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ROME (ChurchMilitant.com) - An English seminarian who bragged about his same-sex civil partnership on social media is on track for ordination despite complaints from seminarians and in defiance of recent Vatican directives.
Christopher William Butler, a former civil servant and registered nurse, posted tweets about his "wonderful partner the wonderful Alan Sumner" in January 2014 and in February 2014 wrote about "Valentine cards" he had received from his "partner."
Sources told Church Militant that Butler and Sumner had entered into a registered same-sex civil partnership before same-sex "marriage" was legalized in Britain.
When Butler's partner died, he approached the diocese of Leeds and Bp. Marcus Stock accepted him for formation, in spite of complaints and reservations from numerous advisors and priests in the diocese of Leeds, sources said.
"Since becoming a seminarian, Butler has openly boasted constantly about having been in a same-sex civil partnership, displaying a deep-seated obsession with his deceased 'life partner,'" a source revealed, offering evidence of screenshots from Butler's social media pages. "There are also numerous examples of his public statements supporting his lifestyle on his Twitter page," the source added.
Church Militant obtained tweets from Butler's feed where the seminarian describes how he keeps "Valentine cards from the years with my beloved deceased partner" and chooses "one to put out every year" which gives him "not sad, but warm feelings."
In another tweet, Butler talks about how he keeps "a voicemail from my dear deceased partner so that I can hear their voice. Comforting."
The ordinand also retweets a message from the NHS LGBT Network: "When a patient comes out to you they may never have told another living soul. Be gentle." Butler responds: "When partner had cancer, op surgeon asked 'are either of you HIV positive? [I] replied, 'No, are you?'"
The NHS LGBT Network affirms Butler in replying: "How awful for you and your partner; I can only imagine. Determinedly strong response countering prejudice from you, well done."
In 2017, Butler, who served as Trust Director and Chief Executive for the National Health Service (NHS), joined the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, the English bishops' seminary for older vocations.
Fellow-seminarians and priests from the diocese of Leeds say "it is a grave scandal that Butler was ever accepted for seminary, especially as the same-sex civil partnership is on public record."
There is mounting concern that Butler has been allowed to sail through the formation process for three years without having been challenged by the seminary staff — despite posting material on social media which clearly indicates that his same-sex attraction is not merely a transitory issue.
Butler's Twitter feed was immediately blocked from public view after Church Militant contacted Canon Philip Gillespie, rector of the Pontifical Beda College and Marcus Stock, bishop of Leeds.
Both Gillespie and Stock did not respond to our requests for comment or clarification.
Clerical sources told Church Militant that such a response was typical of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and was exemplified by the sex abuse crisis.
"Instead of taking action against the person flouting Catholic teaching, bishops and seminary rectors go into defense mode and protect their own," a cleric said.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI approved the 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 on "whether to admit to the seminary and to holy orders candidates who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies."
The directive, issued by the Congregation for Catholic Education, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said it was "necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, 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."
"One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies," it said, noting that "homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem — for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded," must be "clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate."
The directive also assigns the task of discerning the suitability of the vocation as the "personal responsibility of the bishop" and the "serious duty of the rector and of the other persons entrusted with the work of formation in the seminary."
Sources say that Butler is likely to be ordained a deacon later this year. However, his open display of his former same-sex relationship and his pro-gay posts on social media demonstrate that his homosexuality is far from a "transitory problem," they add.
In his interview, published in the book Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times, Pope Benedict XVI noted that the Vatican has repeatedly stated that men with a homosexual orientation should not be admitted to the priesthood even if they performed no homosexual acts.
"Homosexuality is incompatible with the priestly vocation," Benedict remarked. "Otherwise, celibacy itself would lose its meaning as a renunciation. It would be extremely dangerous if celibacy became a sort of pretext for bringing people into the priesthood who don't want to get married anyway."
In his papal instruction Religiosorum Institutio (1961), Pope John XXIII declared: "Advantage to religious vows and ordination should be barred to those who are afflicted with evil tendencies to homosexuality or pederasty, since for them the common life and the priestly ministry would constitute serious dangers."
Canon law (1051) requires a proper investigation to be conducted into the character of the person being ordained, and "in order to conduct the investigation properly," the diocesan bishop can use testimonial letters, public announcements or other sources of information.