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TIFFIN, Ohio (ChurchMilitant.com) - A group, claiming to be the largest association of Catholic priests in the United States, is chastising the Vatican for its refusal to ordain gay men.
The Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) — a 1,200 member Ohio-based organization founded in 2011 — recently took exception to last year's reaffirmation by the Vatican's Congregation of Clergy that men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" must not be ordained.
The association sent the following statement to all U.S. bishops Wednesday:
If the Congregation for the Clergy document had stated that heterosexual and homosexual persons who are living chaste lives can be admitted to ordination to the priesthood it would have been more respectful and inclusive. The issue for discernment is whether the applicant or candidate has integrated his sexual identity with Catholic Christian faith and spirituality.
Last December the Congregation of Clergy issued a document on seminarians titled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation. While the new document relaxed a 2008 guideline, which blocked seminarians with a "transitory problem" of "homosexual tendencies" from being ordained, it did uphold the 2005 guidelines barring men with "deep-seated homosexual tendencies" from the priesthood.
The Congregation of Clergy wrote in their December guidelines,
[T]he Church ... cannot admit to the seminary or to Holy Orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture.' ... Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem — for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. ... [S]uch tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.
The statement penned by the AUSCP's 12-member leadership team said they found it "unfounded and insulting" that the wording used in the Vatican's document "implies that ordained priests with a homosexual orientation who serve the Church with distinction 'find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women.'"
In addition to sending their statement to all U.S. bishops, the association also sent it to the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors, the U.S. bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, the National Association of Hispanic Priests of the U.S.A., and the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus.
Along with advocating for the ordination of homosexual men the AUSCP also advocates for the ordination of women deacons and married priests. At a conference in 2013, they voted down a proposal to advocate for women priests. Some people accused the AUSCP of a "lack of courage" for not backing the issue of women's ordinations. The head of AUSCP, Fr. Dave Cooper responded, "No, it's not a lack of courage. It's wisdom. We need to know how to move forward."
Estimates vary on how many men currently in the priesthood in the United States are homosexuals. Some studies put that figure at 15 percent, while other studies find that upwards of 50 percent of U.S. priests are gay. This is far greater than the 3.8 percent of the general population, who identify as LGBT.