Some people might take a much broader, theological, psychological or sociological approach to the problem of homosexual priests and bishops. I prefer to stay on the more specific but lethal problem in the indefensible practice of placing homosexual priests into living situations and associations with other men - thereby creating a double moral standard for heterosexual vs. homosexual priests.

The essay is a brief logical explanation of the inherent conundrum concerning that problem.

The Real Story about Celibacy
Rev. James R. Haley

Let me see if I have this completely “straight” from my Catholic moral training:

Mr. X, a heterosexual man, can only become a priest if he makes a vow of celibacy – if he vows to remain unmarried to a woman.

With his priestly vow of celibacy per se he does not, as is frequently believed and wrongly reported, make a vow to refrain from sex. But since he vows to remain unmarried, he is required by his Catholic faith to refrain from sex. He must remain chaste – he cannot have sex because, according to his Catholic faith, sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.

ü    Since he cannot have sex, he is taught by his Catholic faith that he should be modest in his relations with women - he should observe conventional and prudent proprieties in his speech, behavior and dress around women.

ü    Since he should be prudent in his associations with women, he is instructed by his Catholic faith that he should avoid the temptations inherent in certain situations, relationships and behaviors – he should avoid the near occasions of sin with women.

ü    Since he should avoid the near occasions of sin, he is taught by his Catholic faith that it would be wrong for him, without a compelling reason, to live with women, or to associate exclusively with women in situations outside of his work or the necessities of his ministry, or to develop particularly close, or personal, or secret, or intimate relationships with women. And of course it would be wrong for him to access pornography as a substitute for the sex he cannot have.

If he were to engage in such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors, and if these improper situations were not kept wickedly secret, they would rightly create a scandal for the faithful who would, quite correctly, believe that such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors would naturally lead to serious sins with women in thoughts, words and deeds. And thus these situations would seem to violate the intent and the spirit of his priestly vow of celibacy - to remain unmarried - to remain personally, emotionally and intimately un-associated with a woman.

Such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors could eventually lead to the direct violation of his priestly vow of celibacy by leading to a scandalous and sinful marriage between the priest and "that woman." According to the canon law of the Church, such a marriage would not be recognized as a valid marriage, and the consequence to the priest would be an immediate removal from ecclesiastical office by virtue of the law itself (Canon 194).

I know many heterosexual priests who have suffered such a fate.


Mr. Y, a homosexual man, can only become a priest if he makes a vow of celibacy - if he vows to remain unmarried to a woman.

He does not vow to remain unmarried to a man because, according to his Catholic faith, he can never marry a man - he cannot vow to give up what he cannot have in the first place.

Therefore, Mr. Y's priestly vow of celibacy is an easy, ludicrous and utterly pointless promise for him to make since he does not want to be married to a woman. (It wasn't so easy, ludicrous or utterly pointless, however, for Mr. X.)

With his priestly vow of celibacy per se he does not, as is frequently believed and wrongly reported, make a vow to refrain from sex. He makes a vow to remain unmarried. But since he has vowed to remain unmarried to a woman, and since he cannot validly “marry” another man, he is required by his Catholic faith to remain perpetually chaste - he can never have sex.

ü    Since he can never have sex, he is taught by his Catholic faith that he should be exceptionally modest - he should observe conventional and prudent proprieties in his speech, behavior and dress around other men.

ü    Since he should be prudent in his associations with men, he is instructed by his Catholic faith that he should avoid the temptations inherent in certain situations, relationships and behaviors - he should avoid the near occasions of sin with men.

ü    Since he should avoid the near occasions of sin, he is taught by his Catholic faith that it would be wrong for him, without a compelling reason, to live with other men, or to associate exclusively with men in situations outside of his work or the necessities of his ministry, or to develop particularly close, or personal, or secret, or intimate relationships with other men. And of course it would be wrong for him to access pornography as a substitute for the sex he can never have.

If he were to engage in such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors, and if these improper situations were not kept wickedly secret, they would rightly create a scandal for the faithful who would, quite correctly, believe that such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors would "naturally" lead to serious sins with other men in thoughts, words and deeds.

However, in Mr. Y's case, unlike Mr. X’s, such imprudent and immoral living arrangements, associations and behaviors could not be said to violate the spirit and intent of his utterly pointless and ludicrous priestly vow of celibacy - to remain unmarried to a woman - to remain personally, emotionally and intimately un-associated with a woman.

Such imprudent living arrangements, associations and behaviors could easily, however, lead to many personal, lifelong, secret, exclusive, intimate and emotionally fulfilling relationships with other men – even to many homosexual relationships in which there is no sexual contact and thus those relationships that could be considered “celibate” by using a much more confined and secular definition of that word – certainly not the fuller definition used in the priestly vow of celibacy to which Father X is held bound.

If Father Y attempts to “marry” his homosexual partner, the Church would certainly not recognize the “marriage.” In fact, the Church would not even recognize such a union as an attempt at “marriage.” And since such a union would not be considered a “marriage,” there would be no immediate removal from ecclesiastical office if such a union formed. (Unless, I suppose, the homosexual priest was foolish enough to attempt a “civil union” in the state of Massachusetts.)

Canon 1055, and its frequent application in marriage tribunals, exclusively defines marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. The reality of a personal, committed, exclusive, intimate, emotionally fulfilling and even non-sexual relationship between a homosexual priest and another man would therefore present a very novel and problematic case, because canon law never mentions homosexual priests at all. Nor does it mention their potential for unions that for-all-intents-and-purposes could be considered quasi-marriages. It is as if neither homosexual priests nor their intense or intimate unions ever existed in reality.

What is the result of this morality in the real world of the Catholic rectory?

The outcome is that Fr Y, the homosexual priest, is potentially allowed to have, certainly not prevented from having, one might even say continually tempted to have, many personal, lifelong, secret, exclusive, intimate and emotionally fulfilling relationships with other men, whom he can even live with, and associate with almost constantly.

Fr. X, the heterosexual priest, on the other hand, is discouraged from having, forbidden to have, and actively prevented from having such personal, lifelong, secret, exclusive, intimate, and emotionally fulfilling relationships with women, whom he certainly cannot live with, nor with whom he can constantly associate.

Said simply: Fr. X, the heterosexual priest, cannot live his life with women. Fr. Y, the homosexual priest, is conveniently "forced" to live his life with other men.

So what is the compelling reason for such duplicitous moral standards? What is the compelling reason that Fr. Y is forced into such imprudent and foolish living arrangements for perhaps the entirety of his priestly life? Well, the direct reason is that he is forced to live in such imprudent arrangements by his shepherd and moral guide, the bishop who assigns him to his rectory, or by the abbot who directs his religious community. And in placing their priests in living situations together, the bishop or abbot is following the dictates and recommendations of ecclesiastical documents and of canon law, which encourage priests to live together, to support one another, and to closely associate with one another throughout their priestly lives.

By assigning religious men to live only with men, and religious women to live only with women, the bishop or abbot is apparently also following the tradition and moral prudence, or one can more properly say, the moral necessity, of keeping religious men and women separated from one another - a very prudent practice because, in the words of an honest speaker concerning human nature and Christian love: “There is nothing more naturally attractive for a Christian man in love with God, than a Christian woman in love with God.”

But that same-sex living assignment quickly and clearly runs seriously afoul when the sexual orientations and desires are reversed from their norm and, even more so, when those sexual orientations remain hidden from the outside world – that leads to the very improper, imprudent and secret situation that the Church was trying to prevent. In other words: There is nothing more “naturally” attractive for a homosexual man in love with God, than another homosexual man in love with God.

So ironically, tragically, inexplicably, it is the Church itself, the model and guide to moral life, that is encouraging, advocating and requiring the perpetual near occasion of sin for homosexual priests, and, in turn, creating an extremely uncomfortable situation for the heterosexual priests who are not interested in forming one of those personal, lifelong, secret, exclusive, intimate and emotionally fulfilling relationships with other men. And this non-interest from the heterosexual priest is a frequent cause of alienation, resentment and bitterness from the homosexual priests who would prefer to live with, and associate with, other homosexual priests, especially when so many other homosexual priests are afforded that “secret” privilege. In simple terms: the straight priest is neither wanted nor welcome among the homosexual priests.

Of course, all of this moral double-dealing leads to many situations of outright hypocrisy and utter dishonesty. For example, how can a homosexual priest who lives with another man, rightly tell the young “couple” in high school that it would be morally dangerous to spend so much exclusive and private time together, or tell the college kids that it would be improper for them to share intimate coed living arrangements, or to instruct the “couple in love” that they should not be living together? A priest should not only be the teacher of correct moral behavior, but should also be the model of that correct moral behavior. What is he supposed to say to these enquiring minds that search for the Catholic truth from their priests and bishops: “Just look at me and my life. It’s perfectly ok to do what you are doing, just as long as you remain celibate?” Or let me now carefully qualify that: “just as long as you have kept celibate for three years, and are willing to keep your sexual orientation and desires secret from others in your public life.”

What nonsense. What utter moral nonsense!

It seems to me that the double celibacy requirement has encouraged homosexual men in larger and larger percentages that, as you describe, are more than happy to "give up" traditional marriage for the priesthood. From what you have described, as power structures have evolved through the years in the Church, homosexual men have become favored. Their tendencies and nature were hidden from the public under the quiet cloak of "celibacy." As the pressure of greater numbers and power of homosexual men in the Church gains, the numbers of heterosexual men further decline.

Your document describes the dilemma and the extreme irony that the current situation is for many - a curtain or front behind which many homosexual priests can hide. Could it be entitled something like: Can a homosexual priest be celibate? [Anonymous]

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