Revolution Interview

Frank O'Gorman on the Vatican Ban on Gay Priests

Revolution #027, December 19, 2005, posted at

The Revolution Interview is a special feature to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music, literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in Revolution and on our website.

Frank O'Gorman is a gay Christian, graduate of Hartford Seminary, member of Dignity/USA, and convener of People of Faith CT, a faith-based, progressive, activist organization in Connecticut ( Revolution recently interviewed him about the recent Vatican statement banning homosexuals from becoming priests.

Revolution: Can you briefly describe the new document by the Vatican on its policy toward gay priests?

Frank O'Gorman: The document re-affirms the Vatican's position that neither women nor self-affirming gay men should be admitted to Roman Catholic seminaries or be ordained. The document allows for seminary admission and ordination of men who claim to have not been attracted to other men for at least three years and who are not involved in gay culture or organizations.

REV: What do you think are the societal implications of this? What is the relationship between this and other rightwing and conservative moves in the Catholic church -- and in society in general?

FO'G: This ban on seminary admission and ordination is spiritual violence against women and gays. It dehumanizes queer people in general and thus fosters a social environment conducive to prejudice, discrimination, and ultimately hate-violence. The blood of queer people and women stains the hands of the hierarchy. The ban is part of an extreme right-wing agenda [social] to deny existence, recognition and rights to queer people.

REV: Vatican investigators have been instructed to visit each of the 229 seminaries in the United States. Some people have called this a "witch hunt." Could you comment on this?

FO'G: Where there is spirituality, there will be queer people. Queers have been spiritual leaders across cultures throughout time. The seminary visitations are a pogrom against gay men. The pogrom may not be as extreme as that of the Nazis against queers, but it is equally prejudiced. "Witch hunt" is also an apt description. Witches were often lesbians whose gender expression defied the social norms of femininity. Gay priests also often defy social norms of masculinity. At root this latest Vatican instruction is an attack on the feminine. The prohibitions are directed against women in general and gays in particular -- men who are often in touch with the feminine aspect of their human psyche.

REV: Can you comment on the language of the Vatican’s statement, specifically where it stipulates that "homosexual tendencies that might only be a manifestation of a transitory problem..." that must be "clearly overcome at least three years before diaconal Ordination."

FO'G: Sexual orientation/attraction is intrinsic to human personality. It is not transitory. The Vatican is rewarding the repression of sexual orientation, thus creating men who will be self-loathing, depressed, and bitter.

REV: The document also bans those who "support the so-called gay culture" from becoming priests and the statement by one Vatican official who has said that the document will also insist that aspiring priests not participate in gay solidarity events, such as parades and seminars that treat homosexuality in a "positive way." Can you comment on this?

FO'G: Denial enables disease. The Vatican's conclusions about gays rest on the false premise that homosexuality is aberrant. Therefore participation in gay culture which affirms homosexuality as part of a rainbow of human diversity is very frightening to the Vatican.

REV: What about the argument that the Catholic Church is doing this because of the "crisis" over sexual abuse by priests?

FO'G: The crisis or scandal to the church was that bishops knowingly transferred pedophiles from parish to parish where they continued to victimize boys and girls and then forced gag orders on victims as part of the settlements.

REV: Could you amplify on what you just said a bit more in terms of the charge that homosexuality among priests is the reason for the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?

FO'G: Pedophilia, an adult forcing sex on a child, is sexual abuse. In the Catholic church some pedophile priests victimized girls, others victimized boys. Pedophilia is a mental disorder; sexual orientation is not. The scandalous crime is that the Catholic shepherds protected sexual predators and then forced the sheep into silence.

REV: Can you talk a little bit about the response to the Vatican’s statement? What kind of protest is being voiced and organized? You have commented that some of it is "not radical enough." Could you explain what you mean by this?

FO'G: Radical means getting to the root. Any protest that does not name Vatican patriarchy, sexism, misogyny, heterosexism and authoritarianism as sin is not radical. The Vatican has grown increasingly vicious towards women and queers in the last 20 years. Hierarchical power will concede nothing without a demand. Catholics need to be prepared to use the tools of nonviolent resistance in order for our demands to disrupt the oppressive system. Dialogue without action is useless.

REV: Any other comments you’d like to make for our readers?

FO'G: The Vatican's letter on gays in the priesthood contradicts a central theme of Christianity which is the belief that Christ (divinity) resides in each person. Sexism and heterosexism are an affront to Christ. Jesus' movement included all kinds of people. He simply said, "Come follow me" without reserving that invitation to straight, heterosexual males. The Jesus movement was so diverse and egalitarian that St. Paul said of it: There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. All are one in Christ Jesus!

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