a heavy responsibility for any bishop; but if a candidate’s suitability is scrutinized with prudence, the act of “laying on of hands” will bear abundant fruit in the lives of those who will be touched by the ministry of a priest.

The Rev. Andrew R. Baker, a priest of the Diocese of Allentown, Pa., is on the staff of the Congregation for Bishops in Rome.

Andrew R. Baker | SEPTEMBER 30, 2002


Interview with Father de Tanoüarn the Good Shepherd Institute

The Good Shepherd Institute was created by the Holy See on the feast of The Nativity of Our Lady (Sept. 8th) as a traditional society of apostolic life. When it was founded less than two months ago, it began with five former French SSPX priests who had left or been expelled from the Society. It now claims at least nine seminarians from several countries with many others, including many priests, showing interest in taking up with the newly created institute. Although it is headquartered in France, the GSI is not in any way consigned to any geographic boundaries, and is already garnering interest many other areas around the globe.

According to their official charge, the GSI is authorized to administer any and all traditional sacraments. The churches under its control will be given official “parish” status, although this can only be done with the express permission of the local bishop. Also of note, not only are they permitted to critically analyze the documents of the Second Vatican Council, but they have a specific mandate - in fact a duty - to do so.

The creation of the institute took most by surprise, save for those few whom had managed to catch wind of it beforehand, but were sworn to secrecy.

When the “French Connection” and I were discussing the matter, he informed me that he was sure that he could arrange an exclusive with one of these priests. I told him I would put some questions together. For this interview however, being that he is the one on the scene in France and being that he is the one who has built a rapport with these priests, I insisted that in addition to my questions he should ask a few as well. French Connection agreed.

Hence we are blessed to have as our guest, Father Guillaume de Tanoüarn. In addition to being one of the “Bordeaux 5”, Father de Tanoüarn is the author of "Vatican II et l'Evangile" (Vatican II and the Gospel) and "L'Evidence Chrétienne" (Christian Obviousness). He is also founder of the Saint Paul center in Paris.

Please be mindful when reading the interview that it had to be translated into French and the answers had to be translated from French into English.


Father, you’re one of the five former SSPX priest who founded the Good Shepherd Institute. How did this happen? And who initiated the contact with Rome?

Well, we began as a group of 5 priests who already knew each other. The five included Fr. Héry – he and I were in seminary at the same time, where we had lengthy and deep discussions. Then there is Fr. Philippe Laguerie, who as my first superior I was under his orders for 7 years. Then there is Fr. Aulagnier, with whom I wrote the book “La Tradition sans peur” (Tradition Without Fear), in which he fully confides. Incidentally the book was prefaced by Fr. Laguerie. Then there is Fr. Forestier, who although I’ve known for shorter period of time because he is younger, we appreciate each other pretty much.

So we were a group of 5 priests, bound by sacerdotal friendship. It’s hard to say where the idea came from. It just came and grew.

Now, if you mean the chronology of how the Good Shepherd Institute was erected, I must mention the actions of Fr. Barthe who negotiated with Cardinal Hoyos. The result was an act of adhesion, which give us the right to constructive criticism toward the Second Vatican Council (“constructive”, as opposed to “polemical”) showing full respect for those involved. This in fact was always the position of Archbishop Lefebvre, who wanted to read the Council of Vatican II in the light of Catholic Tradition.

Paradoxically, Cardinal Ricard, the Archbishop of Bordeaux, also played a role by urging Fr. Laguerie to regularize his situation after he was ousted from the SSPX.

And we shall not forget the very nature of things: It was not possible to remain suspended for great a period of time. A Catholic heart can’t stand it too long. We found in Rome warm understanding, pastoral charity, and also great diplomatic skills by Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos.

I think that traditionalists can’t remain separated from Rome unless they want it so - either because they fear the episcopates or because they are eager to remain aloof, spiritually speaking.

You are answerable to the Ecclesia Dei commission – which has been in existence since 1988 – Why did you wait until 2006 to join up?

In 1988 and in the years that followed, the spirit in Rome was totally different than what it is today. In 1988, with the motu proprio Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, Pope John Paul II (bene volens male volens) set an attitude of tolerance toward traditionalists. They were allowed into the institutional Church, but only through the back door.

The FSSP was created at that time as a sort of “decontamination chamber” to help traditionalists transition toward the Church of Vatican II. Soon enough, it was clear the maneuver would not work - with most FSSP priests refusing this ecclesial prospect and not willing to play such a role. Many tensions resulted, such as the nomination of a non-elected superior in 2000.

Step by step, by the end of the reign of John Paul II, the mindset changed. The liturgical question became important, which had been considered insignificant until then. There was an encyclical (Ecclesia de Eucharistia) in 2003 and a pastoral letter (Redemptionis Sacramentum) in 2004. At first, the idea was to improve the way the Pauline Mass is celebrated – but it evolved and the idea of a liberalization or Tridentine Mass emerged.

Today, the election of Benedict XVI confirms this. The pope wishes a liberalization of the traditional rite – and even though the new motu proprio hasn’t been published yet, the Good Shepherd Institute benefits from that freedom. We’re no longer second class Catholics whose fantasies are merely tolerated – we’re the custodians of a liturgical treasure which benefits the entire Church by manifesting the glory of Her divine Spouse.

So there’s a new state of mind in Rome, and you become part of the Ecclesia Dei circle of influence. What’s you’re specific charisma there?

We’re not the fifth wheel of the Ecclesia Dei car, or the thirteenth wheel if you wish, as thirteen groups are answerable to that commission, the Good Shepherd Institute being the youngest one. We’re not serving a “circle of influence”; we’re fully in the Roman Catholic Church, which we wish to serve at a difficult time in Her history. We have a double specificity: From a pastoral point of view, and according to the name we choose for our Institute, we want to open personal parishes -traditional personal parishes - in France and elsewhere. Personal parishes are not much of a problem in the USA, but in Europe they are a new concept – a concept that raises deliberate hostility from French bishops.

Also, we want to contribute – as much as we are able – to theological work and aide in renewing Catholic intelligence. The time has come to definitively quit religious ideologies which were imposed in the sixties. Our age is one of uncertainty and fear, and we want to respond to this by proposing the traditional Roman Catholic forms of liturgy and theology.

You mention ‘religious ideologies’ – would you define this?

For example the ideas which fall under what the philosopher Jacques Maritain called “the “temporalization” of God’s kingdom” – in other words, an unhealthy mixture consisting of politics and religion, but also (and more subtly) those theologies which mistake therapy for spirituality or self development for eternal salvation. Faced with these tendencies, we feel it’s essential to show in the liturgy “God felt by the heart” as Pascal (the 17th century philosopher) said. We want to show, without any fear, the power of seduction the Catholic Faith has when it is in all of its splendor, and we want to appeal to everyone’s responsibility toward the truth of its destiny.

Today cultural challenges won’t be met unless Catholics stop considering Vatican II as the new tables of the law, and enthusiastically rediscover the richness of the great Roman Catholic Tradition.

How will you expand? You need altars, you need priests. What about bishops?

For the time being, the GSI has the Saint-Eloi church in the center of Bordeaux, where our headquarters are located. It’s a 13th century church, a magnificent building that had been abandoned, but was restored by a group led by Father Laguérie.

We have a seminary in Courtalain, 150 kilometers (93 miles) away from Paris, which was just opened. The seminary hosts 7 first year seminarians; one is a Pole, one is a Mexican, and one is Brazilian, the others are French.

In Paris, where I am, we opened a cultural center with courses and conferences that reach outside of the traditionalist circles. 300 people attend Mass here on an average Sunday.

Also, we opened a house in Rome (a “procuracy” is the technical name) with 4 students. Two are seminarians and two are priests. We’ve got contacts in Latin America – where some 10 priests around Fr Rafael Navas are on the verge of joining the GSI. We’ve also got some other contacts, here and there.

Last but not least, we’ll have three ordinations very soon.

Regarding France, I’m optimistic despite the bishops here. They are often hostile and seem to be laid back in the eighties, as if they didn’t take into account the evolutions of the Universal Church. But I’m optimistic, for a simple reason: demography. There are more churches than priests in France, and the ratio isn’t getting any better. Also, I feel the bishops will finally follow the pope’s will - even those who don’t hide their John Paul II nostalgia.

Some think (or fear) that the Good Shepherd Institute was erected in order to destabilize the SSPX.

We don’t intend to compete with the SSPX. The SSPX has created a stronghold to stay within until the crisis is over. That was their angle. Ours is different. We put ourselves at the pope’s disposal, without any delay, which is a less comfortable position, but a more exciting one. We don’t seek confrontation with the SSPX, but we wish to debate truly, in order to elaborate theological answers following Vatican II.

That’s the reason we’re organizing a large meeting in Paris on November 20, under the motto ‘Catholic Tradition – our Common Good’. The SSPX was at the top of our invitation list, we wanted them to take part in the debates. SSPX superiors decided they couldn’t accept, but I’m confident things will change with the passing of time – whatever personal wounds this attitude may conceal.

This is no time for division. All those who sincerely want to see traditional liturgy and traditional theology returned to the faithful must unite - as Catholic Tradition really is our common good.

Thank you Father for answering our questions. Is there anything you would like to add ?

Yes – I understand some members of your forum doubt the Good Shepherd Institute will succeed, or that it will even remain traditional. As you know: “By their fruits you shall know them”. I tell your readers: ‘Wait and see’. Would you agree on another interview, say by next year? By this time we’ll be able to draw a first appraisal of the Good Shepherd Institute.

By John Grasmeier and the French Connection
November, 2006