Vocation to religious life for those with SSA


#1

This thread is about vocations to the religious life for persons with same-sex attraction. It is not about vocations to the priesthood for persons with SSA.

Two documents are relevant: one from 1961, and another issued more recently.

Careful Selection And Training Of Candidates For The States Of Perfection And Sacred Orders

Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders

I am wondering what the reasons are for not permitting persons with SSA to enter religious life. I accept that persons with unresolved SSA should not become priests, but I am wondering what the reasoning is behind not permitting such persons to enter religious life.

The 1961 document talks about religious life being an occasion of sin, and of loneliness because of separation from family, but this flies in the face of some truths, namely, that modern psychology acknowledges that the healing for SSA is not to shun male company, but in fact really benefits from chaste male friendships, thus the brotherhood of religious life could actually help persons with SSA reach healing. Secondly, there is loneliness outside the religious life, even for those who live with their families! Many persons with SSA suffer from great loneliness, the kind of loneliness which might not be so intense inside a religious community.

The more recent document issued by the Vatican appears to represent an appreciation of modern psychological insights, such that resolved SSA is not a barrier to priestly ordination. I include that only to show that the mind of the Church is open to being enlightened by developments in modern psychology.

I am struggling to understand why persons with SSA must be excluded from pursuing a vocation as either a religious brother or a sister. Persons with SSA are called to perfection, as the Catechism reminds us, but why is this perfection, as pursued in the evangelical counsels of the religious life, to be excluded from persons affected by SSA?

Why is it that a person with SSA, although meeting the basic requirements otherwise, must be excluded from following this path?


#2

The second link states in part: "[T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question [homosexuals], cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."

Practicing homosexuals and those who promote the homosexual lifestyle as a legitimate lifestyle alternative is of obvious concern to the orthodox Catholic. Less obvious is the idea of "deep-seated homosexual tendencies." To be honest, I am not exactly sure what that means. I suppose one could infer that this term presents a distinction from "superficial homosexual tendencies." The language seems to make room for people with SSA who (1) do not practice homosexuality, (2) do not accept other's homosexual acts as a legitimate practice, and (3) has some control over the sublimation of their SSA. Having the capacity to sublimate these desires would make it more likely for the candidate to avoid conditions No. 1 and 2. To be honest, prospective heterosexual priests and religous should be equally vetted. People with deep-seated tendencies toward masturbation, porn, prostitutes, and whatever kind of sexual deviancy should be equally vetted regardless of sexual orientation.

On a side note, someone told me once that Pope Benedict XVI also said something like, "priestly celibacy is a sacrifice. Since homosexuals are expected to be celibate outside of priesthood, they cannot make a true sacrifice of celibacy in order to join the priesthood." I am less certain of this second point, however.


#3

No one who is sexually active should be allowed to enter religious life.

No one promoting anything that goes against the Teachings of the Catholic Church should be allowed to enter religious life.

I believe that covers why some with SSA would be turned away from religious life.

Also religious life is like ordination, no one has a right to it.


#4

The exact same prohibition would be enforced against a person that habitually engaged in heterosexual sex. They are, by their own behavior, showing that they do not follow the teachings of the church, and that they effectively can not or will not, control their own behavior.

The mere fact that one is attracted to others of their own sex does not automatically preclude either ordination or religious life. But, acting on those attractions can prohibit that kind of vocation.


#5

[quote="The_Old_Medic, post:4, topic:247873"]
The exact same prohibition would be enforced against a person that habitually engaged in heterosexual sex. They are, by their own behavior, showing that they do not follow the teachings of the church, and that they effectively can not or will not, control their own behavior.

The mere fact that one is attracted to others of their own sex does not automatically preclude either ordination or religious life. But, acting on those attractions can prohibit that kind of vocation.

[/quote]

One thing that must be kept in mind though when dealing with those who suffer from SSA and community life is the possibility that living in close community with those of the same sex may be a great temptation to the individual with SSA.


#6

[quote="ByzCath, post:5, topic:247873"]
One thing that must be kept in mind though when dealing with those who suffer from SSA and community life is the possibility that living in close community with those of the same sex may be a great temptation to the individual with SSA.

[/quote]

I'm not so sure about that. It's not as if there are not lots of one's own sex outside the monastery. In fact, there are men inside and outside the monastery. No matter where a person with SSA winds up, there will be attractive members of one's own sex to deal with. The only way out of that is to live as a hermit in the desert.

If I work in an office, there will be men. If I live in a monastery, I will be surrounded by men. If I am a lumberjack, I will be working with other men. What's the difference?

I am interested in the case of a person who has unresolved SSA but desires chastity and purity and seeks to pursue them. Should consecrated religious life be closed to them?

Sometimes I wonder about modern psychology. I think that the killer of St. Maria Goretti, who entered religious life after his conversion, would not be admitted to religious life today. Or think of the men who joined St. Francis - did he vet them to see what kind of characters they were? Or did he accept them in good faith as men who wanted to follow the way of St. Francis? Think about Judas? Imagine if he'd been screened before being allowed to be an Apostle?


#7

Is the 1961 document really the most recent regarding Religious Life?


#8

[quote="nonames, post:6, topic:247873"]

If I work in an office, there will be men. If I live in a monastery, I will be surrounded by men. If I am a lumberjack, I will be working with other men. What's the difference?

[/quote]

What's the difference about living in a religious community (which a monastery in your list here is) and normal everyday life.

It is twofold. First, you live and work with those in your community, you see them more than just a person you work with. Second, in community life there is and intimacy that is present that is not there in normal life.

It is very hard to explain it to someone who has not lived it.


#9

[quote="ByzCath, post:8, topic:247873"]
What's the difference about living in a religious community (which a monastery in your list here is) and normal everyday life.

It is twofold. First, you live and work with those in your community, you see them more than just a person you work with. Second, in community life there is and intimacy that is present that is not there in normal life.

It is very hard to explain it to someone who has not lived it.

[/quote]

But avoiding members of one's own sex is not the way to heal SSA. Modern approaches acknowledge the need for chaste same-sex friendships. The Catechism acknowledges this.

A person with SSA in the army is living in close proximity to other men on a daily basis. It is very similar to religious life. The same could also be said of the police I think.

If a person with SSA is living with other male friends in a shared apartment, then all the same temptations may arise for that person that could also be found in a monastery.

The brotherhood to be found in a monastery could be just the thing to bring healing to a person with SSA. I understand that some would then say that religious life is not a hospital for sick people (of which SSA-persons could be so termed), but rather a school for those who wish to be perfect. I'm just having trouble accepting that this problem of SSA is any more problematic than any other problem a person might have, such as an inclination to fornication, drinking, drug use, etc... or even just the usual anger and other sins of ordinary people.


#10

Living in a very intimate setting is also not the way to heal it.

Anyways, I was stating it as a possible reason why some religious communities may not wish to allow SSA members in.

As I said no one has a right to religious life so a community may set its rules for entry as they see fit.


#11

[quote="ByzCath, post:10, topic:247873"]
Living in a very intimate setting is also not the way to heal it.

Anyways, I was stating it as a possible reason why some religious communities may not wish to allow SSA members in.

As I said no one has a right to religious life so a community may set its rules for entry as they see fit.

[/quote]

As I said, the same intimacy you'd have in a monastery could be had with male friends in a shared apartment.

A major problem for SSA persons* is *loneliness and isolation, not least from their own sex. Healthy and chaste brotherhood is part of healing.


#12

[quote="nonames, post:11, topic:247873"]
As I said, the same intimacy you'd have in a monastery could be had with male friends in a shared apartment.

A major problem for SSA persons* is *loneliness and isolation, not least from their own sex. Healthy and chaste brotherhood is part of healing.

[/quote]

Again,
I listed this as a possibility for why communities may not allow SSA suffers into their community.

You can argue against the idea but that does not change the fact that there are communities out there who hold to this idea.

They would also say that someone who suffers from SSA should not live with unrelated males or they would say that community living is different than living in an apartment with other men as religious communities tend to be bigger and have a different relationship than roommates.

I happen to be neutral on this and am glad that I am not in a position where I would have to decide these cases.


#13

I'm not sure if there is an "official" answer on this, but my advice would be to be entirely open and honest with the vocation director. I'm sure vocation directors have a great deal of experience in this area, and they will be able to answer your questions better than most of us. Even if religious life might not be for you, I would think that a good vocation director would be able to guide you in your vocational discernment. God bless!


#14

[quote="KarrollKid04, post:13, topic:247873"]
I'm not sure if there is an "official" answer on this, but my advice would be to be entirely open and honest with the vocation director. I'm sure vocation directors have a great deal of experience in this area, and they will be able to answer your questions better than most of us. Even if religious life might not be for you, I would think that a good vocation director would be able to guide you in your vocational discernment. God bless!

[/quote]

That's not the job of a vocations director.

A vocations director works with those who feel called to the organization (diocese or religious community) he works for, he does not help one discern a call except for a calling to his group.

If you do not meet the criteria for entry into his group he would not spend the time working with you.

A spiritual director is the one who guides a person through vocational discernment as well as general growth in the spiritual/prayer life.


#15

[quote="ByzCath, post:14, topic:247873"]
That's not the job of a vocations director.

A vocations director works with those who feel called to the organization (diocese or religious community) he works for, he does not help one discern a call except for a calling to his group.

[/quote]

I'm confused by the bit in bold. It appears that you are saying that the VD helps one discern a calling to his order.


#16

[quote="ByzCath, post:14, topic:247873"]
That's not the job of a vocations director.

A vocations director works with those who feel called to the organization (diocese or religious community) he works for, he does not help one discern a call except for a calling to his group.

If you do not meet the criteria for entry into his group he would not spend the time working with you.

A spiritual director is the one who guides a person through vocational discernment as well as general growth in the spiritual/prayer life.

[/quote]

I think there may be different roles for the Vocations Director in different dioceses. Here it was a team - one priest and one sister. The priest worked primarily with men discerning the diocisan priesthood and sister worked with men and women discerning religious life. I went to one of their workshops and part of what they did was help young people work through the process of where their vocation might be calling them.


#17

I'm confused by the Church's way of talking about homesexual "tendencies". In much of what I've read on policy regarding admission of homosexual men to seminary in particular, it appears there is an effort to determine "how gay" a man is who has a same-sex attraction - if he's "kind of" gay, it's ok for him to enter. If he's "really gay" he needs to stay out.

While I do not by any means think that my personal experience and those I have known is empirical, I have known many gay men when I was a teenager and through college and early adulthood. Time and again they would date women and try hard to make it work, then would accept that they had some same sex attraction, but would identify themselves as "bisexual". Over the course of time, becoming more comfortable with their identity and finding acceptance within the gay community, of which they became a part as a "bisexual" person, they would drop the "bi" label and come out as homosexual. I'm sure some people are truly attracted to both sexes and stop somewhere on the continuum, but I don't think it's all that common personally - more common in my view is that people go through a period of identifying with bisexuality as a gateway, when they yet are coming to terms with homosexuality.

The point being - figuring out "how gay" someone is in their teens or early twenties when they are most likely discerning religious life does not seem to make sense to me. It seems such a person should finish the process of discerning their sexual orientation if only to better know themselves and their own feelings, and then discern whether, knowing what that orientation is, they can realistically overcome sexual attraction and commit to celibacy. To me an individual who decisively knows he or she is homosexual and can say it emphatically and out loud, is far better equipped to say with authority whether they can or cannot commit to celibacy. The individual who admits to "some homosexual tendencies" to me sounds like an individual who is not done figuring out their sexuality, and as such, probably is not really able yet to say with authority that they can commit to celibacy.

Perhaps such growth in sexual identity can be achieved in seminary, but I would guess most would do better to make such a determination before they enter.

Once the individual knows himself very well, I feel that there is no greater risk of breaking the celibacy vow for a homosexual man than for a heterosexual man. All religious people are likely to have opportunities to break their vows - if not with another person than through masturbation. Wouldn't it be easier to support them in maintaining their vow of celibacy if they have fully flushed out what attraction they are specifically trying to manage?

And if their spiritual leaders are aware of the issues of attraction an individual man or woman religious is managing, they could further make some determinations such as housing arrangements for such a person. It requires the honesty to say, for example, "Brother Daniel and I are fighting a mutual attraction - we should live separately".


#18

Nobody is "discerning" religious life in their teens now days. In order to enter virtually any Seminary (at least in the States abd Canada) one has to have already obtained their Bachelors Degree. You do NOT normally earn a degree in your teens.

It is not like the old days (like when I went to Seminary), where you went right after 8th grade. They take adults now, people that know pretty much who and what they are.

I am amazed that some posters appear to not know that this is the case.


#19

[quote="nonames, post:15, topic:247873"]
I'm confused by the bit in bold. It appears that you are saying that the VD helps one discern a calling to his order.

[/quote]

absolutly!! One diocese may differ from another. Some diocese allow and encourage delayed vocations while others do not. some religious differ from others. The Trappists here in Ava Mo allow men up to the age of 45 while others don't. SO yes a vocations director is working for his diocese and the bishop as to his laws or rules or the superior. All orders are different as are diocese. And yes it is a great privilage to be called to a vocation in the priesthood or religious it is an invitation. The only right there is if there is even this right and that is IF God is truly calling you, you have the right to be able to discern that call. If you are truly called then it is up to you to earn the order's diocese' trust and support by going through the necessary steps or process and then once accepted to succumb to their rules and all that goes with it. My opinion. Scoob


#20

[quote="The_Old_Medic, post:18, topic:247873"]
Nobody is "discerning" religious life in their teens now days. In order to enter virtually any Seminary (at least in the States abd Canada) one has to have already obtained their Bachelors Degree. You do NOT normally earn a degree in your teens.

It is not like the old days (like when I went to Seminary), where you went right after 8th grade. They take adults now, people that know pretty much who and what they are.

I am amazed that some posters appear to not know that this is the case.

[/quote]

It's true that people don't enter formation until older but the vocations discernment process starts earllier - or rather it can. In our diocese there are numberous vocation events for high school boys and girls. While not the norm, girls can be accepted to a religious order after high school. And in some Catholic colleges, there are separate programs for men who are planning to go on to seminary - they live and study together. I bellieve Ave Maria is one of those colleges.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.