Friday, 22 March 2013

'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': How Did That Work Out For You?

Honesty is the best policy. We have nothing to fear from the truth. What happens when we lie or conceal is far more frightening. I don't know whether seminaries are operating a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy in regard to admitting homosexual persons to the Priesthood. How did that policy work out for you, Cardinal O'Brien? How did that policy work out for you, Catholic Church in Scotland? Never mind how Cardinal O'Brien rose to the rank of Cardinal. How on Earth did this man get ordained?

The Church, surely, must ask men coming forward for the Priesthood about their sexual orientation and make a judgment call on whether a man has sufficiently mastered his disordered passions to be considered for the Sacred Priesthood. If Holy Church is still ordaining homosexual men (and it is likely She is) then surely the Church needs to get real and ask some very serious questions of those being admitted to Holy Orders.

It doesn't have to be the Inquisition, but some serious questions need to be asked because, for Heaven's sake, the man you are preparing for ordination could one day be a Bishop, Cardinal or even a Pope. I do not know whether there has, since a certain time, been a 'homosexual culture' or a 'homosexual sub-culture' in the Church. I do not know whether these things have taken place in seminaries and been ignored, or simply allowed to flourish or whether at some point people just decided that some questions are too personal to ask.

Faithful sons of the Church must, surely, be ready to be totally frank with their spiritual directors and with seminaries about their sexuality. If a frank, respectful and mature discussion between candidates for the Priesthood and those with the grave responsibility in ensuring these candidates are suitable for Holy Orders is not taking place on this issue, then this issue will bite the Church (and Her members) on the behind for not years, but decades to come.

The sexual abuse crisis and the crisis of priestly celibacy in the Church should not lead us to ask whether the Church needs to relax 'rules' for Priests. If anything 'rules' or a 'rule' needs to be reinforced. Both of these issues make it starkly clear that selection policy and criteria for the sacred Priesthood has not been rigorous enough. So much has been brushed under the carpet. Now that the carpet has been taken up, the whole world can see the "filth" alluded to by Pope Emeritus Benedict.

Cardinal O'Brien has made the Catholic Church look utterly ridiculous. Let us, however, be open to the idea that the Catholic Church, in its utterly slack selection procedures of men to the Sacred Priesthood, has made itself entirely worthy of ridicule. Talk about handing a victory to the Tablet's 'celibacy doesn't work' publicity machine! If Priests, seminarians, rectors and those with the grave responsibility to form men of God to be priests don't actually take the rule of celibacy seriously then of course 'celibacy doesn't work'.

We all know how hard it is for seminarians at Oscott College, for example, to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, because even though it is perfectly valid under the law of the Church to request it thanks to Summorum Pontificum, such requests have been obstinately refused. I do hope the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations, with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders is applied with greater prudence and care for the Universal Church and Her members. I mean by that, of course, I hope it is applied.

However, if Oscott cannot see fit to abide by one relatively recent Church law, or rule of great importance for the life of the Church, one cannot be entirely optimistic that they see fit to abide by another. This is one of the dangers of creating a sense of a 'national Church', you see. It means that when Rome does or says something incredibly sensible, everyone pays the price when Rome is ignored. Then, when it all blows up, who gets the blame? Rome!


P Standish said...

Lord knows what the past practice was, but of late (2005) this is the key document, reinforced I believe in 2009.

P Standish said...


The Bones said...

Okay, great.

Is it being enforced?

blondpidge said...

All prospective seminarians have to go through a fairly rigorous selection conference followed by a process of in depth psychological testing at St Luke's Manchester. It's extremely thorough, no stone is left unturned, the whole system is entirely different from O'Brien's day.

Plus seminarians have six years of human development with a chastity weekend early on in the first year. Chastity is talked about the whole time, They have one on one counselling all the time, it's ongoing throughout formation.

Chastity and celibacy is explicitly talked about all the time and in a very positive way. Most seminarians I know are sick of talking about it!

My perception is that we have the best ever prepared generation of seminarians than ever before. It's extremely encouraging. For the first time seminarians are embracing celibacy and chastity as a positive fruitful aspect of their ministry, not merely out of obedience.

Formation is far better now in terms of preparing men for the cultural challenges than ever before. The John Jay reported a spike in abuse cases in the 60s and 70s when people were struggling to cope with the implications of the sexual revolution. O'Brien was unfortunately a product of his time.

Amfortas said...

The position outlined in the document did not apply before 2005. As a homosexual - oops, sorry, as someone with 'same sex attraction' - I was entirely open with the diocesan authorities about my sexuality when I entered seminary in the year 2000. There was no question of 'don't ask, don't tell' for anyone who went through the selection process at that time (homosexual or not). The process was - understandably - designed to examine every corner of your life.

I left seminary after two years because I lost my faith. Seminary does that to some people. It took ten or eleven years to recover my faith. I have, by the way, lived a chaste and celibate life for about seventeen years. I have no hang ups about my sexuality and I accept Catholic teaching.

The diocesan authorities went to some lengths to ensure that my 'disordered passions' were sufficiently mastered. You say you hope this happens now. But if the position set out in 2005 is followed then there can be no question of doing this. Celibate, well adjusted homosexual (yes, this is possible)? Sorry, we can't admit you for training. What does this mean in practice? Quite simply that men now lie or hide their sexuality.

On the side of the angels said...

Do you know something about Cardinal O'Brien that we don't?

I understand that this is a inflammatory situation bu please reconsider what you're actually saying.

The Bones said...

Cardinal O'Brien has publicly admitted there have been problems with his celibacy as a "priest, Bishop and as a Cardinal".

I only ask how such a man was ordained, since if he has struggled with celibacy as priest, Bishop and Cardinal, it perhaps should be expected that he struggled with it as a seminarian as well.

Amfortas said...

In what sense did Cardinal O'Brien lead a double life? We don't have anough details to be able to say this.

The Bones said...

And why is that?

Because the Cardinal has issued a vague apology and is no longer available to comment!

The Bones said...

Perhaps Cardinal O'Brien could publicly refute the allegations in this article and fill Scotland's Catholics in on the 'details'.

Of course, until this happens any speculation on exactly what His Eminence meant in his statement is just 'plain wrong'...

Having taken flight, I am not expecting His Eminence to do any such thing soon. He seems content to let people make up their own minds while reading the daily Scottish press.

Frederick Oakeley said...

Why pick on homosexual orientation. What about heterosexuals. They are just as liable to be tempted - so should the Church be careful about ordaining them. Perhaps we ought only to go in for eunuchs. None of us can know the truth about others so judge not that ye be not judged and that goes for Bones too.

Amfortas said...

Who can blame Cardinal O'Brien for keeping a low profile, caught between the tabloid press and Catholic blogs?

On the side of the angels said...

Laurence with the deepest respect you're being bang out of order by bringing His Eminence into all this.

Priestly training IS bad; sure it's not as horrendous as it was but contrary to what others may say there is simply neither enough training nor education and certainly not enough pastoral experience before men are ordained - how can I say this? Been there - been with the priests who've suffered because of it and the structure still hasn't changed enough to convince anyone that men are being prepared. If you think not being trained in the EF is a dereliction there are many, many others. I hate to say this but the majority of 'pastoral ministry' courses are performed by priests who never actually ran a parish or rather work on ideological pastoral ministry which is at great variance from, if not antagonism to, real pastoral ministry [I dare say you've more experience than your average ordained neophyte]
Seminarians may have sexual 'wobbles' [and contrary to what others have said online I am NOT talking from personal experience but from that of many, many friends] but may go on to have truly wondrous holy ministries. Others may completely keep their noses clean throughout their entire time in seminary - acting like the archangel gabriel - but they are merely biding their time until they get ordained and THEN they are up to their shenanigans. Others can have perfectly mundane celibate lives for the first 15-20 years of their ministry and then the midlife crisis ensues and their loneliness, despondency and isolation is overwhelmed with a 'life running out and never been loved' - especially when this is compounded by a seemingly futile, alienating ministry - some merely survive with porn addiction or anonymous cyber sexual activity ; some go on to a more physical expression with anonymous away-days for trysts or distant holiday flings...somefind solace with other clerics or parishioners...some [especially in the US or the higher hierarchy] have housekeepers/deacons/PAs/secretaries who share more than just meals...
Yes it's all wrong - but psych-assessments [ and hey I've been through the CIA/Interpol/FBI based ones, was a lab-rat for the full on clinical psychology psychometric tests at Uni as well as havng the full-on seminary intensive scrutinies ] will not reveal whether a person is lying or lying to themselves or is not going to fall apart in a decade or two's time...
How do I know? Because some of the ones who were shining stars and exemplars in seminary were the first to go off the rails - yet some of highest [deceased] clerics in the land had major falls in their time in seminary and these days would have been kicked out the door - but these men having been given second chances went on to give holy mother church 50+ years of devoted celibate priestly service to death. I won't speak about living clerics but some of the biggest reprobates we're lumbered with had gleaming 'blue-eyed boy' seminary records.

We can very much blame the 70s & 80s'goodbye good men' systems esp. in the US where gay clerics ran virtual brothels or a certain English seminary where night prayer was basically held at the local gay sauna, or certain religious orders where celibacy ensured you were kicked out and sent off to the developing world missions - but ever since there's been a stultifying 'don't ask, don't tell' policy combined with the mutually-assured concordat of 'don't p*ss on your own doorstep and don't get caught because if you do that's the end of it all for you...' [tbc]

On the side of the angels said...

The reason there has been a 'purifying' of seminaries is because it's come from the bottom up...those entering have been more inclined to sacrificing and serving according to that way of life - the establishment simply followed suit and performed the directives more out of fear of potentially letting clerical abusers through than scrutinising those who won't survive a clerical's infinitely better in this regard BUT the training is still woefully inadequate...hence the reason we have fewer priests falling is because they are stronger..not because they were helped to develop their strengths.

blondpidge said...

The formation in 2013 as well as the selection process is vastly different to that of the 1990s.

There is no 'don't ask, don't tell' policy. It is also untrue to state that those carrying out formation do not have pastoral experience.

Anecdote from 1 seminary 20 odd years ago (and it sounds a rum old place from various accounts) does not make anyone an authority.

No formation process no matter how thorough can provide a cast iron guarantee against sin, but a rigorous selection procedure combined with excellent training is ensuring that the future generation of priests are far better prepared than their predecessors. We also need to remember that the vast majority of our priests are good holy men, despite the media narratives.

I was in seminary yesterday. What did I see, a group of happy holy and spiritually healthy young men excited about beginning their ministry. As for comparisons with a gay sauna - that's offensive. Not a description that anyone who spends time overnight there would accept or recognise.

On the side of the angels said...

Laurence has specifically asked me to not engage with you.
Be VERY grateful I am extending him the courtesy.

I said something in regard to my extensive experience with many scores of clerics and seminarians and from working in dioceses on both sides of the Atlantic - you have misrepresented very precise comments in at least six ways - even on the basic level of what was stated rather than your spin on them. Please desist.

blondpidge said...

In response to your original post Laurence, my husband clarified a few points:

There is no 'don't ask, don't tell policy'. The process requires brutal honesty with regards to questions surrounding sexuality. Also the in-depth psychological evaluation is very good at picking up inconsistencies in answers and the interviews very probing.

Secondly, seminarians have on going one-on-one interviews, spiritual direction and psychological counselling (called human development) on a 1-2 weekly basis throughout their six years. There is plenty of opportunity to drop out and also prompt intervention initiated in areas of difficulty.

Thirdly, all of those leading personal and pastoral formation have experience of running parishes (I could name names here, certainly both of the well respected bloggers Fr Tim Finigan and Fr Sean Finnegan teach at a seminary in the south. They are both parish priests).

Fourth. Night prayer takes place in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel.

Fifth. There is a year of pastoral placement, where seminarians are attached to a certain parish and experience precisely what ministry entails.

Laurence is right to inquire, O'Brien does raise troubling questions. He is also right not to tolerate nonsense or attempts at intimidation in his coms box.

On the side of the angels said...

Laurence in response to your original post and my subsequent comments and having just gone to confession I'm not going to jeopardise my soul with lies.

I was not referring to one single seminary but many, and the reference to excursions to gay establishments by English seminarians and those in religious orders is well known and has been mentioned before both on here and other blogs [incl Fr Ray's] by independent third parties - including a renowned blogger known to us both.

Secondly I was referring to the actual course designated as 'pastoral ministry' - not the merely generic exigents during priestly formation - used as a supplementary to the Diaconal year and approved by English-speaking western Bishops' Conferences - with a Vatican mandate - originally formulated in Ireland sfter trials there, the US coasts & south Africa by two religious and one secular priest - with whom I lived!! None of whom having had any long-term parish experience. It dealt quite adequately with trendy relevant issues like AIDS counselling, understanding feminist perspectives, drug abuse and alcohol dependency together with normative hospital/prison visiting - but it was invariably an academic ideological exercise rather than hands-on experiential. Token nominal pastoral activities rather than actual long-term assignments which could technically lead to a newly ordained priest having only spent a handful of months actually working in a parish before their ordination - a situation which is woefully inadequate and even worse than the prior system where a deacon would have a nine-month pastoral placement. The replacement inadvertently aggravated the dearth in authentic pastoral experience - and this situation continues in major western seminaries even to this day. The seminary system also has many clerical staff members who - being academics - have had minimal parish pastoral experience - to suggest all seminary clergy or lay lecturers are pastoral wunderkinds is verging on mendacity.

On the side of the angels said...

Spiritual direction is mandatory - and ongoing 'human development' is hardly a new thing given during my time in seminary we had both 1-to-1 and group psychosynthesis sessions and the most intensive psychological scrutiny [our dominican doctor who led these was a renowned world expert on the subject who subsequently wrote most of the text books on it] - which I repeat had those who passed with flying colours with squeaky clean records but were soon to fall away once confronted with the realities of actual parish pastoral and spiritual ministry. Any found to have same-sex attraction or who were found guilty of any sexual indiscretion [which was almost always heterosexual] were shown the door.

Lastly it is not intimidation to sincerely state an opinion that I thought it was wrong of you to bring Cardinal O'Brien's possible indiscretions - and I sought to explain - with my wealth of personal experience - exactly how the system fails - some people are scoundrels - some people enter seminary for all manner of mercenary reasons - some make wonderful seminarians but can't cope with the real world - some it might take a few decades for everything - even their faith - to collapse ; and some of the most 'useless' miscreants in seminary who only get through the system by the skin of their teeth or have been forgiven a specific fall from grace have gone on to make the most wonderful priests who have reached the highest positions in the land.

I have over quarter of a century of experience, friendship and counsellings with seminarians, the clergy and intra-diocesan policies and issues and resultant problems. Other 'self-professed' experts who think they know everything because one person they know has been in one for five minutes - haven't!!

blondpidge said...

This isn't about vanity (I know several seminarians at different institutions, and several more fine priests who have a wholly different narrative) nor about a p*ssing competition.

It's just worth noting that Paul Priest's narrative is not widely accepted and a certain amount of bitterness would appear to be evident, ultimately can anyone claim to be wholly objective and expert? If any of us are allegedly expert then why aren't we employed in a professional capacity by the Catholic Church to advise on such matters?

The point being that the experience of current seminarians and some fine holy priests, who are in the majority, lest we forget, seems to be wholly at odds to what is being suggested.

It does no favours to our priests to suggest that they are somehow lacking or ill-prepared, at some point a temptation to sin will arise for all of us, whether that be sexual sin or in some other area, and at times all of us will fall. Blaming inadequate formation is something of a get-out clause, particularly when the evidence suggests that matters have improved considerably from 20-25 years ago.

The post was about whether a don't ask, don't tell policy exists - the answer is a resounding no.

As to the merits of seminary formation, it's probably best left to those currently in seminary who can testify as well as the younger generation of ordinands, who are all very positive.

On the side of the angels said...

Neither vanity nor making this into a competition..just grave concern regarding 'self-affirming' priestly formation...St John Vianney wouldn't have lasted two seconds in the new system and Bl John Henry Newman might have been requested to take an indefinite hiatus due to his 'delicate disposition and awkward affinities'

There is no bitterness whatsoever - merely exasperation that even after decades of disasters we are still making the same mistakes in Priestly formation [and of course don't ask-don't tell still exists.

,,,and the last people to ask are the people actually in formation - of course the majority are going to believe they are being well-prepared - they aren't going to know any differently - every generation does when they are following the latest zeitgeist or favoured ideological 'route to ministry' and the present trend is one of submissive compliance with reserved 'prudential pro-activity' on safe subjects and safe areas. The result is there will be few Bellarmines, Borromeos or Brandsmas.

The pervading more light:less heat mantra will lead to cold reflective emulation and plagiarism and polte platitude. There will be no vibrant roaring flames of overwhelming intensity where God is glorified and the service and witness are tangible vivifying phenomena...

..if we want 'decent', docile, dignified and demure emasculated priests to conform to the modern 'don't dare challenge me in any way I don't wish to be challenged' mentality?

We're going a good way about it...when you've seen scores of young men have the original fire in their eyes dampen and fizzle out as they progress through seminary and they become more procedural and utilitarian and formulaic? Surely priesthood is the one thing where the person [rather than their personality] becomes more pronounced? Yet it seems to diminish and withdraw...

,,,and when even now seminarians have to adopt a siege mentality as if they are fifth columnists of orthodoxy in a waningly liberal establishment or fighting an internecine struggle against an elitist favoured in-crowd of shared-appreciations and 'favoured charisms'?

Something is very wrong!

But of course there is nothing wrong...there can't be..things are so much better...and we've going through our New Labour [unmissionary] evangelisation, new [dumbed down] catechetics, new [politically correct and socio-culturally sensitive] apologetics, new [we are women hear me simper] feminism and new [accipe locum gratis] priesthood....

Nero's lions would have been living on whiskas under this regime...

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