'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'

The Seminary: The beginning of the journey for Priests
I've read a couple of blog posts on the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, recently, one of which was by the great Fr Z. I must say that the whole idea of 'don't ask, don't tell' confuses me.

You can understand it in the military. Someone's orientation might affect troop morale somewhere down the line, there might be destructive relationships, 'best keep that kind of thing to yourself, m'lad' because, sad as it is, you might get beaten up if you admitted it anyway.

Yet, within the seminaries the way of 'don't ask, don't tell', I wonder, does it really work for anybody? Does the Church benefit from not knowing? Do seminarians benefit from not telling? It strikes me that if you apply the policy of not asking and people not telling on issues fundamental to the life of the Church, vocations and the seminary, then you end up with the sexual abuse crisis, a crisis which, ironically, and particularly in the US, seems to be a lot more about homosexuality than it is about paedophilia. This may sound controversial, but those in the Vatican and beyond who have studied the facts suggest the victims in the US were, in the main, at the age of 'boys to men' - pubescent males, rather than pre-pubescent males.

Clearly, in the seminary, nobody 'asked', and nobody 'told' any of their superiors that, although these men entering the seminary appeared full of optimism about living their vocation as Priests, they were as spiritually incapable of holding their secret passions in check, as they were in having responsibility for the protection of children. If they did, those superiors didn't tell anyone else. Nobody asked them whether they were homosexual and nobody said that they were, so they were allowed to just 'get on with their vocation'. While we can believe that there were (or are) many homosexual priests who were (are) not sexual predators and lived chaste and holy lives, let us also accept that there were many who were. Still, during this period, nobody asked and nobody told. Then, when the Dioceses discovered they had massive perverts running their parishes, they decided to keep quiet about it - don't ask, don't tell! Don't even tell the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith! How very effective and wise - if you're into child molestation and the grooming of young males into homosexuality within the Church, that is!

And this rot, this 'filth', as Pope Benedict XVI has called it, within the Church, the Bride of Christ who has been serially raped by many of those in authority from the 1960s onwards, runs deeper, far deeper than that singular issue, because there are other issues over which seminarians, some of whom would later go onto become Bishops were not 'asked' and therefore did not 'tell' about. Homosexuality is not the only one. As Fr Ray Blake says in his blog, in the 1960s and 70s, for one reason or another, seminarians were clearly not 'asked' whether they were Freemasons and neither did they 'tell'.

Popes down the ages, since the birth of 'enlightenment thought' have condemned freemasonry as being utterly contrary to the Faith and have had the conviction that it is, at its heart, anti-Christian - a scourge of society and the Church. These Popes words are most assuredly to be trusted. Let us imagine, then, that not only did the Church take on many homosexuals into the Priesthood, in particular, homosexuals unable to live their vocation, but took into the Priesthood many active Freemasons who were unable to distinguish between the teachings of Christ and the teachings of Buddha, or Mohammed and who still had an attachment to 'the Lodge' and you have not just a lot of homosexual Priests unable to live their vocation, but a lot of heretical Priests, some of whom had a nefarious interest in magic and the occult, unable to proclaim Christ to their flocks and unable to put Holy Mother Church first.

Neither, during this devastating period for the Church, did seminaries ask whether their students were 'card-carrying' communists or just plain old left-wing ideologues whose minds had been addled by Karl Marx and ideologies which run totally contrary to the Holy Faith. These candidates, steeped in liberation theology, if you can call it a theology, were unable to proclaim Jesus Christ to their flocks because they thought that Jesus Christ wore not a Crown of Thorns, but an ammunition belt and an silly, black hat. Nobody asked them whether they were communists, nobody said they were and these students went on to become Priests and, who knows, maybe Bishops.

As far as I know, the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is still in operation in many seminaries and I have to say that this issue is less about homosexuality than it is about secrets, lies, prejudice, fear and a total lack of transparency within the Church. There is nothing holy about it, there is nothing adult about it. Seminarians should most certainly be asked whether they are homosexuals. They should also be asked whether they actually believe the teachings of the One True Church. They should be asked whether they are loyal to the Holy Father. They should be asked whether or not they are communists or Marxists. They should certainly be asked whether they are Freemasons. They should be asked whether they adhere to the Magisterium of the Church as expressed through the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Then, when they have been honest and transparent, those in authority should assess whether these candidates are suitable Priests or not; whether these candidates are able to live as a Priest and to defend Christ and His Holy Gospel and His Bride, the Church, or indeed, not. Screening for the Priesthood should be thorough, very thorough indeed, in order to establish that the candidate understands exactly what it means to be a Priest and in order to assess whether he is actually capable of living those holy and sacred vows. What is more, this can be done in an adult way which does not humiliate him nor use his sexual orientation as a way to denigrate him, in a way which upholds his God-given dignity as the Catechism itself states. It does not mean that no man of this orientation can ever be a Priest, it means that a man who has already dedicated himself to living chastely for a suitably long period, who is totally committed to Christ and His Gospel, may be admitted, but that someone who either sees himself as 'homosexual first, Christ's second' or someone either with no intention of living chastly or one who is unable to do so, may not.

Perhaps, then, whether they are homosexuals, Freemasons, communists or ideologues of any kind, after candidates have been 'asked' and have 'told', they will, with God's grace, either reject everything that runs contrary to the Gospel, before entering the seminary and will have rejected these sinful lifestyles, ideologies and heretical beliefs long before, years later, they become Bishops, or they do not, and find a secular career. If a candidate cannot fulfil these basic, essential criteria he should be turned away in order to protect children, the Faithful, Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

You can be assured that if people are not asked, and do not tell, about any of these matters essential to the vocation of the Priesthood, that the 'sexual abuse scandal', which, from beginning to end, is a work of the Devil, will not be just a black episode in the Church's history, but a matter which pertains as much to the present and to the future as it does to the past, because CRB checks and 'stringent child protection' procedures alone will not stop men who are either unwilling or unable to say 'no' to what runs totally contrary to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ.


Paul Mallinder said…
A very interesting and well thought out post. However, it seems to me that people do change. For example, a Seminarian may not have a pedophile (Free Mason etc) orientation and becomes a Priest. Later on this person changes and now has a pedophile orientation. What happens then?
The difference is in choosing eggs.

Do we buy eggs that are fresh or do we buy eggs that are gone off already?

I guess the analogy doesn't work in as much as all eggs go off eventually, unlike all Priests, but the eggs need screening in as much as the off ones need to be rooted out first in case they poison us.

If some break later on, there was nothing that could be done to foresee it. If they break, they, too, need to be removed.

The sex abuse thing: Well, clearly, some in authority are culpable, perhaps more culpable than the offenders, in as much as they knew, but did nothing, kept it covered up. Off eggs and broken eggs were left in the Church to poison the Faithful, damage souls, weaken faith, injure and abuse innocents.

People are unpredictable, that is true, but means at the Church's disposal exist in order to limit what horrendous damage can be done. We are not God, we don't have the fore-knowledge of what people will do with the free will He has given them and, indeed, us. The emphasis should be on transparency to try and LIMIT the damage candidates can do. Then, those with the awesome duty of choosing candidates can say, "We tried our best" both to God and man.

epsilon said…
"They should also be asked whether they actually believe the teachings of the One True Church. "

Do they even know them??

Of course, you're right Lawrence, but why oh why is it always the lefties who are the baddies? People with very right-wing views never seem to get the same treatment, but obviously are just as extreme. And call me a pc nitpicker if you want but why do we always end up with white = pure and perfect, black = bad? Is the English language so basic that black is the only word to describe evil, disaster, misfortune, while the largest part of the world's most vulnerable population is also called black?
Oh, but we do have black Priests.

We import them from Africa because there are so few coming through in the UK.
epsilon said…
:) great way to shut me up - thanks for the reminder!
Martin Longbridge said…
You seem to be confused about the concept of 'don't ask, don't tell'' Lawrence.

All semenarians indeed are asked in depth and in great detail about their sexual orientation, sexual experience and history of relationships as part of the psychological and general assessment undertaken. Certainly since around the time of Vatican 2 this has been the case (at least in the european/american world). It is therefore inconcievable that anyone reaching ordination would not have their sexuality known. It is not a matter of some priests never having been asked whether they are homosexually or bisexually orientated. Some conservative religious orders may be exceptions to the above as they have not updatd their recruitment and selction procedures.

Where there might be some parrallel to 'don't ask, don't tell' is that there was a policy of tolerating sexual acticity among clergy and a blind eye was turned unless circumstances made it such that the situation could no longer be ignored. It was acceptable for priests to be sexually active (hetero or homo) as long as they were discreet and didn't 'cause scandal' like get someone pregnant or get caught cruising gay bars etc. It was this culture that most likely contributed to the sexual abuse scandals.

I think you are also too eager to absolve the vatican from being complicit in the abuse scandals. There are many accounts of diocesean bishops imploring the curia for help, assistance, support and guidance in dealing with abusing priests but the vatican had a 'don't ask, do't policy' and made it clear they didn't want to be involved. Read some of the US court case transcripts and bishops depositions for accounts of how unhelpful th vatican (eg Sodano etc) were.
Cardinal Sodano? It wouldn't surprise me.
Matin longbridge said…
But not just Cardinal Sodano (as that would be scapegoating), the Curia at large - for indeed it appears that it was (and to a certain extent, still is) an institutional problem.