January 20, 2006

Letters to the Editor

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Why latest Vatican instruction was needed

This letter is in response to the two letters that were published in the Dec. 9 issue of The Criterion. Both letters made a good point: What is the purpose of the Vatican-issued document, “On Priesthood and Those With Homosexual Tendencies,” if priests are supposed to be celibate anyway?

My understanding of the document is that it excludes from the priesthood only those who are unable or unwilling to control their homosexual desires. Those who have passing moments of temptation, but do not entertain immoral thoughts, would be considered “in control.”

So why is there a need for this document? Perhaps the reason it bears such importance is this: A homosexual priest that acts on his desires not only breaks his vow of celibacy, but also violates the natural order of sexuality. If priests are meant to be our spiritual fathers and, therefore, an example to all biological fathers, ought not their desires be naturally ordered for their ministry to be most successful?

A priest must be able to relate properly to both sexes. As the document outlines, homosexuality, since it is disordered, affects, in some way, this ability to relate to others properly.

One of the letters also stated: “I continue to be confused ... that homosexual acts are sinful because they are ‘closed to the transmission of life,’ at the same time putting ... approval on sexual acts involving infertile couples.”

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, and Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, were both thought to be barren. However, “nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37). Even if an act is seemingly sterile, there may still be a possibility, if it is within God’s will, for a couple to conceive that is a man and a woman.

The sexual act must be open to the “transmission of life,” as the letter alludes to. It is obvious that this does not mean that every act must yield a child. An act by a married couple that does not result in a new life despite their fertility is not a sinful act. Therefore, being open to the transmission of life has only partially to do with the fertility of the couple.

What then does it mean to be open to the transmission of life? This does not mean that the couple must be fertile, only that they do nothing to hinder the fertility of the act. A homosexual act, by its very nature, is closed to life because it is not between a man and a woman.

In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI wrote, “[Married love] is a love which is total.” This means the gift of self that occurs in the sexual act must be complete. An infertile couple still exchanges all that the two have with one another. A homosexual act cannot be a complete gift of self because the gift of fertility cannot be exchanged between the individuals.

- George Rahman, Terre Haute


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