More Than a Monologue: Sexual Diversity and the Catholic Church - Vol. 1

By Christine Firer Hinze; J. Patrick Hornbeck II | Go to book overview

7 Gay Ministry at the Crossroads
The Plight of Gay Clergy in the Catholic Church

DONALD B. COZZENS

John Carroll University

Author’s note: My ministry as a priest has included a half-dozen years as vicar for clergy and religious in a large Midwestern diocese. Following that assignment, I served for another six years as rector of a major seminary. These two assignments in par tic u lar helped me see the struggles that gay priests face in today’s priesthood— struggles that are deeply imbedded in both the structure of the church and the church’s teaching on homosexuality.

A front-page story in the September 20, 2011, edition of the New York Times reported an event that was noted by virtually every media outlet in the United States: The U.S. military’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for gay and lesbian ser vicemembers had been ended. During the eigh teen years the federal law held force, 14,500 military personnel were discharged, and countless thousands were led to see themselves as somehow second tier in terms of their loyalty and trustworthiness. A dispiriting era of secrecy and denial was finally, mercifully, terminated.1

While Federal Law no. 103– 160 prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual members of our armed forces, it also barred openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military ser vice. The policy prohibited people who “demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” from military ser vice because their presence “would create unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.”2 Moreover, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law prohibited any homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing his or her homosexual relationships while serving the U.S. military.

I find an eerie analogue of the now repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” government policy in the Catholic Church’s unspoken policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for gay clergy and vowed religious. The church, I’m convinced, will take a major step forward when gay clergy and religious who

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