Observations From A Former Roman Catholic Junior Seminarian on Celibate Homosexual Students and Priests

My concerns stem from my time as a member of the Roman Catholic Church from birth and my time in a Junior Seminary from thirteen to eighteen.

Most devastating of all was the culture of secrecy combined with a large population of like-minded and sexually oriented men, who worked against a culture of transparency and moral rigor. Instead, the internal culture facilitated an environment where pedophiles knew they wouldn’t be outed or called to account for their criminal behavior.

 

As an almost 30-year church member in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), I have watched and listened with great interest and concern as certain voices in the PCA have been clamoring to allow celibate homosexual pastors and church officers (the so called “Side B”).  My concerns stem from my time as a member of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) from birth and my time in a Junior Seminary from thirteen to eighteen.

I spent my formative years in a communion which advocated for allowing celibate men to serve as priests as both a spiritual good and a vocational necessity (i.e., a lack of parish priests).  As a spiritual good, it ran contrary to Paul’s expectation of a heteronormativity of elders.  That some elders (perhaps Timothy) were unmarried was not an argument against heteronormativity but rather a reality that he simply wasn’t married.  Heterosexuality in the New Testament is regarded as a natural and cultic norm.  Nowhere is homosexuality given that consideration; rather, it’s always regarded as a deviation from that norm, sin, if you will.

With regard to vocational necessity, I know of no presbytery where there is a lack of trained men seeking calls to serve as pastors.  In fact, most presbyteries have more than a handful of trained and qualified men looking for a pastoral call.

Setting aside these obvious considerations, look at the vocational experience in the RCC regarding the gay, celibate pastor. A good portion of priests’ time was spent “managing” their celibacy.  I lived with priests at seminary for four years, and I would estimate that fully a third of their time was spent coping with their celibacy and curbing their sexual impulses.  They coped in a number of ways: through vigorous exercise, drinking, various and sundry vocational works of mercy, change of demographic vocational assignment every four to five years, and often violating their vows of celibacy both emotionally (various romances with both men and women) and actual sexual engagement with men and women both of consenting age and minors.

This behavior was so prevalent that the religious orders became known as both a safe haven for homosexuals who, at that time, didn’t enjoy widespread acceptance in the culture; and also a place where they could safely engage in their sexual proclivity. All the while they were enjoying fraternal support, social standing, and even the added sexual thrill of engaging in a prohibited behavior, all under the auspice of outward religious authority.  Don’t underestimate this last characteristic, it was the very secrecy and prohibition of the behavior combined with their religious standing which fueled much of their sexual energy.

Most devastating of all was the culture of secrecy combined with a large population of like-minded and sexually oriented men, who worked against a culture of transparency and moral rigor. Instead, the internal culture facilitated an environment where pedophiles knew they wouldn’t be outed or called to account for their criminal behavior.

To call them to account normally resulted in being exposed to accusations (shooting the messenger). To raise concerns would rip off the lid of the seedy underbelly of the priestly hierarchy from seminary to novitiate to parish rectory.  Over the past twenty-plus years we’ve seen and become aware of the exposed sexual scandals and the underlying culture of the priestly class resulting in their disgrace, scandal and downfall.

The PCA shouldn’t even think of “experimenting” with celibate homosexual pastors and church officers.  The outcome is known, in all its various degrees, just by looking at the communion across the Tiber.  Any notion that the outcome would be any different in the PCA is an act of hubris.

Paul recommends marriage as a curb on natural sexual excess not a religious vocational life where men can jeopardize the credibility of the gospel and find themselves aiding and abetting an unbiblical model.  We need to learn from the very real and contemporary example in the RCC.  Even though the idea of celibacy may have been well-intentioned the record and testimony show a different outcome. In the years to come, the PCA doesn’t need the culture to mock the gospel and accuse the denomination of being blind to the nature of the false hopes in allowing celibate homosexual pastors and church officers. It will not end well in so many ways.

The author is a deacon in a PCA church Texas.