Several months ago, on Nov. 29, the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education issued an instruction on “the criteria for the discernment of vocations with regard to persons with homosexual tendencies.” This instruction – both prior and subsequent to its publication – received a wide amount of publicity in the press and has generated a good deal of commentary. The Provincial Administration believes that it is important for Holy Name Province to enunciate its own policy on this issue and so has issued the following statement:
Holy Name Province Statement on Vocational Discernment and Sexuality
We, the Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province, like our Brother Francis, are grateful to God for the brothers whom the Lord continues to send us. As Francis instructed us, when a man desires by “divine inspiration to accept this life,” we strive to “receive him with kindness, and encourage him and diligently explain to him the tenor of our life,” that is, the rule and life of the Friars Minor, a commitment “to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without anything of our own, and in chastity.”(1)
Over the past two decades our Province has developed a Plan for Formation that specifies the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation of the men who are admitted after a careful interviewing, screening, and psychological testing process.(2) This plan is comprehensive and seeks to approach formation from these four complementary perspectives. Our plan articulates our intention to provide a formative experience that takes place in stages in the context of a fraternity of brothers who strive to challenge and accompany new members on their journey toward a greater measure of human and spiritual maturity, a deepening sense of call to “our life,” and an assessment of an individual’s readiness and desire to live and minister as a vowed religious, whether as a lay or ordained friar.
In recent years, church documents have rightly emphasized “the particular importance of human formation as the necessary foundation of all formation.”(3) Thus they have stressed the need for ordination candidates in particular to possess an “affective maturity” that will enable them to relate freely and appropriately to both men and women.(4) Our Province’s Plan for Formation has also sought to insure this goal. In accordance with the norms articulated in both the Order’s Ratio Formationis and the United States Catholic Conference’s Plan for Priestly Formation in particular, we strive in personal conversation with our candidates and by means of a wide variety of experiences to assess their progress toward, among other things, affective maturity, psycho-sexual development, and personal integration, as well as their intention and capacity to live celibate chastity in the context of a fraternity with an evangelizing mission.
As was indicated clearly in the 1985 instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education(5), we believe that individuals, whether heterosexually or homosexually oriented, who are or are seeking to engage in overt sexual activity or do not intend to live a chaste celibacy should not be admitted to profession or proposed for orders. At the same time, we also believe that a maturing man who has come to accept himself as a human-sexual person – whatever his sexual orientation might be – who possesses sufficient “affective maturity,” and who seeks to commit himself to “our life” should be allowed to discern his vocation within our fraternity with its blessings and limits, its ideals and necessary parameters, and when ready, be admitted to profession and, if appropriate, proposed for orders. In this way, we seek to respect the graced possibility for any new brother who might indeed be called and gifted to live “our life” as Friars Minor. Given what we have said and what we are doing to the best of our ability, we do not find that the most recent instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education (November 2005) addressing concerns pertaining to candidates who present what are called “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” or who promote a so-called “gay culture”(6) is in any way opposed to our current policies on the formation of men for our way of life or ministry in the Church.
At the conclusion of his Earlier Rule, Francis of Assisi asked that “all the brothers learn the tenor and sense of these things,” to “learn, retain, remember, and put into practice” the values found in the Rule and its Gospel origins.(7) We pray, therefore, that the Lord will continue to send us good brothers and that we will continue to form them for “our life” as well as prepare them for ministry and service in the contemporary Church and world.
John F. O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Minister
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, Provincial Vicar
Christopher A. Coccia, OFM
F. Edward Coughlin, OFM
Francis Di Spigno, OFM
Daniel P. Dwyer, OFM
Kevin J. Mullen, OFM
Andrew J. Reitz. OFM
(1) The Rule of 1221, II, 3; The Rule of 1223, I, 1.
(2) These four dimensions are distinguished by Pope John Paul II, apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (March 25, 1992), 43-59.
(3) Congregation for Catholic Education, “Instruction on Priesthood Candidates and Homosexuality” (November 4, 2005), as published in Origins (Vol. 35, No. 26), 431.
(4) Ibid., 430. Cf. Congregation for the Clergy, “Directory on the Ministry and Life of Priests” (March 31, 1994), 58.
(5) As cited again in Origins (Vol. 35, no. 26), 440: A candidate who is heterosexually active is not acceptable. . . A candidate who is homosexually active or who leads a homosexual lifestyle is not acceptable.
(6) Ibid., 430. Along with numerous bishops and other religious congregations, we understand such deep-seated tendencies not to mean a same-sex orientation in itself, but a focus on a homosexual identity that dominates one’s personality, leading to unhealthy and inappropriate behavioral manifestations.
(7) The Rule of 1221, XXIV, 1-3.