Homosexuality and Vocational Discernment and Choice | Fr. Paul Anthony McGavin | HPR
A Call for Evidence-Based, Astute Priestly Discernment in a Framework of Overall Moral Character Development
At the request of the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the USA, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York prepared a Report, “Causes and Contexts of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.” 1 The findings of this study impinge upon the way that bishops, and those involved in priestly formation, interpret and act upon Church documents that address the issue of homosexuality in the context of decisions about the entry of individuals into seminary formation, their progress in seminary formation, and their continued progress to ordination.
The phenomenon of sexual abuse of minors engages both heterosexual and homosexual acts, but has predominantly involved homosexual acts, and these mainly with pubescent youths. The John Jay Report distinguishes homosexual “identity” (associated with homosexual “inclination”) 2 and “behavior” involving homosexual acts. The quantitative and qualitative results of the John Jay study find “identity” to be a weak explanator for sexual abuse of minors. 3 In brief, evidence from the study indicates that the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy does not simply focus on the question of sexual inclination—of homosexual inclination.
I am in the fortunate position of being a member of a diocesan presbyterate that has had no cases of civil prosecution during the decades that the issue of clergy sexual abuse has captured so much media attention in Australia, as it has in the USA and elsewhere. Although my observations have not been numerous and not close-at-hand, the generalizations found in the John Jay Report are consistent with such cases as I have noted, and the conclusions that I have drawn. Among the complexity of causes in the sexual abuse of minors, the leading explanation is “whole-life integrity”—or better put, a lack of “whole-life integrity.” In guiding and assessing candidates for the sacred ministry of the Church, it is the human formation in, and manifestation of, manly integrity that has to be at the forefront.
Does this perspective mean that church documents on the issue of homosexuality are sidestepped?