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Imagine this scenario. You’re an officer in an evangelical church. The congregation has been thriving and the spirit is good.
But now comes a thunderbolt. Your assistant pastor has just made it known to your church’s leaders that he struggles with a lifelong sexual attraction to other men. Not only that, but he has begun, through social media and otherwise, to let the public know about this. Through his dress, manner, and associations, he demonstrates his preference for a personal identity and lifestyle that is frequently associated with homosexuality. But he assures you that there’s no cause for worry, since he is sexually celibate.
How’s a church to respond? Well, probably not by doing what the Roman Catholic Church has been doing for the last few generations. By most accounts, the Catholic hierarchy has willingly trained and ordained priests who self-identify or are otherwise known as homosexual—all on the promise that they will be celibate. But those promises have been violated to such a degree that Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò has called for the “eradication” of “homosexual networks” within the clergy that are now “widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, [and] religious orders.”
Archbishop Viganò points specifically to former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, previously the powerful archbishop of Washington, D.C., who has been widely and credibly accused of abusing his power over many years in order to sexually exploit seminarians and young priests. As to sexual abuse of minors, Archbishop Viganò points to the report of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which found that over a period of more than 50 years, the vast majority of “child” victims of priests were male (81 percent) and were aged 10 to 17 (86 percent).
Offering positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.
Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wis., noted in August that “in the specific situations at hand, we are talking about deviant sexual—almost exclusively homosexual—acts by clerics. We’re also talking about homosexual propositions and abuses against seminarians and young priests by powerful priests, bishops, and cardinals. We are talking about acts and actions which are not only in violation of the sacred promises made by some, in short, sacrilege, but also are in violation of the natural moral law for all.” Bishop Morlino explained: “There has been a great deal of effort to keep separate acts which fall under the category of now-culturally-acceptable acts of homosexuality from the [publicly]-deplorable acts of pedophilia. That is to say, until recently the problems of the church have been painted purely as problems of pedophilia—this despite clear evidence to the contrary.”
The Roman Catholic Church in America is now paying dearly for buying into the theory that men who embrace a homosexual identity can be church leaders—so long as they promise “chastity.” It is a theory that has been tried and found wanting.
Protestants and evangelicals should be forewarned. Reaching out with helpful compassion to those entrapped by homosexual temptation is one thing. If some of us need to be taught how to be more welcoming on that front, such is altogether within the spirit of this column. There are those who suffer from same-sex attraction who do not celebrate homosexuality as an identity, and who resist their temptation appropriately without inviting scandal.
But offering, or even allowing, positions of church leadership to people who embrace and celebrate sexual disorders, all on the promise they will be chaste, is foolhardy.
Bishop Morlino is kind but firm when he says: “For my part—and I know I am not alone—I am tired of this. I am tired of people being hurt, gravely hurt! I am tired of the obfuscation of truth. I am tired of sin. And, as one who has tried—despite my many imperfections—to lay down my life for Christ and His church, I am tired of the regular violation of sacred duties by those entrusted with immense responsibility from the Lord for the care of His people.”
So the next time you’re confronted with a candidate for leadership in your own church (or school, or mission, or other institution) who boasts that he is “gay but celibate,” you may do well to remember the clear and present agony of a growing host of your Catholic brothers and sisters. Every single one of the priests who stand guilty of sexual abuse started with a promise of chastity.